A double rainbow shines over Lower Manhattan on the day after Hurricane Sandy / Photo: Kurt Deitrich via Instagram
Why Wait For a Disaster?
The term “community resilience” has been much debated in Government circles in recent years, with “resilience” commonly being defined as “returning to the previous state,” or “bouncing back.” Whilst this is a useful concept for Governments to consider, its use is limited when resilience is considered as a static “state” rather than a dynamic process through which community capacity is developed over time.
It can be argued that community resilience is not just about returning to the previous state of “community capacity,” but about building community competencies so that community capacity continues to increase over time and supersedes the previous state. In this context, community capacity can be thought of in terms of community attributes, such as the ability to self-manage and self-determine, the level of entrepreneurship, concern about issues/activism, volunteering and the general level of positivity/optimism about the future.
For example, think about what happens in communities when natural disasters hit or, for example, when a major employer closes in the neighbourhood. In a natural disaster, Government service and systems become quickly overloaded and Government resources are rationed to the most pressing need or the most severe life threatening situations, leaving large parts of the community to fend for themselves.
It is at these times that community spirit, leadership, volunteering, and entrepreneurship come to the fore and we see a rapid increase in community capacity in response to adversity. Often this capacity is long lasting as the community discovers that it can self-manage many issues and has the community spirit and optimism to determine its own destiny. Government services also learn that they can operate differently and can work in a different way with the community.