Building community resilience is a top priority for both governmental and non-governmental entities, and increasingly an issue of national and global significance. While building resilience is central to the ability of communities to respond and recover to a range of stresses, the actual “how to” of resilience development has left many unanswered questions.
Recognizing that many organizations had identified resilience development as a priority but were only partially equipped to carry-out the complex resilience challenges that lay ahead, a team from the LACCDR – a community resilience demonstration project – foresaw the need to test what it means for communities to build resilience locally, including what activities are needed to strengthen resilience-based capacities and capabilities, partner effectively across government and nongovernmental organizations, and measure progress.
This experience along with the pooled expertise of national leaders over the last several years offered a new opportunity to gather insights from actual experiences of resilience development-both successes and pitfalls- to create an accessible, web-based resilience program to help communities nationally.
In 2016, LACCDR investigators built from the earlier demonstration project and along with national leaders, initiated this effort to translate lessons learned to create a web-based platform that unpacked many of the unanswered questions about what it really means for communities to prioritize and activate resilience development. During developmental stages of the platform development project, the team sought the advice of a User Advisory Panel comprised of local, state, and national representatives who have made great strides in their own communities. This work is supported by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.
Our Beginning: A Snapshot of the Los Angeles County Community Disaster Resilience Project—Building and Testing Resilience Locally
In 2010, the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health launched LACCDR in collaboration with academic institutions (UCLA, RAND Corporation, Loma Linda University, USA), governmental and non-governmental agencies (United States Geological Survey Science Application for Risk Reduction, Emergency Network of Los Angeles, USA), businesses (private media consultants) and 16 community coalitions in Los Angeles County.
The goal of the 5-year collaboration was to improve resilience at the community level with a focus on four areas of capacity building: education, engagement, self-sufficiency, and partnership.
After conducting a needs assessment with stakeholders and community leaders, 16 community coalitions were recruited to test resilience strategies.
From 2013 – 2015, coalitions were provided training and technical assistance as they developed and executed their plans to improve community resilience and/or preparedness.
HOW WE MEASURED OUR RESULTS
The team adapted the Public Health Response to Emergent Threats Survey as an index for evaluating LACCDR outcomes at the household and neighborhood level among 4700 residents. The survey highlights how coalitions took action to improve community resilience over time.
Since launching the LACCDR in 2010, the community’s perceived collective efficacy of the community scored highest overall. Across all communities, emergency supplies also scored strongly while community engagement scored low. Results varied for the measure of communication with while civic engagement proved relatively similar across neighborhoods. Review an explanation of the results>
Testing the Resilience Capacity of Coalitions
The team also conducted a tabletop exercise with 203 coalition members—a self-guided exercise enabled coalitions to put new community resilience skills to the test using a simulated event. The scenario chosen was an extended heat wave with impacts to community health and infrastructure, a plausible threat in the greater Los Angeles area where temperatures can exceed 100° F in the summer months. In subsequent iterations of the tabletop, other scenarios (e.g., measles outbreak, hurricane response, climate adaptation) have been used.
The goal of the exercise was to assess the ability of coalitions to leverage partnerships and resources to confront a slowly evolving and multifaceted emergency.
The exercise revealed most coalitions did not have enough (both quantity and type) of the partner organizations needed for an escalating heat wave or adequate engagement of organizations representing at-risk populations. Coalitions also concluded they lacked the educational resources needed to fully understand the impacts of an extended heat wave, hampering their ability to convey messages to their community.
The use of a tabletop scenario proved a constructive test of resilience capacities in the absence of an actual event. It also provided important insights for coalitions working to strengthen their skills in disaster response and recovery planning. Read the journal article>
Organizational Network Survey
The team surveyed organizations that partnered with LACCDR coalitions using a social network analysis program called PARTNER (Program to Analyze, Record, and Track Networks to Enhance Relationships) at the start of study and at least once more during the span of the project. With PARTNER, survey responses are linked to an analysis tool that visually maps the collaborative network and analyzes the number, strength, and quality of connections among Source
Measures used to assess partner connectivity included types of relationship, trust among partners, and value of the partner organizations to the coalition’s mission.
Post survey, the team is interpreting the results of their data analyses and preparing a manuscript for publication in a peer reviewed journal that will include recommendations for future projects.