Severe weather events, global conflict, and economic hardships seem to have become commonplace in this world we live in. Media coverage brings to light how people and communities respond when faced with the real-life drama created by extreme adversity. A word often cited when measuring a community’s response to these challenges is the term resiliency.
By definition, resiliency is the power or ability to return to the original form, position, etc., after being bent, compressed, or stretched; elasticity (1). Applied to the above a more appropriate definition may be the ability for a community to return to its original form after having experienced trauma.
Joplin, New Orleans, New Town, Aurora, Greensburg, Moore, West, Boston, San Bernardino are all communities of different sizes and demographics that share a common experience. Each was “bent” beyond comprehension. Faced with tragedy in a variety of forms, these communities were suddenly and unexpectedly tasked with the responsibility of recovery. In short, the resiliency of each of these communities was tested.
Unlike the stress ball you have in the upper right-hand drawer of your desk that immediately returns to its original form after being squeezed, communities tend not to recover so quickly. Even with the best architectural, economic, emergency, or disaster plans, some communities respond and recover in a much more efficient manner than others.
Unfortunately, far too many communities are looking for resiliency in all the wrong places. Resiliency is not necessarily found in the depth of foundations, abundance of financial resources, or even the thickness of an emergency manual. The resiliency of a community is most often found in its people. Specifically, resiliency is found in the volume and quality of a community’s social capital also known as relationships.
Don’t get me wrong. Bricks and mortar, infrastructure, financial stability, and careful planning are all important. However, at the end of the day, it will be people who make it possible for the community to return to its original form. The lesson…building a resilient community begins and ends with building deep relationships.