Event Roundoup: Disaster Response and Building Community Resilience

On March 18, 2014 Give2Asia, Southern California Grantmakers, and Capital Group Companies held an event featuring Dr. Steven Rood (The Philippines Country Representative for The Asia Foundation) and Dr. Malcolm Williams (Policy Researcher for RAND Corporation).

Titled, “Disaster Response and Building Community Resilience,” the event touched on where disaster relief donations are best utilized in post-disaster regions and what is the best way to increase their impact in rebuilding community resilience.

Both Dr. Rood and Dr. Williams agreed that the lack of international interconnectedness and relationship building on the ground were proportional to the effectiveness of rehabilitation efforts and community resiliency building. Without a strong network, they argued, the potential to collaboratively create a stronger, more resilient infrastructure and community in disaster-affected areas, is reduced.

In the case of Typhoon Yolanda in the Philippines, the government acted on the front-lines of disaster recovery efforts, followed by civil society. Due to a lack of communication and transparency, both the government and civil society were bypassed by foreign organizations, severely hampering the effectiveness of recovery efforts. This is particularly problematic considering one of the biggest ‘harms’ facing community rebuilding is the loss of jobs and sources of income (i.e. coconut crops, fishing stocks, etc).

According to Dr. Williams, without a strong link to local government operations and civil society, international aid and philanthropy will have a limited impact in building a community’s capacity for resiliency. If the goal is to build communities back better than before, knowledge of how to engage the "levels of community resiliency" is needed. Wellness, disaster preparedness education, multi-faceted decision making, and the strength of government-NGO partnerships are all components that need to be accounted for when "building back better." Without an understanding of how to participate within local frameworks and what the conditions of the local social capital are, there is little recourse left for the international donor who wants to maximize the impact of their donations.

Some of the suggestions made for how to increase the impact of international donations to disaster-affected areas were:

  1. Focus on localities and discern where competent organizations and pro-active planning are present
  2. Work with a network to scale the impact of donations
  3. Support transparency and accountability of citizens
  4. Do not neglect the “soft side” of recovery efforts. This includes funding organizations that rehabilitate social capital and provide psychological counseling

For more information about the disaster recovery network Give2Asia has established after Yolanda, please visit to the Yolanda Disaster Recovery Fund page.