Components of community resilience

Patel et al. (2017) undertook a systematic literature review and identified the following main components as important within the concept of community resilience. They are:

Local knowledge: This comprises a community’s understanding regarding its existing vulnerabilities and local knowledge about the mitigation strategies against the onset of sudden crisis. For example, Rahman et al. (2017) highlight how the Smong tradition of indigenous knowledge of tsunami risk embedded in communities successfully alerted people to the 2004 tsunami on the island of Simeulue, Indonesia. Thus local knowledge helps to build resilience within a community. Apart from specific indigenous knowledge, the factual knowledge base of the community members also plays an important role, including specific learned information and knowledge related to disaster preparedness, mitigation, response and recovery (for example, knowledge about first aid; knowledge about basic health and hygiene, knowledge about other agencies to be contacted for rescue and relief operations, etc.). Training and education play an important role in this context. For example, community education, including public disaster education (Moore et al., 2012), community training and exercises, etc. are important to build local knowledge and capacity. A community must have adequate knowledge and understanding about its own resources and processes to endure and respond to a disaster (Chandra et al., 2011). This is achievable only through collaboration and connection between community members.

Community networks and relationships: One of the primary characteristics of a resilient community is collaborative connectedness, which allows the community to function as a cohesive whole. The connectedness of a community allows its community members to interact and form social relationship locally as well as with other members outside their community, thus forming bridging and bonding social capital (Aldrich &C Meyer, 2015; Lin, 1999; Lin, 2001). The community cohesion depends on the strength of these links, including trust and shared values among community members.

Communication: An effective communication practice among both intra- and inter-community members is an important determinant of community resilience. Norris et al. (2008) have defined communication as “the creation of common meanings and understandings and the provision of opportunities for members to articulate needs, views, and attitudes”. This implies that effective communication should premise not only on a framework facilitating common understanding but should also provide opportunities for open dialogue. Another related aspect is the accessibility of communication infrastructure, enabling multiple modes of communication — for example, voice, text, graphics, video, etc. — which is now possible with the pervasive use of social technology. Chandra et al. (2011, p. 20) noted that “strong communication networks are critical for resilience” with “diversity of mode and content”. Dawes et al., (2004) identified the need for open communication during a crisis to share up- to-date situational information with members of the affected community and other stakeholders as a part of crisis communication. Houston et al. (2015) highlighted the need for strategic communication processes to enhance community resilience through information and knowledge sharing using community narratives and community systems and resources. This would enable effective request-response coordination between agencies, organizations and community members.

Health: Since both public health and public health services are severely affected by any disaster, knowledge about community health vulnerabilities and health service provisioning is an important factor in building community resilience. Community participation in healthcare services can be enhanced through appropriate training and capacity-building at the community level to handle mass casualties (Camacho et ah, 2016; Haldane et al., 2019).

Governance/leadership: Steiner and Farmer (2017) suggest that “empowering communities should harness community development techniques that use both external actors and sources of support (i.e., exogenous practices), and those that utilise assets from within the community (i.e., endogenous practices)”. This implies that governance and leadership should come both from outside and inside the community in order to build community resilience. There are two components to look at: infrastructure and services and involvement and support of external agencies (both public and private). Community resilience is attainable only when the community has access to adequate infrastructure and has the required operating capability to use and control the infrastructure (be it physical or virtual; e.g., informational). Involvement and support of external agencies would enhance the bridging social capital of the community, which in turn would help to improve community resilience.

Resources: Numerous types of resources, such as natural (e.g., water), physical (e.g., food, shelter), human (e.g., doctors, technicians) and financial (financial aid), are widely available and distributed in the community during and post-disaster. A resilient community must be able to harness these resources and allocate them appropriately within the community using fair distribution mechanisms.

Preparedness: Involvement of community stakeholders in pre-disaster planning process and running training sessions/practice drills with a focus on disaster risk reduction contributes to improved community resilience (iVloore et al., 2012). Altogether, the involvement of community members in the planning process to improve mitigation measures and overall preparedness can enable a community to become resilient to disaster.

Mental outlook: The mental outlook of a community determines the ability and willingness of community members to participate in the process of disaster management activities in the face of uncertainty (Twigg, 2009). Adaptability can be defined as the ability and willingness to change after a disaster while accepting that things will be different. Bahadur et al. (2010) identified “acceptance of uncertainty and change” as the main characteristic of a resilient system.

The above characterization of community resilience is only indicative and may not be comprehensive. Even then, this list gives us a guideline on what constitutes community resilience. However, a more important question in this context is: how do we build a resilient community? What specific socio-economic, socio-technical and socio-political processes are important in making a community resilient? The above characterization indicates that making a community resilient primarily depends on: (i) formation of a network that connects intra- and inter-community stakeholders; and (ii) collaborative knowledge transactions among various agents (the nodes) of this network. In the next section we will illustrate how creation of online communities of circumstance, enabled by social technologies, has the potential to enhance community resilience using collaboration and connections.

A framework towards building online communities of circumstance: Mobilizing community towards resilience

Communities of circumstance

The National Research Council (2011) indicates the importance of community participation in decision-making in the event of an emergency. For example, Herbst and Jacqueline (2013) illustrate how community participation is an important parameter in every stage of disaster management: disaster mitigation, preparedness, response and recovery. Effective collaboration among members of the affected communities, together with private and public agencies, can lead to the formation of a community of circumstance, which would help community to take part in decision-making. The UK Cabinet Office (2011) describes communities of circumstance as follows: “These communities are created when groups of people are affected by the same incident, such as a train crash. These groups of individuals are unlikely to have the same interests or come from the same geographical area but may form a community in the aftermath of an event. Although this sense of community may be temporary, some communities of circumstance grow and are sustained in the long-term following an emergency.” Communities of circumstance harness the potential of community knowledge, making them available to the community and empowering the communities to interact, collaborate and participate in the development of society, transforming the way they live, learn and work.

In designing the guideline for a community resilience strategy, the Red Cross proposed to engage community members in a network enabling formation of communities of circumstance to empower them to build disaster resilience (Herbst &c Jacqueline, 2013). However, to accomplish this the Red Cross proposed working collaboratively “with networks under non-emergency circumstances, so that when a disaster occurs, the community not only is better prepared, but also has the critical partnerships and systems in place to effectively respond and recover well”. This indicates that communities of circumstance cannot be created in isolation. Both communities of practice and purpose account to be mandatory prerequisites in building community of circumstance among rural urban communities. Communities of practice and purpose serve as engagement premise, which, by contextually involving rural participants, subsequently act as facilitating platforms in cultivating participatory abilities of rural members. It is only when the rural community derives collective participatory credentials that they are able to mobilize the local resources crucial to achieving resilience through formation of community of circumstance.

Although the need for a community of circumstance is well-understood, the question remains: how do we create it, especially in the context of a dis- empowered rural community? Communities of circumstance cannot be created or built out of vacuum; there has to be a framework that facilitates formation of community of circumstance. In the following section we propose a framework to build and operationalize communities of circumstance in rural context.

An operational framework for cultivating online communities of circumstance

Using the concept of platform economy and virtual enterprise as explained in Chapter 12, Section 4.1), we propose to operationalize online communities of circumstance, connecting intra-community and inter-community stakeholders, as shown in Figure 13.1. The aims are to achieve three main objectives, as illustrated in Herbst and Jacqueline (2013): “(i) foster ‘connected’ communities, in which linkages and relationships form between and across sectors; (ii) promote

Creating community of circumstance in emergency management

Figure 13.1 Creating community of circumstance in emergency management

‘problem-solving’ communities, in which community stakeholders trust one another and are able to work together to form solutions and take action; (iii) build ‘prepared’ communities, which have the capacity to prepare, respond and recover for any type of disaster that might occur” (Herbst Sc Jacqueline, 2013).

Three enablers — physical, procedural and social — are needed for successful operationalization of communities of circumstance (McAslan, 2010):

Physical enablers refer to accelerating factors that enable communities to mobilize physical resources and infrastructure to help in cultivating resilience on a communitarian level. The mobilizing capacity of physical and infrastructural resources, granted by physical enablers, includes utilities (water, electricity and gas), food, health services, transportation, communications and banking in the event of a crisis. Physical enablers allow the communities to operate at a level which, by triggering effective collaboration on a collective level, helps in enhancing adaptive capacities of individuals and groups.

Procedural enablers aim at ensuring knowledge creation, sharing and transaction capability of members of the communities, so that they can enhance their adaptive capacities in the process, thereby possessing better preparedness to recover from a major disruptive event. Such information and ideas are derived from past experiences, operational practices (gained through lessons learnt and experimentation) and a thorough analysis of immediate risks and future threats. Procedural enablers encourage target-oriented actions on a collective level, thereby endowing policy-makers, emergency planners, community leaders and individuals with the ability to understand the context in which effective action needs to be undertaken.

Social enablers aim at ensuring community cohesion and motivation. Amidst a restrictive social scenario, individuals need to develop credentials mandatory to sustain collective existence and survival. The social component of resilience is about getting people prepared and willing to confront and overcome dangerous and difficult circumstances. Community cohesion occurs when willing individuals voluntarily want to form a collective to achieve a common outcome; it draws on shared experiences, a common sense of worth and an expressed collective identity, which is sustained by shared values and beliefs. Motivation is the product of a common will to survive and the confidence to recover from crisis using protective measures, effective local leadership, mutual respect and a clear understanding of the threats and risks. Adger (2003) and Morrow (2008) have insightfully articulated the relational dynamics between social capital and resilience in explaining community-level participation in combating different natural disasters. The resilience of communities is dependent on social bonds and collective action based on networks of relationships, reciprocity, trust and community norms.

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