During our first meeting with NEN, our team was also introduced to Luis, a graduate student with the Stanford Urban Resilience Initiative (SURI). Our team is currently in communication with Luis, and we hope to get together with him in the coming weeks so that we can learn more about the projects SURI has worked on.
While exploring the SURI website we found that they had worked on a project regarding the 2011 Christchurch earthquake in New Zealand. The Christchurch earthquake is one of the natural disaster events that our team is currently researching to better understand the variety of issues that a community faces after a catastrophic incident. In our research, we found an interview featuring John Hamilton, Christchurch’s Director of Civil Defense Emergency, where he talks about some of the lessons he learned from working with the Christchurch community in the aftermath of the seismic event. Multiple times in the interview, Hamilton states how important preparedness is in order to become a resilient city. Though Christchurch was prepared in many ways, Hamilton points out that one of the things that they were not prepared for was regarding post-event communication with community organizations. He learned that many local organizations were eager to help in various ways after the earthquake but were limited in how much they could help because they did not have enough tools and resources to utilize.
This lesson really emphasized to us the importance of community engagement and how events such as the Resilient Bayview Neighborfest which was held this past weekend helps foster the relationship between communities and their local resource partners. We hope to continue finding lessons such as this one as we do further research on past and current disaster events.
What We Observed and Learned
This last week involved a review of documentation surrounding different meetings related to NEN and the Strong Homes project. What has been apparent is the high degree of complexity of NEN’s different networks in bringing together different sectors and working with different communities. In Bayview, for example, we reviewed a report of a community-oriented vulnerability assessment which detailed the process of different working groups being formed to work under a broader steering committee. In developing these the question comes up at the longevity of these working connections and how they could be linked to broader community organizing.
Our team also reviewed several videos surrounding a meeting in city hall to discuss NEN, with several keynote speakers from public, nonprofit, and private sectors prefacing a community empowerment activity. Probably most poignant was LaToya Cantrell’s interview on her work on the ground following hurricane Katrina, A New Orleans councilwoman, Cantrell emphasized the importance of acknowledging and utilizing existing social capital in each community. Her main points included that our cities (New Orleans and San Francisco) are already resilient, and that people are their own first responders. Her key lesson from her community work post-Katrina is the need for a mapping of each community’s social capital - that is - who lives where, what assets and vulnerabilities exist. Accounting for the people in the community in a formal way will only allow for more empowered resilience with the resources and capabilities communities already have.
Critical Analysis/Moving Forward
Following a review of last week’s reflection, we realized there were some inconsistencies between our understanding of the NEN and its actual purpose. As mentioned previously, the NEN is a relatively complex organization with multiple facets to its services and projects. Leading up to the charrette, our team will participate in a webinar in order to gain a deeper grasp of the ways these NEN programs work to empower neighborhoods. We believe we can incorporate this knowledge into our thinking process when tackling the design of the disaster toolkit following the charrette. As outlined in the Haas Center’s Principles of Ethical and Effective Service, we want to recognize our community partners’ role as educators while making our work relevant to the community. By gaining a better understanding of the Neighborhood Empowerment Network, we will be able to make our toolkit design more relevant to their mission.
Apart from the toolkit, we are also responsible for creating a 15-minute presentation on the health impacts of severe lifeline interruption during times of stress. After getting feedback from Daniel following last week’s reflection, we plan to look at multiple scenarios of lifeline interruption from recent tragedies in order to create a holistic glimpse of the possible challenges San Francisco could face in a similar situation.
Moving forward, we intend to create better lines of communication between our team and our NEN partners. While scheduling conflicts between all members of this project makes this somewhat admittedly difficult, we find it imperative to share accurate information regarding our projects and understanding of the Network’s mission.