Successful collaborative efforts to create disaster-resilient communities will take into account motivators of and inhibitors to forming partnerships, sustaining them, and gaining knowledge about partner roles. Because such collaborative work is in its nascent stages in much of the nation and because social change and vulnerability to hazards are evolving so rapidly, parallel programs of collaboration and research are imperative.
Key topics for research include:
How, when, and why collaboration works or fails.
Ways of accounting for different outcomes that result from alternative partnership-building strategies, such as bottom-up voluntary collaboration vs. partnerships and partnership-building strategies initiated or funded by government.
Predicting partnership legitimacy, effectiveness, mainstreaming, and institutionalization.
Appropriate metrics for quantifying the costs and benefits resulting from investments in collaboration and resilience-building efforts.
Those issues need to be understood and evaluated for a variety of communities and threats, and results of the issues documented, archived, and disseminated.
Research findings can inform training strategies as well as new program areas, and can lead to the development of more refined conceptual frameworks. Furthermore, private–public sector collaboration could be improved with a better understanding of how such collaboration is born, develops, and functions in the larger context of state-level and federal-level initiatives and, where applicable, in the larger context of global businesses and national and international civil society. The committee discusses below a set of research initiatives that could be targeted for investment by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and others interested in deepening knowledge on the topic of resilience-focused private–public sector collaboration.
Investigate factors most likely to motivate businesses of all sizes to collaborate with the public sector to build disaster resilience in different types of communities (for example, rural and urban).
As described in Chapter 4 and in the summary of the committee’s workshop (NRC, 2010), there are a number of impediments to business participation in private–public collaboration of all types, including those centering on disaster resilience. The barriers include private–public sector cultural differences, concerns about information sharing, and wariness of government mandates and regulations. What is not clear is how to overcome such challenges and increase incentives for business participation in disaster-loss–reduction activities. Incentives are multifaceted and vary among different types of businesses. For example, some workshop participants argued that business-sector involvement in private–public sector collaboration is motivated partially by an understanding of the direct benefits of participation in resilience-building collaboration, the desire to maintain favorable public perceptions, and liability concerns. The bulk of what is known about factors that motivate business engagement in resilience-enhancing activities is anecdotal. It is impossible to answer even simple questions, such as whether business organizations are motivated primarily by concerns about the safety of their own properties and operations; or whether business size, profitability, length of tenure in a community, being a branch or franchise of a larger national organization, or participating in other community-improvement ventures predicts business involvement in disaster-related private–public partnerships.
Anecdotal evidence points to the need to understand better the diverse views of resilience and emergency-management issues held by both private-sector and public-sector collaborators. As described in Chapter 3, public-safety agencies often underestimate private-sector interest and involvement in emergency-preparedness efforts. Similarly, private-sector groups often overestimate the capabilities of public-sector partners, failing to recognize the need for their own contributions to disaster management. Research to assess the effect of community context on private-sector participation is also needed: Is such participation more likely in rural communities than in urban or suburban communities? In higher-risk communities as opposed to those in which disasters are less frequent?
In sum, there is a pressing need to understand better why the business sector is drawn to disaster-resilience–building collaboration at the community level, the different perceptions held by various collaborators, and the types of incentives that resonate with business leaders. Furthermore, partnerships and partner motivations are not static over the long term. There are different levels of collaboration, ranging from simple networking to forming contractual partnerships. What incentives are most likely to encourage greater levels of participation?
Research on such issues can help in designing viable partnership models and guidelines appropriate for a variety of business types and sizes.
INTEGRATING NONGOVERNMENTAL ORGANIZATIONS
Focus research on how to motivate and integrate community-based, faith-based, and other nongovernment organizations—including those not crisis oriented—into resilience-focused collaboration.
Community-based organizations, faith-based organizations (FBOs), and other nongovernment organizations (NGOs) play critical roles in all phases of the disaster cycle. They help develop social capital, serve and represent disenfranchised community members, and in general provide a social safety net for diverse at-risk populations. It is to such organizations that vulnerable community residents will turn when disaster strikes. For that reason alone, communities have a vested interest in the involvement of the nonprofit sector in resilience-enhancing activities. However, the small amount of existing research on how resilient this sector is indicates that NGOs are not well prepared for disasters and that representatives of community-based organizations are rarely involved in community disaster-resilience efforts (Drabek, 2003). One of the biggest gaps in our knowledge is the role played by what is referred to as understudied “noncrisis-relevant nonprofits” and community-based organizations (for example, homeless shelters, agencies serving immigrants, and community clinics). Such targeted research can help communities identify their unknown or neglected facilitators during times of disaster. Understanding how to act on that knowledge could provide a means of empowering those groups to operate most efficiently for their own benefit and for the benefit of the community as a whole. More cost-effective and viable mobilization strategies, particularly for communities in perpetual states similar to disaster because of such conditions as extreme poverty, could be identified. Furthermore, research on how partnership agendas can be reframed to be more inclusive may help bring in important but overlooked community stakeholders.
CHANGING EMERGENCY-MANAGEMENT CULTURE
Focus research on how the emergency-management and homeland security sectors can be moved toward a “culture of collaboration” that engages the full fabric of the community in enhancing resilience.
Findings discussed in this report indicate that private-sector organizations including NGOs have difficulty forming private–public partnerships, and government agencies charged with emergency-management responsibilities face similar barriers. The question
of how best to move government emergency-management and homeland security agencies toward a culture of collaboration has received little research attention (for more discussion, see Stanley and Waugh, 2001; Drabek, 2003; McEntire, 2007). Research is therefore needed to explore ways to overcome structural, cultural, educational, training, and other barriers that may prevent those in the public emergency-management sector from adopting more collaborative models for resilience enhancement.
As discussed in Chapter 4, those in the government emergency-management and homeland security agencies tend to be unfamiliar with the concerns and perspectives that typify the private, including the nonprofit, sector. They may be unfamiliar with the kinds of activities and processes needed to initiate and nurture cross-sector collaboration. Many entities and personnel in emergency management have yet to embrace the concept of collaborative emergency management even though the concept is nearly two decades old. Some government agencies and personnel remain more comfortable with top-down “command and control” frameworks than with approaches that emphasize collaboration and network management. Such perspectives are probably rooted in earlier training and professional experiences—for example, in the military or law enforcement—or in concerns about homeland security. They may also be rooted in lack of knowledge about the role of civil society in disaster management, in concerns about “turf” and organizational prerogatives, and possibly even in generational differences. Researchers find the National Response Framework (FEMA, 2008) more “collaboration-friendly” than earlier plans for intergovernment disaster response (see, for example, discussions in Gazley et al., 2009), but the fact remains that a “culture of collaboration” has not yet taken hold in the emergency-management and homeland security communities.
BUILDING SOCIAL CAPITAL
Focus research on ways to build capacity for resilience-focused private–public sector collaboration.
Research on disaster resilience has focused increasingly on the relationship between social capital and resilience with an emphasis on social capital as the foundation for community adaptive capacity (see Norris et al., 2008). The formation of effective and productive social networks constitutes a key element in the development of social capital, and private–public partnerships can provide an infrastructure for such networks. Recognizing the importance of social capital and capacity building raises the need for research on capacity-building strategies, including studies that focus on the kinds of training needed for leaders in the private and public sectors; on how collaboration skill sets are built at the community level; and on how creativity and innovation can be fostered within collaboration, for example, by tapping into the potential that is inherent in new information and commu-
nication technologies. Some workshop participants spoke of the need for peer mentoring as a capacity-building strategy, but other strategies, such as personnel exchanges across sectors and new training experiences for government officials, also need to be assessed.
LEARNING THROUGH SUPPORT OF COLLABORATION
Focus on research and demonstration projects that quantify risk and outcome metrics, enhance disaster resilience at the community level, and document best practices.
New efforts to support and nurture community-level resilience-focused private–public collaboration could include research and demonstration projects aimed at enhancing disaster resilience at the community level and documenting best practices. Project Impact was a major federal government initiative whose goal was the development of local partnership networks for risk and vulnerability assessments, disaster-mitigation projects, and public education (Witt and Morgan, 2002). In Project Impact, the federal government set general guidelines and provided funding to local communities, but it did not mandate how local programs should be organized, nor did it attempt to micromanage local project activities. The Federal Emergency Management Agency, which funded Project Impact, also funded a series of formative evaluation studies whose findings are discussed in Chapter 3 of this report. The studies documented many aspects of program operations, including how programs were organized, the activities that were undertaken under the rubric of Project Impact, and the kinds of partnerships that were developed.
Recognizing that private–public partnership and broad community mobilization are needed to improve the disaster resilience of communities, DHS might sponsor a series of research and demonstration projects across the nation. The new projects could fully integrate research and practice, beginning with the initial phase of project development, and could be conceptualized as living laboratories that provide opportunities for both researchers and practitioners. Research could be designed and undertaken with the explicit goal of documenting the effectiveness of collaboration, the costs and benefits to collaborators, and the metrics for these variables. Both process- and outcome-related variables could be addressed. Longitudinal and comparative designs could be key elements in the research and demonstration projects.
Continuing collaboration between researchers and practitioners in diverse local resilience-building efforts offers the potential for the application of principles of adaptive management—applied widely in programs that address environmental problems other than disasters (Walters, 1986; Lee, 1993; Wise, 2006). Using an adaptive-management approach, program participants and their research collaborators determine measures to undertake, implement the measures, assess their effects, learn how to improve on the basis of the assessments, adjust programs accordingly, and then continue with the cycle of
implementation, assessment, learning, and program adjustment. The systematic use of an adaptive-management approach can improve programs continually and shed light on best practices and strategies for achieving resilience objectives.
Focus on research and related activities that produce comparable nationwide data on both vulnerability and resilience.
Various approaches are being used to assess the nation’s vulnerability to disasters and other hazards. HAZUS and HAZUS-MH,1 for example, are widely used vulnerability-assessment tools. Since its inception, DHS has been engaged in diverse activities involving multiple programs and directorates to quantify risks to the nation’s critical infrastructure and to compare risk and vulnerability in U.S. communities. Researchers have developed various measures of social vulnerability; the most widely recognized is the Social Vulnerability Index (SOVI),2 developed by Susan Cutter and other researchers at the University of South Carolina. Activities are also under way to assess community resilience with various measures.
Despite the progress made in those and related fields, the nation lacks an agreed-on set of vulnerability and resilience indicators that would make it possible to measure and assess them in communities and over time. Without such measures, it will be impossible to gauge progress in efforts to improve resilience or to compare community progress. That need has been recognized in the past and, with funding from the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), hazard and disaster researchers met at a workshop in June 2008 and developed a plan and set of research recommendations for the development of a Resiliency and Vulnerability Observatory Network, or RAVON (Peacock et al., 2008). The goal of RAVON would be to systematize the collection, retention, and dissemination of data that are relevant to the measurement of vulnerability and resilience. It would incorporate other key indicators, such as those related to risk assessment, perception, and management; hazard mitigation; and disaster recovery and reconstruction. As envisioned by the 2008 workshop participants, RAVON would combine the best elements of virtual and place-based activities and research–practitioner collaboration and would borrow elements of similar existing activities, such as the Long Term Ecological Research Network3 (LTER) and the National Ecological Observatory Network4 (NEON).5
To understand the extent to which the nation is moving toward a more resilient and less vulnerable future, and to understand the factors affecting that movement, reliable, valid, and
See www.fema.gov/plan/prevent/hazus/ (accessed July 1, 2010).
See webra.cas.sc.edu/hvri/products/sovi.aspx (accessed July 1, 2010).
See www.lternet.edu/ (accessed July 1, 2010).
See www.neoninc.org/ (accessed July 1, 2010).
For more detailed discussions of the proposed RAVON activities and organizational structure, see Peacock et al. (2008).
systematically collected indicators are essential. Sponsoring a network, such as RAVON, is consistent with the mission of DHS; indeed, it is difficult to envision how such a network could be developed without substantial input on the part of DHS.
A REPOSITORY OF INFORMATION
Communities around the nation have few information resources on collaboration for developing community disaster resilience. Information and guidance exist but are scattered throughout the peer-reviewed literature, government reports, research-project reports, and organizational and institutional Web sites; this makes access difficult for the average local agency or business. As sponsored research on private–public collaboration develops and matures, DHS itself will need a means of disseminating research findings.
Establish a national repository and clearinghouse, administered by a neutral entity, to archive and disseminate information on community resilience-focused private–public sector collaboration models, operational frameworks, community disaster-resilience case studies, evidence-based best practices, and resilience-related data and research findings. Relevant stakeholders in all sectors and at all levels should convene to determine how to structure and fund this entity.
Workshop (NRC, 2010) and committee discussions have revealed that nongovernment partners are likely to prefer information and guidance from third-party sources that are considered independent and disinterested. That finding and a recognition of the importance of “boundary organizations” (Guston, 2001) in bridging the research-policy–practice gap, form the basis of this recommendation.
Tentatively called the Center for Best Practices in Disaster Resilience, the entity or network of entities would provide information and guidance free of charge and in formats that are readily accessible and comprehensible by private-sector and public-sector leaders, emergency-management practitioners, and researchers. It would make available a variety of products, from peer-reviewed publications to existing and emerging “toolkits” for those engaged in private–public collaboration. As an NGO, it would serve as the “honest broker” and facilitator for private–public sector interactions on resilience issues.
In considering the need for an independent repository of information and expertise, the committee stopped short of offering advice on how such a resource should be structured and funded. Those are decisions best made by a broad-based and trusted coalition of public- and private-sector stakeholders and experts in the delivery of guidance information to diverse users. Agencies that support research and practice in community disaster resilience (NSF, DHS, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, USGS, and others) have an important role in making these decisions, but the committee concludes that the resource
should not be perceived as “owned” by any one agency. Broad-based participation is critical to ensure the legitimacy and long-term viability of the center, just as the committee has shown it is critical in community-based, resilience-focused private–public collaboration.
The term resilience was not in use when the National Governors Association developed its comprehensive emergency-management guide in 1979 (NGA, 1979). That document was written to assist governors in the transition to all-hazards approaches to emergency management through all phases of the disaster cycle. It emphasized coordination of resources and knowledge and the state’s supporting role in disaster response after primary response by local governments. Many of the conclusions reached by the present National Research Council committee are similar to those reached over 30 years ago in the report to the governors but scaled down to the community level, broadened to include a much more active role of the private sector, and made applicable with advances in communication technology. Our ability to identify, analyze, tap into, and create communication networks far exceeds what the governors in 1979 may have imagined. Our ability to listen, engender trust, and collaborate, however, has not kept up with our ability to transmit messages. To create a resilient nation, a nation of resilient communities must be created. Resilient communities can be and are being created through resilience-focused private–public collaboration originating in the community at the grassroots level and including representatives of all segments of the community with facilitation and coordinated support from higher levels of government and the private sector.
In reading a report like the present one—beginning with Secretary of Homeland Security Napolitano’s remarks and continuing to the last guideline—it is natural to see building disaster-resilient communities as an end unto itself. But the stark reality is that the United States is attempting to maintain and foster its entire national agenda—to provide for public safety and health, to grow the economy, to protect the environment, and to maintain basic human values of freedom and dignity—community by community. And our nation of communities seeks to accomplish those goals on a planet that moves its physical matter from one place to another through extreme events (e.g., earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, hurricanes). Building disaster-resilient communities is essential for the whole of our national hopes and aspirations. Private–public collaboration is the starting point for building such resilience.
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