How do you do a job that do not know how to do?
In the United States of America, communities that are newly at risk to climate related hazards, disaster response coordinators and planners often ask themselves this question.
While these new hires to local government are technically knowledgeable, they are may not be equipped to engage effectively with the very communities they are hired to mobilise in times of crisis. The line is broken between local governments and residents, despite the fact that these relationships are fundamental to disaster response and recovery. The communities most impacted by this disconnect, of course, are those that are most vulnerable to begin with. If the Line is Broken, we have a plan to fix it.
By supporting local government staff in building the skillset necessary to do their job well, newly at risk communities will eventually have better outcomes in the face of increased frequency and severity of natural disasters.
We are addressing the increasing risk of climate influenced natural disasters, in communities that have not previously been affected by natural disasters. Developed nations too, will be threatened by increasing natural disasters in newly at risk areas. Whilst these nations generally have the financial capability and framework available to deploy during times of crisis, access may not be equal. Furthermore, it would be the first time natural disasters, these marginalised communities that have not had the opportunity to develop preparedness strategies and resiliency structures, which will be crucial to rely on in times of crisis.
Our experiences living in a range of developed nations with varying levels of regional disasters led us to the insight that whilst our nations do experience natural disasters, these are currently limited to certain geographic regions, however, those disasters are now encompassing new geographies. Our solution has been developed with the Mid-Western states of the USA in mind, with a further focus on municipalities of 25,000 – 100,000 people, which are usually resource constrained and lacking the human and financial capital to enact large scale disaster preparedness programs, but acknowledge the future risk and hazards.
Our solution is an interactive, learn as you go curricula that will enable municipal staff tasked with developing disaster preparedness in newly at-risk cities to effectively engage and include diverse communities in disaster preparedness and disaster risk reduction. The curricula takes the form action cards that introduce the user to subject matter knowledge, how-to guides and Activities that will build a range of intrapersonal, interpersonal, technical and community engagement skills. Specifically, the development themes of the Action cards will embody our ethos of Building DNA. The curricula will support the user to Build Self (Intra and Interpersonal) Develop Relationships (community engagement), Nurture Partnerships (Community engagement) and Activate Networks (technical). The curricula’s core tenant is test, reflect, repeat, ensuring continued application and contextual development based on the municipality where the curricula is deployed. ‘
The ultimate goal of the curricula is to create a collaborative ecosystem of participatory, community led design for localised preparedness structures that directly address indicators 13.1.1 and 13.1.3 of the SDG’s.
The value add to users is that they will become a more effective partner to communities before, during and after natural disasters, ensuring better outcomes for the municipality and the entire communities when disasters occur. By building strong collaborative bonds that are locally contextualised, we anticipate that resources from external government agencies (County, State and Federal) will be more efficiently allocated, distributed and then utilised due to effective coordination and understanding of the end stakeholders in the disaster response, recovery, mitigation and preparedness cycles. Targeting professionals, we envision that this curricula will cumulate in a professional type accreditation which will provide better employability and progression to communities.
This solution has not be done before as the traditional way of disaster is one that focus on the actions formal institutions. Our solution reframes the issue of disaster preparedness from one that focus on formal institutions to one that connects the formal institutions with the community on the ground and capitalise on the social capital to be activated during the time of a disaster.
This product is unique in its structure and delivery. We are the bridge that allows the new, highly technically skilled disaster professional to connect with the wide range of tools available. Our curricula will enable disaster professional to have a one stop shop for information that teaches them the soft skills required to be the bridge with the community. We have identified the gaps in the education system that prioritise the technicalities and do not teach these soft skills. We envision that that the the curricula will be eventually formalised into a professional accreditation course which will enhances employability and job progression.
Our key impact is a multi prong approach that facilities the continuous learning for the disaster coordinator tasked to engaged with a marginalised community. The planner would better be able to engage with the marginalised communities and gain their trust. The over arching goal is to create a system in the US that enables the disaster coordinator to activate the informal networks within these communities during the times of a disaster. The aspirational case study would be the disaster coordination system found in Nemo in St Lucia, whereby the government successfully tapped on the social capital within the community to tackle the annual hurricanes.
We can measure it with the lens of SGD 13.1.1: No of deaths, missing persons and directly affected persons attributed to disaster per 100,00 people. SGD 13.1.3: Proportion of local governments that implement local disaster risk reduction.
We plan to begin building a peer network of practitioners that will ultimately contribute to the curricula, and hope to include municipalities in this work. Further, identifying a small to medium sized municipality that is in newly at risk of natural disasters and hosts an academic institution (university or college) will be the first stage in developing a comprehensive literature review.
To further our idea, we will require support to develop the curricula from existing best practices that are commonplace in high-occurrence natural disaster regions, such as the Caribbean and South Asia. We will also need to conduct extensive literature research on the existing preparedness networks and practices in our eventual pilot location to ensure that the curricula is contextually relevant. We would be seeking an implementing partner to fund the development of the curricula and the pilot city, with a view to expanding the pilot to encompass other municipalities. We also hope to develop our solution into a rapidly scalable and replicable model for preparedness that allows cities and city staff to achieve professional certification as qualified practitioners of the curricula.