How Do Community and Organizational Leaders Advance Resilience?
Working Together: That first lesson of leadership for organizational partnership for community resilience is that “it takes a village.” Since the central idea of community resilience is promoting the connection of diverse sectors into shared leadership and action for preparedness and response—the form of leadership required is collective leadership.
This collective leadership requires developing relationships, understanding the priorities and assets of different organizations and sectors, and finding the fit of participation in an initiative with each agency or sector’s needs. Essential ingredients to that leadership are having a sense of common goals—which becomes a shared sense and goal in a local context—and promoting development within and across organizations around those goals.
Shared Framework: At the same time, effective leadership does require attending to the goals and framework for the initiative—and reviewing and generating that framework within the leadership—a balance of effective decision-making and attention to cohesion of the partners and individuals in a sense of co-ownership.
An effective coalition, for example, may rotate leadership or have enough knowledge and buy-in of the overall plan and agenda that almost any willing member can lead a given meeting—or at least that can be an important goal for coalition leadership.
Engagement: Bringing people to the table from different organizations requires flexibility in learning what and how to bring people to the table—providing access to resources, information, training or expertise, and listening carefully to what people value, need, and seek in a given initiative.
Flexibility is also needed for people’s time and understanding the limits of their resources—while at the same time instilling a sense of hope that by joining together, all organizations can achieve something broader that benefits the community.
Inclusion: Leadership in this context can also mean instilling a sense of respect for, attention to, and inclusion of vulnerable populations that might be left out of leadership, but often have greater need for support for resilience—and also bringing these stakeholders to the table as co-leaders.
How this is done—and for what populations—may depend on the community. For example, it may include age groups (seniors, children, and families), different socioeconomic groups including lower income/educated, racial and ethnic minority groups, or more socially isolated or other populations such as those with disabilities. Having a leadership team that understands and has relationships with such populations is likely key to engagement.
Partnership: Within organizations, change may also be needed to develop community resilience. Organizations may need to release staff for planning collectively in a coalition, participate in other meetings or programs, invest resources in supplies or infrastructure such as technology to support preparedness and response activities, and provide access to information to stakeholders.
This may require having an understanding of the leadership structure and financing, as well as the mission and priorities of the organization, to find the right fit of goals for organizational and community resilience with that organization. For community resilience building through a coalition, this often requires sharing responsibility with other organizations such as assigning tasks (outreach, resources, information) to different organizations or leveraging what individual organizations already have in capability across organizations.
Openness: Both collective planning and implementation efforts and individual organizational efforts to achieve community resiliency require leadership, but leadership of a particular kind. Leadership in sharing, outreach, understanding others—while keeping an eye to the main task—and an openness to change while also minding the needs of people and organizations and the collaborative needs and capacities. Respect for others and conveying goals transparently to promote trust.
Innovation: Finally, another key leadership goal is the understanding that not all is known or worked out in advance, and that new learning and innovation in approaches and activities are key for effective coalitions to extend beyond existing approaches and overcome limitations to build community resilience.