Posts in Guiding Values
Economics & Empathy - Disaster Recovery

I've been infatuated with disaster recovery for quite some time. I've spoken to numerous survivors - gathering their stories in part with the Field Innovation Team. I've spoken with responders, contractors and funding agencies. I've analyzed the nature of neighborhood and whole community recovery through numerous events. I've even presented to gatherings of fellow emergency managers on building resilience that may lead to a more rapid recovery.

And I've noticed something - recovery, the successful kind, is an artful blend of economics and empathy.

Yes, a community needs financial support, information and an opportunity to meet their fundamental survival needs. But beyond that, in order to engage their own resilience, a community struck by disaster needs empathy. An understanding that, growth, safety and trust begins when, and only when, an ability to comprehend their own needs and a willingness to meet them exists.

Governments long to build resilience, to listen to community, to support and grow community capacity to meet their own needs. But I've yet to see a successful example of that philosophy instigated in a community. Government rarely listens and even more rarely asks communities to share what recovery means to them. We have a tendency to send the well-meaning among us out to communities to gather information, but those representatives are under-equipped and often speak more than they listen to those they aim to support.

Emergency Managers say - the goal of recovery is to "build it back, better" but what does that mean to the communities which they serve? Better means something different to every neighborhood, business district and non-governmental support capability. The under-served in one neighborhood will respond differently to disaster than a similar, but different neighborhood, despite having similar capacity to withstand trauma. No two people and thus no two neighborhoods are the same. Therefore, the very nature of recovery must be sought from those directly impacted by the decisions made on their behalf. 

It must be sought in empathetic, systematic, deliberate ways. By humans (and technology) eager to learn and less eager to disseminate the "solutions" their employers offer. A story must be shared and equally told by connecting with the needs, capabilities and desires of a community to build their own future.

For it is their future that will rebuild our community.

all great things...

Asking is tough business. It's a struggle to ask for something - for help, for support... for love.

In Western culture we grow up embracing the ideal of individuality - it's the practice that one can and SHOULD accomplish great things alone. It's encouraged as a student, as an athlete and an artist. And it's a complete fallacy. There is no individual accomplishment. No lone genius. It's a myth and one that does not serve the individual, the group, the need or the solution very well.

As a teen I was convinced that all great accomplishment was created and driven by the individual. I wanted to do it by myself, my way. As someone a bit older, my view of accomplishment (especially great accomplishment) has changed drastically. As a side note, my attitude and approach is also changing, but that is slow going at times.

No accomplishment is individual in nature, least of which the really incredible ones. Not one thing is saved, exalted, created, raised, bought, sold, crafted, grown or developed by only one pair of hands. It take a group, a village if you will, of like-minded and willing supporters, to breathe life into the things we've grown to hold dear.

This is a reminder to ask for help, support and love (maybe all three), when you need it. It's the world's opportunity to help you craft the great thing we've been waiting for.

Justifying No

Serial creation... The ability to create en mass. Excellent in theory and in practice, but not encouraged within work culture.

It's a lot harder than it looks. I've tried themed days, quarterly deliverables, saying no (and saying yes), but it's really difficult to create an environment where innovation and serial creation occurs when you work for a large organization.

I could do a better job of selling my focus and my reasoning behind a project. And I could do a better job of saying no in order to narrow my focus. But how else does one create something powerful within an organization that is driven in many different (sometimes conflicting) directions? What is a more compelling justification for saying no?