Dr. Galloway reminded participants of the goals of the workshop and summarized some of the key points that were made. The overarching goal of the July 2015 workshop was for communities to gain new knowledge and practical information about how to advance their efforts to develop and implement community resilience objectives and measures. For the Resilient America Roundtable, the workshop provided an opportunity to assess the effectiveness of using the table (see Table 1-1 and Appendix A) as a guide to help communities think about and develop resilience measures, and to better understand where major challenges exist as they develop these measures. This approach was effective in guiding communities through a process to identify ways to potentially measure the resilience of different elements within the six community environments.
The breakout session facilitators used the questions in the aforementioned table to guide the discussions about each environment, which generated a lot of dialogue and insights. Asking thoughtful questions about the various topics helped workshop participants gain a greater understanding of how the six environments were interdependent, the different elements in their communities that make up each environment, and the complexities of developing measures. According to Dr. Galloway, some of the key insights and observations made by the participants in the breakout groups included:
- Social/Wellness Environment: The capacity to connect—between people on multiple levels (household, local government, state government) and scale (individual, neighborhood, city, region)—is critical for social resilience. Communities have a range of neighborhood types from those that are very interconnected and resilient (e.g., religious or immigrant communities) to those that lack strong social networks and resilience (e.g., those communities experiencing an influx of new residents or that have isolated populations). Social media has become an effective tool for building social networks and virtual communities for some community members. Communities can also build social networks and resilience by establishing or fostering community “hubs” so that different neighborhoods can connect. Trust in leadership is an essential part of building resilience. Communities need to better understand what they can do to develop greater trust, why some individuals distrust government, and how the media shapes trust and resilience.
- Human Environment: Building resilience in the human environment can be very difficult for people who are dealing with day-to-day stressors (e.g., poverty, unemployment, poor health, homelessness), and participants acknowledged that there may be some individuals experiencing chronic barriers to becoming resilient (e.g., homeless, those who live in poverty). There are also “invisible communities;” in other
words, those who are not homeless, do not live on food stamps, are able to meet their basic needs on a day-to-day basis, have some limited amount of social connections, but who would be unable to cope in the face of a disaster.
- Financial/Economic Environment: Changes in the economic environment (e.g., rising costs, declining industries, loss of jobs, rapid growth) have an impact on social resilience and connectedness and on the human environment. Communities experiencing a rapid economic boom and accompanying population influx are often confronted with a new kind of vulnerable population: newcomers who are vulnerable to disasters due to lack of experience with hazards unique to the area and lack of awareness of the risks.
- Physical/Built Environment: Enhancing the resilience of the built environment can have a positive impact on or bolster resilience in other environments. It is important to consider the interdependencies of various elements in the physical/built environment (e.g., supply chains, critical infrastructure).
- Natural Environment: The way in which communities view their natural environments (i.e., function versus asset) will determine how they approach resilience building in that environment.
- Governance/Leadership Environment: Different governmental entities have different definitions of, and priorities and capabilities for, resilience in this environment. According to some participants, it can be more challenging for city governments and/or leaders to build resilience to long-term stressors like chronic homelessness, than to infrequent hazards (e.g., floods, earthquakes).
Based on the discussions throughout the workshop, individual participants made the following observations about the challenges communities face as they think about measures:
- Communities need to identify their challenges and priorities in the six environments before developing resilience measures and deciding what data are needed to support those measures.
- Many communities cite lack of data sharing as a particularly difficult hurdle to overcome, specifically data that are held by the private sector.
- Social connectedness is important to resilience, but it can be challenging to identify ways to effectively measure it.
- In order to build resilience, communities need information about how to keep the public engaged and how to develop the community’s trust in leadership.
- Communities also need to understand their level of preparedness, their perception of the risks, their community values, and the interdependencies between different community components and systems.
- Communities are looking for ways to effectively communicate risk.
Dr. Galloway invited other members of the workshop planning committee and the Resilient America Roundtable to provide their own thoughts and suggestions for communities to consider as they build resilience and develop and implement measures. Some of the suggestions are described below:
- Community leaders are challenged to decide what investments to make and how many challenges these investments will solve. Understanding the return on investment and having the ability to make the business case for resilience may be an effective way to advance the resilience conversation within a community and with leadership.
- When developing resilience goals, it is important to think about and plan for what is actionable in the short, medium, and long terms, and recognize that some goals will not be achieved within the timeframe of an organization’s or individual’s service or lifetime. Future generations, however, will reap some of the benefits of today’s resilience-building initiatives.
- Involving the entire community in the process of developing and implementing measures can itself be important in strengthening resilience.
- Becoming resilient requires a cultural shift.
- Communities could consider innovative ways to collect data (e.g., crowd sourcing, social media, enlisting neighborhood groups to help collect data).
- There are a variety of methods to communicate data (e.g., visual forms, storytelling, or narratives) that will resonate with different demographic groups within the community.
- There are two types of measures: those that assess the baseline characteristics of a community, and those that assess the capacity of a community to become resilient. Different tools may be needed to evaluate progress and measure outcomes.
- Communities can embark on resilience building by taking advantage of what they have already done. In order to mainstream the concept of resilience, it is important to build it into existing efforts, find a champion to move the resilience agenda and work forward, and inspire civic engagement in resilience building.