Community groups in crisis

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  • Facilitator and note taker: Jamila
  • Marie
  • Ben
  • Becky
  • Hannah

Why are we here?

Jamila - works with small community based orgs in NYC, tech support. wished could help more during Sandy.

Marie - worked with orgs, starting with Sandy, community recovery specialist for American Red Cross. building long term recovery groups, meant to be self sustaining systems, can get community back on the feet after the "circus" has left town. Sequence of delivery: There's FEMA, then Build it Back, then NGO sector; that's not how it actually works in practice. With Red Cross trying to rebuild communities with organizations. Then worked with orgs to prepare orgs to make local intranet. In the recovery phase, how do we find and get resources. Now working in local govt, OEM etc, they don't have the funds to respond long term in local govt either.

Hannah - background in families and children nonprofits. jumped in during Sandy, worked with FEMA. Where do people naturally connect, and how can those networks distribute information. Stationed in Brighton Beach. Then organizing with all the Nonprofits working in Sandy affected Queens, then trying to keep the donated money locally. Managing money locally that noone thought we could do, on behalf of the residents. Ideally the community leadership would have more ownership over the process going forward than they did. Still facilitating that in queens. Interested in long term resiliance work. I would like to never see what happened in Sandy affected Queens again.

Becky - here as curious learner, project manager and research at Emerson, Boston Civi Media network. City accelerator, working on helping 5 cities to engage lower income residents.

Ben - Need for a coordinating, matchmaking systems, to match local communities to what they need directly without NGOs. How to create sustainable way, with a business model instead of pilot projects that fizzle out. How do you connect institutions to exist. A state within Germany is helping a region of Iraq with infrastructure, sister cities type projects. How do you activate those local networks to empower people without using the traditional NGO model, mostly working with refugees in countries around Syria. Using universities and municipalities as networks. In Zaatari refugee camp, if you treat it as a city as opposed to a resource distribution point, you can do more.


How to use the community networks that already exist to distribute information, How to connect tech volunteers deeper into the community level as opposed to just large NGOs, local communities lack coordination. Interested in seeing young creative people infiltrate these systems, working inside it, how to use the system. How can we attract more people to get involved?

siloing, lots of good interesting things are happening, but only on their own.

Small community organizations have their own structure. we need to rebuild houses, we need funding, we had circles of people who coordinated together to do something. Hannah: I ran it as a facilitator, not as a boss. It worked super well, the point is the orgs got what they wanted. Large NGOs and smaller faith based organizations, coordinating all of them together.

A problem was a lack of civic infrastructure.

The large institutions fear change so much, how do we keep the institutions from destroying the people who some of us want to come in and make things better? Also a few toxic people can destroy a huge organization.

VOAD - volunteer organizations active in disasters, most of them are faith based

Red cross gave a lot of money to local organizations, some of them were able to spend it the way they wanted. If you knew how to work with the system, you could get money.

ny disaster interfaith systems is a connecting point, they are considered the point of connection for faith based orgs.

If orgs were ready and had a plan, funding orgs like to work with them, GOLES did very well. Salvation Army in Queens tried to stand up their own system, but that failed.

If you can set up a framework, here are the chapters in each place that are focused on resiliance. Say that we are here, if there is a disaster, you can set up a precontract if you organize with big funders (red cross).

In NYC there are toxic personalities in charge of networks, and that are people trying to hijack the process. Had to guard against egos, even our own. Had to be accountable to the process.

The poorer the community, the less local formal structures they have. The big systems value being able to get in, spend the money, and get out.

Also having multiple channels for engagement. Example, traditional town halls often have the same people talking. Other ways of engagement at the low local level, will enable different paths of accountability.

Queens Recovery Coalition didn't pool funding, because they saw that be toxic in every other example. Figured out how to leverage everyone's resources.

There was so much anger about what had happened there. It takes a long time to build bridges with communities that have been let down a lot. It's still a baby org.

We all know how unprepared we are for the next disaster, we aren't fully recovered from the last ones. Starting with the structure is the place.

Red Cross responds to 200 crises a day in the US. Example, in flooding in Detroit, they didn't check off asking for FEMA assistance on a form, thus didn't get andy FEMA assistance.

Plug orgs into resilience networks.

Larger NGOs are change resistant, and many of them can play dirty. There is institutional misogyny and racism.

What are the answers? Building the network is the answer, beyond that, it gets very complicated.

Hannah will send us the Queens recovery coalition report. Something that is legible to formal organizations, but actually helps local communities, is so good and so rare. Groups need to know how this system works. In a crisis you don't want to be having to come up with documents that just need to be signed.

Next steps in making this kind of thing better is taking these stories and adding data.

Emergency Management is a deep field. There is so much more to learn. Going to make a women focused resilient organization. Software tools that some governments use: Microsoft NVivo, Deduce, Tableau.

With bad actor organizations, it's hard to know who they can be held accountable to.

Also we burn out, even those of us with social work background have trouble doing the things we know.

Related Project

Extreme event preparedness and response for small nonprofits