BoCo Strong’s story starts with a lot of rain, a big disaster, and a determined commitment to hope. After a flood in 2013 that devastated communities across Colorado’s Front Range, a group of local government, community, and non-profit representatives began meeting to document lessons learned in Boulder County. Recognizing how crucial their relationships and shared knowledge were to helping flood affected people recover, they decided that committing to continuing and strengthening these relationships would be vital for future disaster recovery.
Through these efforts, representatives from the flood affected communities created BoCo Strong. Their goal was to build, share, and cooperate around a culture of resilience throughout Boulder County. The BoCo Strong Steering Committee currently has representatives from Lyons, Boulder, Longmont and Boulder County as well as I-S-E-T, and Foothills United Way.
Putting the Spotlight on People
Beginning as a sub-committee of the long-term flood recovery group (LTFRG), BoCo Strong soon took on a life of its own and began programming and documenting lessons learned from the flood.
After a natural disaster, the focus is typically on restoring physical infrastructure. Social infrastructure is frequently ignored or forgotten. Because of this, it’s difficult to support and strengthen social ties as well as adequately record lessons learned from different areas. Adding to the difficulty is the problem of funding and evaluating success. Relationships are hard to measure and difficult to claim impact for. So BoCo Strong’s formation was in part an effort to shift this emphasis at least slightly. In recognition of the important role that relationships between family, friends, colleagues, and organizations play in recovery and resilience, BoCo Strong champions social capital, increasing connections and fostering cooperation around already existing social networks.
It’s a Community Story
In 2014 BoCo Strong conducted over 20 resilience conversations in flood impacted neighborhoods throughout the county. The major finding from these meetings was that places with strong connections to nonprofits and local government recovered more quickly from the effects of the flooding. Because of this, BoCo Strong is committed to increasing the strength of social and professional ties across the county in ways that promote equitable access to resources and cross-sector collaboration in all communities.
Working Toward Stronger
BoCo Strong received a CDBG-DR grant for resilience planning in 2015. With Boulder County as a fiscal sponsor, the organization hired three project coordinators to work on four goals:
- A Resilience Network to help create connections between organizations working in resilience
- A Boulder County Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (VOAD) network to help coordinate non-governmental disaster response and recovery organizations
- A Resilience Leadership Program to engage and empower community leaders from the flood affected areas
- A Resilience Assessment to examine the state of resilience in Boulder County and provide recommendations for future work
Work on these four goals continued throughout 2016. In 2017, the Resilience and VOAD networks continue their operation to connect organizations and create best practices and lessons learned for future recovery and response from shocks and stresses. BoCo Strong also supported Resiliency for All, which built on several of the recommendations of the Resilience Assessment. The RFA focus was on developing specific recommendations to strengthen the resilience of the Spanish-speaking communities in Boulder County.
In 2018 BoCo Strong is collaborating more closely with Foothills United Way to combine and strengthen community resilience work. Jointly, the two groups are offering the Better Together community resilience and disaster preparedness classes; hosting the Resilience Summit; offering Community Resilience grants; and continuing the Resilience for All work to identify cultural brokers and create trusted relationships between vulnerable communities and local government in Boulder and Broomfield Counties.
We are always working to learn and refine our approach. Please get in touch to contribute, join the steering committee or learn more.