Yesterday we held the second Red Cross National Resilience Roundtable. The focus of this roundtable was on the role of the not for profit and non-traditional organisations in emergency management. The idea was to draw attention to the range of resources that the not for profit sector has offer. To consider this, we brought together a range of people community members, policy people, practitioners, and researchers. It was a fascinating day or presentation and discussion, and the group was well engaged in the topic (which was interesting, with the last one we ran people weren’t so engaged, and it was hard work. A good measure I think is the number of people still there after lunchtime, and it was pretty high yesterday). We also had the ultimate irony of the annual building evacuation drill in the middle. Nothing if not flexible, we adapted to the circumstances.
The presentations were from Matt Healey from Department of Premier and Cabinet in Tasmania, and one of the better thinkers in a senior role in government, Susan Davie from Save the Children giving a practitioner perspective, the evergreen Douglas Paton giving a research perspective, and Kris Newton, from the Blue Mountains Community, who told an amazing story of their experience.
Matt spoke about defining each sectors interest, government, not for profit, and business. Then it was important to understand where the interests overlapped and were common. Matt also noted that of course these things can be done in cool hard light of day, but in the heat of the moment, politics can take over.
Susan spoke about role of not for profit large and small, and the potential for drawing upon international experience to inform local practice, something that is not done at all well in Australia. The evacuation drill siren also interrupted her full flight, which was a shame. She also talked about there are many small projects happening but we are not bringing them into the big picture and sharing the experience.
Douglas Paton spoke about the way not for profits can engage locally, and the importance of engagement is preparedness and building resilience. He talked about how we maybe all vulnerable to disaster, and that resilience is dependent upon a number of dynamic attributes.
Kris told the story of the surprise of the “response and recovery agencies” to find that there were a whole lot more agencies in the Mountains who lived and worked everyday with community members. It too some time for barriers to come down, through the support of the NSW ministry for Police and Emergency Services, and the very experienced Sally Mackay.
One of the things that surprised me out of the discussions was that the not for profits involved in emergency management are crying out for some leadership. They are hungry for it. It reminds me that when we developed both the seniors and disability versions of Rediplan it was difficult to engage with the sector. We had little feedback on the materials. Post 2009, there is now significant engagement within the sector. I think agency managers now understand that disasters are not some “other” that might affect them, they are part of the potential challenges that agencies face.
Another theme that struck me out of the discussions was the need to value what we do. One of the participants talked about she does Pro Bono work, rather than volunteer, as this adds more value to the work that she does. We also need to talk more about social leadership of the sector, rather than waiting to be told by some entity. It is where asset based community development can help with planning prior to the event, to unlock all the resources the community has to offer.
The sector has a lot to offer, through policy development and advice, harnessing goodwill, particularly through partnerships with the business sector (with whom governments have an uneasy relationship), and flexibility in service provision and filling gaps.