Der Himmel Über Recovery

The good folks across the ditch at New Zealand Red Cross (Elizabeth, Jolie, Holly)  have released a guide to recovery called Leading in Recovery: A companion in chaos. This is a great little piece. And that is its beauty. It’s slight, not dense, not theory driven, not lofty, there to be a companion. Working in disaster recovery, we need companions, we need Bruno Ganz (in Wings of Desire) looking over our shoulder, pointing us in a direction, or testing intuition, or telling us outright something is a dumb idea, or we are doing a good job, or that it’s time to go home and let someone else pick up the pieces. And they need to be there for months and years. What I like is the way that it is organised into 9 key messages or themes:

  1. Having a noble purpose
  2. Be ethical
  3. Be intentional
  4. Making decisions
  5. Keeping perspective
  6. Leading with empathy
  7. Being innovative
  8. Supporting the team
  9. Prioritising self care

These are headings you won’t find in the standard Recovery 101 manual. There are likely to be boring things like policy, financial assistance, assessing needs yarda yarda yarda (and I can say this because I’ve authored those manuals). These are the topics that no one writes about and you wish that you knew about. You might think, well surely we all have a noble purpose, but no, with the political dimension of disaster recovery, often the work of some can be about protecting the minister and the government rather than seeking good outcomes for people affected. Each of the sections has a little bit of advisory text, but the greater advice comes from the quotes, each derived from someone who, more likely than not, have learnt the hard way. One of my favourites is Embrace imperfection gracefully. The community is an imperfect place. If perfection is the goal people become paralysed or disillusioned. Dr Emi Kiyota, environment gerontologist, Japan The brilliance is the simplicity and the practicality of the guide. It’s a toolkit, which you can reach into when you need it. I’m hoping that the team might think about other formats; maybe a smart phone app, or a series of youtube videos, or podcasts. I’d love to have a widget that would throw up the quotes randomly, when I need them. The importance is, despite disaster recovery being a growth industry, the sad reality is that most people who end up managing recovery are not recovery managers and have no idea what they are doing (meant in the nicest possible way), often feel that they are the only one who has had to face this challenge and often feel terrible alone. What this guide does is tells the novice, and not so novice recovery manager, you aren’t alone, and the wisdom of your colleagues is being handed on. It’s your guardian angel, sitting on your shoulder. The companion was compiled from interviews with disaster recovery professionals from around the world. Elizabeth McNaughton and Jolie Wills both benefited from a Winston Churchill Fellowship, that enabled them to travel, meet people and ask questions. I benefited from being interviewed by both at different times. Both are wonderful women who have been through an extraordinary experience, and I have a huge respect for. More people have to have the courage that these two do and say, I don’t want to be the only one who has gone through this and not help others avoid some of the pitfalls, traps, or achieve some of those little things that make it worthwhile. Required reading for recovery professionals, and the broader community at large.

2 thoughts on “Der Himmel Über Recovery

  1. thanks John for sharing this and for your reflections. From personal experience, you and your fab team really were our companions through recovery. Through the ‘Companion’ we wanted others to feel similarly connected and supported by others’ hard-won wisdom. Jolie


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