Seizing the potential for collectively building community resilience
Throughout February the UK has been hit by unrelenting storms, with storms Ciara and Dennis having battered many parts of the country. This week, flooding in parts of England and Wales has been described as "unprecedented" by the Environment Agency, with for example the River Wye having reached the highest levels since records began. It is devastating to see the impact; homes, possessions and businesses ruined, and in the last few days the tragic loss of lives.
Amidst the flooding, there has been increased scrutiny of the Government response. This week the environment Minister George Eustice stated that the Government has already committed £2.6 billion until 2021 for flood defences, which is in no doubt welcomed, but will this be enough? Scientists say the bleak reality is that climate change will lead to more erratic weather. On the news last week, the UK's Environment Agency has stated that flood defences will not be sufficient, and adaptation may be required to cope with the changes already set to happen in the climate crisis.
Despite all the challenges these emergencies bring, we see communities pulling together, neighbours supporting each other, different agencies working together and community spirit often shining through.
What we also see, however, are tensions and frustrations arising when communities feel unheard or unable to make a contribution in times of emergency.
When communities organise, this can present a challenge to the status quo and traditional notions of power and expertise.
This is not to suggest an antagonism. Working collaboratively can be a mutually empowering process, for example, where emergency planning accesses the knowledge and expertise within communities and communities are able to guide the solutions best suited to their needs.
At Nesta we’ve seen innovations emerging which champion People Powered Emergency Response.
The role that we all play collectively in the prevention, preparation, response and recovery from emergencies, will be even more significant as we face more extreme weather. But to rise to this challenge demands new ways of organising and working together, from shared decision making and allocating resources to better use of assets already within communities, showing that social challenges so often need social solutions.
Join us on the 5th March at Nesta to explore the power of communities coming together and discussing the challenges in fostering greater resilience.
Together we hope to better seize the potential for collectively building community resilience.