The frequency and severity of disasters over the last few decades have presented unprecedented challenges for communities across the United States. In 2005, Hurricane Katrina exposed the complexity and breadth of a deadly combination of existing community stressors, aging infrastructure, and a powerful natural hazard. In many ways, the devastation of Hurricane Katrina was a turning point for understanding and managing disasters, as well as related plan making and policy formulation (Olshansky and Johnson, 2010). It brought the phrase “community resilience” into the lexicon of disaster management (Cutter, et al., 2006; Cutter and Emrich, 2006; Fothergill and Peek, 2015; Fussell, Sastry, and VanLandingham, 2010; Laska and Morrow, 2006; Levine, Esnard, and Sapat, 2007; Weber and Peek, 2012).
In 2012, the National Research Council report Disaster Resilience: A National Imperative defined resilience as “the ability to prepare and plan for, absorb, recover from, and more successfully adapt to adverse events” (NRC, 2012, 1) and recommended measuring progress toward resilience. A multitude of frameworks, assessment tools, resilience indexes, and resilience programs have emerged since then to capture progress in and measurement of increased community resilience. The efforts are diverse and range from large, international programs (e.g., 100 Resilient Cities—Pioneered by the Rockefeller Foundation, United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction Making Cities Resilient Campaign, Z Zurich Foundation) to national programs (e.g., the National Academies’ Resilient America Program, RISE Resilience Innovations, ICLEI, the National Institute of Standards and Technology’s Community Resilience Program), and local efforts (e.g., Sustainable Seattle, Charleston Resilience Network).
In 2010, the Deepwater Horizon oil spill and explosion occurred in the same region as Hurricane Katrina had 5 years prior. Deepwater Horizon renewed questions about resilience in the states and communities of the Gulf of Mexico. In November 2013, the National Academy of Sciences received $500 million in settlement funds from the Deepwater Horizon criminal cases to “. . . improve understanding of the region’s interconnecting human, environmental, and energy systems and foster . . . benefit[s] [for] Gulf communities, ecosystems, and the nation” (NASEM, 2017a) over a 30-year time period. The National Academy of Sciences created the Gulf Research Program (GRP)1 to carry out this mission. In 2016, the GRP requested a report to present “effective options for measuring resilience at the community level” (see Statement of Task, Box S-1).
In addressing the Statement of Task, this report summarizes the existing portfolio of relevant or related resilience measurement efforts (Chapter 2) and notes gaps and challenges associated with them. It describes how some communities build and measure resilience (Chapter 3) and offers four key actions that communities could take to build and measure their resilience in order to address gaps identified in current community resilience measurement efforts (Chapter 4). Finally, the report provides recommendations to the GRP to build and measure resilience in the Gulf of Mexico region (Chapter 5).
Based on the existing literature and research efforts, community meetings, and examination of other resilience programs, the committee found that no single measurement of resilience exists for all elements of resilience for all communities (Finding 3.2). The report also highlights several actions needed to build and measure community resilience:
- Utilize community participation and engagement at the outset of community resilience building and measurement efforts to engender buy-in around resilience priorities, goals, and leadership;
- Design and measure resilience around multiple dimensions of a community, for example, the natural, built, financial, human, social, and political “capitals” of resilience;
- Use measures to track progress and in decision making and ensure that the data collected, integrated, or synthesized are relatable and usable for decision making; and
- Incentivize measuring resilience by expressing multiple benefits gained from single investments.
And the report highlights one action specifically for the GRP:
- Develop a major, coordinated initiative around community resilience in communities across the Gulf region that includes longitudinal resilience research and a learning collaborative among Gulf region communities.
EVALUATION OF EXISTING RESILIENCE MEASUREMENT EFFORTS
The committee examined a sample of 33 resilience measurement efforts in describing the current state of scholarship and practice of community resilience measurement (see Box S-1, tasks 1, 2, and 3). The large number of available measurement tools and approaches underscores the fact that no single measurement tool fits the resilience measurement needs of all communities.
A defining characteristic of community resilience across most of the tools is that resilience includes multiple dimensions (Finding 3.5), which are broadly encompassed by six assets (or “capitals”) across a community: natural, built,
financial, human, social, and political. Few of the measurement efforts developed since the publication of the National Research Council’s Disaster Resilience: A National Imperative consider all six of the commonly used community capitals, and few measurement efforts have been applied more than once in the same community or in more than one community. These findings suggest that resilience measurement science and practice are not yet mature, and many of the existing methods still need validation.
GROUND TRUTHING HOW COMMUNITIES MEASURE RESILIENCE
The committee conferred with diverse stakeholders in eight communities with demonstrated disaster or resilience experience (Box S-1, task 4), who came from local government, the private sector, the nonprofit sector, research centers, and academic institutions. The community stakeholder meetings elucidated how resilience measurement advances at the community scale and revealed experiences related to the approaches, challenges, and successes that communities encounter in measuring resilience. The community site visits and meetings reflected knowledge gaps, research directions, and opportunities that could pave the way for new approaches to realize more resilient communities.
The eight communities with which the committee conferred were New Orleans and Baton Rouge, Louisiana; Gulfport and Waveland, Mississippi; New York, New York; Minot, North Dakota; and Rapid City and Pine Ridge Reservation, South Dakota, representing a diversity of community perspectives in terms of hazards and risk profiles, demographic and socioeconomic profiles, geographic location, and population size. The committee also considered the experiences of additional communities, specifically, places that participated in national resilience-building efforts through the National Institute of Standards and Technology’s Community Resilience Program and the National Academy of Sciences’ Resilient America Program: Boulder County, Colorado; Cedar Rapids, Iowa; Charleston, South Carolina; Central Puget Sound region, Washington; and Tulsa, Oklahoma. From these site visits and investigations, common themes emerged.
- Despite the range of readily available resilience measurement frameworks and tools, these communities are not explicitly measuring resilience (Finding 3.1), in part because no single tool among the myriad resilience measurement tools fits all communities (Finding 3.2), leaving local decision makers unsure of which, if any, of the tools to use.
- Every community visited by the committee collects data and tracks a variety of community indicators relevant to resilience, but data or information collected for disparate purposes are often incompatible, which presents challenges in using common measures across sectors (Finding 3.3).
- All of the communities acknowledged that resilience encompasses much more than disaster management and they supported resilience approaches across multiple dimensions or capitals (Finding 3.5) to capture the fullness of community resilience issues.
- The communities visited stressed that community engagement and buy-in across diverse stakeholders and sectors are critical to community resilience to help community stakeholders coalesce around goals, priorities, leadership, and other desired outcomes (Finding 3.4).
FOR COMMUNITIES: ACTIONS FOR BUILDING AND MEASURING COMMUNITY RESILIENCE
The volume of resilience measurement approaches and the paucity of actual use of those tools (Finding 3.1) suggest a gap between research and the implementation of resilience measurement. Based on a review of the resilience measurement literature and research, as well as the feedback from communities, the committee identified four key actions for building and measuring community resilience to bridge this gap. Key actions that communities could take to build and measure their resilience include: (1) building community engagement and buy-in to develop resilience goals and priorities; (2) accounting for the multiple dimensions of a community—natural, built, social, financial, human, and political—to identify resilience needs and challenges and develop resilience goals; (3) linking community resilience measurement to decision making; and (4) creating incentives for measuring resilience through actions that provide multiple benefits. From these actions, the committee offers communities four recommendations for tracking and measuring community resilience efforts.
Recommendation 1: Communities should use community participation and engagement at the outset of their resilience building and measurement efforts. The process of participation helps communities develop resilience goals and priorities and generate community buy-in for those goals. Setting goals and priorities is necessary before any measurement activities can take place, as they provide the basis against which a community can track its progress and gauge its success. Community engagement is important in developing feasible goals and setting realistic priorities (NIST, 2016). It can also nurture and identify leaders or champions within the community. The Rockefeller Foundation’s 100 Resilient Cities initiative, for example, places such strong emphasis on leadership in community resilience that each participating city has a full-time chief resilience officer to carry out the resilience efforts (Salkin, 2014).
Recommendation 2: Communities should design and measure resilience around multiple dimensions of a community. Community dimensions are captured by the six capitals (i.e., natural, built, social, financial, human, and
political), which provide a structure for setting community resilience goals and a reference for measuring progress toward those goals.
Measuring or collecting data across multiple sectors can be challenging. There are challenges of limited access to appropriate data, uncertainty about how to start or conduct resilience measurement, and incompatible data across the different sectors and capitals (Finding 3.3). But there are ways to overcome these challenges and options to better integrate information across this variety of existing data sources and sectors. For example, many federal government programs in their application process require estimated indicators of success or desired outcomes (e.g., the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Hazard Mitigation Grant Program, Individuals and Households Program, and Public Assistance grant program; the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Community Development Block Grants; and the Small Business Administration’s Disaster Loan Assistance). Criteria and information gathered in these application processes could also be used in a community resilience function and these outcomes could be aligned with resilience goals or priorities.
Recommendation 3: Communities should ensure that the data collected, integrated, or synthesized for community resilience are relatable and usable for decision making. The data collected, integrated, or synthesized need to be relatable, usable, and ultimately used to make decisions about public sector budgets and public-private financing, to gauge the efficacy or progress of resilience goals, or to inform policy formulation and implementation.
Recommendation 4: Communities should incentivize the measurement of resilience. Community resilience investments can include milestones and yield multiple benefits that are trackable along and across the relevant community capitals. Investments reflect choices and tradeoffs that account for a range of dynamic stressors and short- and long-term gains, and those gains can be tracked along or across multiple sectors (Finding 4.2). Community resilience measurement needs to include a range of downstream or cascading impacts of investment choices in order to capture the broadest range of multiple benefits. Valuation models and financial tools like green, resilience, or catastrophe bonds have been shown to support resilience measurement (Finding 4.3), and measuring the multiple benefits of community resilience investments can be connected to existing financial and insurance structures because these structures require and incentivize quantitative measures of resilience (Finding 4.4).
FOR THE GULF RESEARCH PROGRAM: WAYS FORWARD FOR BUILDING AND MEASURING COMMUNITY RESILIENCE IN THE GULF REGION
The committee’s task was to provide findings and recommendations on common approaches and “key issues for future programs to consider in measuring the
resilience of a community” (see Box S-1). The committee interpreted this charge as referring to future programs that the GRP would administer. The GRP has a $500 million endowment, a remaining 25-year timeline, and a mandate to effect change in the Gulf region. Thus, it has the resources, time, and mission to effect positive change in the resilience of the communities impacted by Deepwater Horizon over the next quarter century.
Recommendation 5: The Gulf Research Program should develop a major, coordinated initiative around building or enhancing community resilience in communities across the Gulf region. The basic structure of a GRP community resilience initiative should include multiple communities, capture and document community resilience strategies and measurements, foster interactions across and among GRP communities through a resilience learning collaborative, and implement longitudinal research that includes systematic analysis and integration of data from various sources.
A GRP Framework for Community Resilience
The GRP community resilience initiative needs to account for community-level differences, with each community taking different approaches, identifying different priorities, and requiring different types of resources.
Recommendation 6: For each community in the Gulf Research Program community resilience initiative, the GRP should develop and employ a community resilience framework that includes: (1) community engagement to engender buy-in around resilience priorities, goals, and leadership; (2) resilience across multiple community capitals; (3) measures and ways to track progress that are useful to decision makers; and (4) investments in resilience that result in multiple benefits.
The GRP should consider a few specific actions in implementing a community resilience framework:
- Action: In each of the GRP communities, the GRP should engage diverse stakeholders to build community buy-in around community resilience goals or priorities and recruit local leaders and champions for resilience efforts. The GRP should expect the community engagement process to take months or even years.
- Action: As the GRP collaborates with communities to build community resilience, it should explicitly include as many of the community capitals as possible to capture how communities conceive their resilience priorities, approaches, investments, and assessments.
- Action: The GRP should be deliberate in bringing researchers and decision makers together in the community resilience process.
- Action: The GRP should guide short-term investments that will yield positive long-term benefits across multiple capitals.
Learning Collaborative for Resilience
Opportunities are scarce for communities to come together to exchange ideas and solutions for resilience building and measurement although every community has a challenge, strategy, approach, or lesson to share or one that it wants to learn. The learning collaborative concept deals with community resilience at the regional scale, engendering community-to-community learning across the Gulf region.
Recommendation 7: The Gulf Research Program should create, finance, and maintain a resilience learning collaborative for diverse stakeholders to exchange information about lessons learned, approaches, challenges, and successes in their respective and collective work to advance community resilience in the Gulf region.
The collaborative participants should include government (local, state, federal levels), industry, academia, nonprofits, and other organizations working on resilience issues in the states of the Gulf of Mexico. The GRP would play a convening role for the communities involved in the GRP community resilience program and for other groups that also received funds from settlements from the Deepwater Horizon explosion and oil spill. A learning collaborative would advance the science, meaning, and utility of resilience measurement. The GRP and the National Academies would stand to benefit from this approach, as well. The GRP could emerge as a central organization on resilience among Deepwater Horizon funding programs, states, and communities of the Gulf region. The GRP could also gain and document understanding of successful activities in the region. The resilience learning collaborative would support the broader GRP mission in supporting research activities and publishing results and publications that address needs of the Gulf region.
The GRP should consider these actions for the resilience learning collaborative:
- Action: The GRP should organize opportunities for information exchanges among the communities that participate in its community resilience initiative in order to facilitate collaborative learning, capacity building among stakeholders, and training and mentoring, including a focus on measures of resilience.
- Action: The GRP should confer with other recipients of settlement funds from the Deepwater Horizon explosion and oil spill and/or organizations active in community resilience about collaborative efforts on common program elements.
Long-term, periodic, comprehensive resilience assessment remains an unmet need (NASEM, 2017b). Longitudinal research connects communities and research institutions across the Gulf region, as well as academic and governmental research facilities in the Gulf and beyond. A new kind of research is needed that: (1) can address the dynamic state of communities and their changes in risk and resilience over time, and (2) can link information or data from disparate programs with each other and to community resilience priorities, to ultimately (3) link research, data, and information with decision making. While the communities would initially be located across the Gulf states, the effort would include experts and researchers from outside of the Gulf region.
Recommendation 8: The Gulf Research Program should implement longitudinal research associated with its community resilience program.
The GRP should consider these actions in implementing longitudinal research:
- Action: The GRP should identify, collect, and maintain data that can be used to effectively monitor the changes in regional and community resilience and assess why these changes are occurring.
- Action: The GRP should proceed with investing, developing, and designing a longitudinal research program to collect, analyze, and integrate data from different sources that have relevance to community capitals, investments, priorities, and measures. Such integrated analysis should be relevant to existing budgets, policies, priorities, and investments.
OPPORTUNITY FOR ADVANCING COMMUNITY RESILIENCE
The Gulf region is a landscape ripe for advancing community resilience. Its mix of issues related to economy, ecology, and a diverse and vibrant culture combined with its exposure to the effects of social inequity and vulnerability, low health outcomes of its residents, an extractive economy, and natural hazards underscores the urgency of action. The GRP has a rare opportunity to alter the resilience trajectory of Gulf region communities through a community resilience framework, community engagement, a learning collaborative, and longitudinal, transdisciplinary studies that inform decision making. With the rigorous scientific imprimatur that is the signature of the National Academies, the GRP can use its platform of resources and a quarter century of time to effect an enduring, sustained legacy of resilience in the Gulf of Mexico and beyond.
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