The Ties That Bind
How Do you Use your Network?
We saw the importance of relationships that people have to one another very strongly during the flood in 2013. The Town of Lyons, which experienced devastating effects from the flood, and has had a very long recovery process, was able to very quickly mobilize a variety of assistance for residents from financial to engineering plans and engage residents in a recovery planning process that served to maintain town identity and cohesion even while community members were displaced from their homes. The mayor of the town was able to maximize relationships to organizations to acquire vital resources and create hope for the townspeople.
The community conversations that BoCo Strong held the summer after the flood reinforced this idea that that relationships and connections play a necessary role in helping people recover from the disaster. The diversity of connections that came from volunteer assistance, ties to churches, local non-profits, town administrators and local government, all combined to create an extremely flexible network of assistance and resources that could respond to the highly individualized needs of those affected by the flood.
Research in other areas affected by disaster have yielded similar findings: Professor Daniel Aldrich of Northeastern University has studied a variety of community recovery processes in post-disaster New Orleans, Kobe, and Fukushima. His work has shown the importance of social connection at all scales: personal networks, relationships with local service providers and access to local policy makers. This fabric of human connection, when activated to be inclusive and open, brings in new opportunities for not only recovery, but transformative adaptation in the face of new challenges.
Responding to disaster tends to bring out the best in people. Neighbors are quick to offer assistance to one another and the outpouring of compassion is enormous. Building social resilience on a day-to-day basis can be much harder for many reasons; not least of which is the difficulty of acknowledging need and measuring the impact of our actions during non-disaster periods. And yet, it is through striving to make these very connections that we create the best possible and most holistic disaster resilience in our communities. The wealth of knowledge and the diversity of skill sets that reside in our communities mean that during times of stress both large and small, we have an immense number of resources to draw on if we can make the right contacts.
Our own planning and stockpiling of resources can’t account for every stressor; whether fires and floods, losing a job, or moving house. We need the flexibility provided by our relationships: from grandparents watching the kids for a weekend, to neighbors acting as first responders and digging the folks next door out of the mud in order to escape a flood. No matter how small or deep, these connections that we have with one another open us up to new opportunities, new strengths, and new skills. Building out our personal and professional networks is not just a means to a personal end, but helps the entire community grow stronger, more connected, and better able to buffer itself against shocks and stresses.
This is the core of the work that we aim to do with BoCo Strong’s Resilience Network: to build out relationships across professional sectors, geographic divides, and power hierarchies; to foster connections between people, organizations, and governments in order to help to realize their potential and measure their impact. Working by bringing people face to face is not always easy, but it is one of the best ways that we have found to increase disaster resilience. Through creating opportunities for diverse groups of people to meet, we strive to:
- Create connections between organizations that may not otherwise meet
- Strengthen relationships between community members and organizations in the area
- Uncover skills and knowledge within the community that can be harnessed to help with outreach, marketing, advertising
- Increase information sharing between organizations
What do you think? How do you see your networks? Have a story to share or a point to make? Get in touch and share your network thoughts: firstname.lastname@example.org