SDG 13: Climate Action SDG 17: Partnerships SDG 9: Industry+Innovation

‘We can’t come get you’ and the resilience power of people networks

Peoples of the world: unite! Well, at least get to know one another, build social bonds, collaborate, participate, all known drivers of resilience. Two powerful platforms can help lead the way.

The Entry

Katie Miller’s first dawning was Derecho, the historic thunderstorm that smashed through Appalachia and her Alexandria-Washington, D.C. home base at the end of June 2012, causing a massive power outage and other damages and killing 22.

She was then an Adaptation Program Manager at the U.S. General Services Administration, on the front lines, as it were, in the struggle to make the federal government safe from climate change.

“That hit me like a wall,” she says in the candid video-call interview you can see below. “We are not really as prepared as we think we are, even in a place that thinks it is.”

The second wake-up call came exactly four months later, when Superstorm Sandy leveled New York City and New Jersey.

A group of experts, she recalls, huddled in D.C. to explore what would have happened had Sandy made that fateful left turn a bit to the south and leveled the nation’s capital, instead. One chilling message in particular sticks with her still as if she had heard it only yesterday:

“We can’t come get you,” one of the experts said, addressing flood-prone communities along the Potomac.

The words became a calling for the young resilience professional. “This is a turning moment in our lives, and we have this choice now to start preparing for this.”

In adaptation circles today, she says, “we talk a lot about buildings and infrastructure,” and that is all good, but a big part of her project has become focusing people’s attention on “the human component,” on the community level, on “building a fabric of resilience, where we can help each other out.”

Fast-forward to 2017, the launch of Katie’s own Adaptive Futures consulting firm, her lead role in the D.C. area chapter of the American Society of Adaptation Professionals (ASAP), a rolling of the sleeves as she joins others in mobilizing Alexandria and Arlington County, and we see the truly exemplary makings, and makers, of a difference.

The Interview I: Katie Miller


“Tens of thousands of cities”

Inspired precisely by the Katie Millers of the world — community leaders and adaptation professionals in every corner of the planet focused on building tight-knit social bonds around climate resilience (and other issues) — Jason Fahy has decided to step it up a few notches and totally change the collaboration and mobilization game.

Fahy is CEO of Knowledge Hub, an innovative digital-networking firm based in the United Kingdom and a corporate partner in the Rockefeller Foundation’s 100 Resilient Cities program.

“We can support the 100 cities, but we’d also like to support the thousand cities that missed out and the tens of thousands that don’t even know that 100 Resilient Cities exists, and that’s quite easy to do now with modern technology.”

Consider Knowledge Hub a specialized social network, if you will, not unlike Facebook and other public platforms in its basic technology, but offering more robust and customized features that better connect resilience leaders with community members to enable and scale people-to-people connections and mobilization at the grassroots level…everywherefast.

The Interview II: Jason Fahy


As social bonds meet urban plans

When combined with another 100RC partner company, Neighborland, the possibilities absolutely multiply.

Neighborland enables resilience leaders to consult citizens and other stakeholders when putting together action plans, legislation and other initiatives. It is, in essence, a planning tool, explained CEO & co-founder Dan Parham in an email exchange with The Resilience Journal.

As such, it, too, helps create the social “fabric of resilience,” to the extent people are consulted by their leaders far more democratically and effectively than is typically the case, and a culture of resilience begins to emerge.

…a culture deepened further as people connect with one another and “help each other out,” particularly in those instances when authorities and emergency managers “can’t come get you.”

Voluminous research, including this study following Sandy — a life-changing event for Katie and so many like her — confirms that communities with strong social bonds fare significantly better when natural disasters strike, precisely because they come to know and trust each other between disasters, all year long.

To the extent digital platforms like Facebook and Knowledge Hub extend those virtues to more places and spillover from online to offline, and as the likes of Neighborland extend adaptation awareness to more stakeholders in city after city, the world will become far more resilient to the climate catastrophes sure to come.

I don’t know about you, but that sure sounds to me like a revolution in the making, if only enough Katies and neighborhood leaders, enough companies and NGOs, get the message, deploy the Knowledge Hubs and Neighborlands of the world, and unleash the raw power of human connection and participation.

Long-time green-economy and business journalist, sustainability analyst and communications executive, including 14 years as reporter and editor of Caribbean Business in Puerto Rico, five years as Sustainability Director at two banks on the island, general manager of a green marketing agency, and since 2014 independent strategist, blogger, consultant, freelance writer, and now Editor-Publisher of The Resilience Journal and Founder-President of COMMON Future, a climate-adaptation studio scaling game-changing Next Resilience with communications, construction and culture. Alex is also communications adviser to the American Society of Adaptation Professionals and resilience lead at the Puerto Rico chapter of the U.S. Green Building Council.

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