Four reasons why collaboration is crucial
This article first appeared in Generosity Magazine in April 2017.
Communities in Queensland and New South Wales have started to clean up after Cyclone Debbie and the resultant floods, and it’s clear that this will be one of Australia’s largest and most high-impact natural disasters on record.
The Foundation for Rural and Regional Renewal (FRRR) has worked with many rural, regional and remote areas hit by natural disasters over the last 10 years, and we know it is a lengthy process to get the community up and running to ‘full capacity’ again. It could be as long as 10 years before they really recover.
In this situation, collaboration is critical. It needs to happen at the community level, and importantly, among all those who seek to support those communities.
Through our work with the communities impacted by the 2009 Victorian bushfires and 2011 Cyclone Yasi and Cyclone Oswald, we know the importance of philanthropy, government and the private sector also collaborating to support recovery.
There are four key reasons why this is critical:
- Collaboration avoids duplication. By working together and using each other’s strengths and skills more effectively, we can manage workload without stretching limited resources even further. Critically, if we collaborate, it also means stressed communities can focus their energies on applying to one place, and manage just one conversation in seeking philanthropic support.
- Recovery is a marathon rather than a sprint. The emergency response and first recovery phase can take up to 12 months; full recovery can take up to 10 years. Accordingly, we advocate thinking about philanthropic spend over the long term. Our tip is to commit 40% of your allocation to emergency assistance and response (the first year), and 60% for medium to long term recovery (providing support after the media and emergency support has disappeared).
- Listening to the locals is crucial. This way you can learn what will work at the local level, what is needed and what could help in the future. When you see the immediate effects of a natural disaster, it is tempting to invest in infrastructure – it’s visible and often an ‘easy’ fix.
However, our experience shows that it is community services that are often in most demand six months, right through to 10 years after a major disaster.
It is also vital to provide support to the grassroots community groups that so often facilitate and coordinate longer term recovery projects – such as community arts groups, landcare groups, chambers of commerce, early years providers, community centres and Neighbourhood Houses, and of course the likes of youth chambers, Men’s Sheds, CWA’s, and Agricultural Societies. And needs change, as the community moves through recovery. So having funds available to support them with what they need, when they need it, is important.
- There are opportunities to renew and enhance, not just rebuild. In many cases, just replacing what is there is not the best thing for the community. While it’s hard to see this close to a disaster, it can be an opportunity to review community needs and create something that will sustain and support the community into the future, and respond to new and emerging needs.
It will take communities some time to be able to think about the long-term picture – but working together now will make it easier for communities to start the recovery process and plan for the future, when they are ready.
FRRR has launched a Cyclone Debbie Repair-Restore-Renew Fund to support the medium to long-term recovery of these communities. If you you’d like to work with us, please make a donation today, via our website, or get in touch with me to learn more. Note, all donations over $2 are tax deductible, and FRRR’s unique tax status means we can direct funds to groups without DGR status, which often can’t access philanthropic support.
Let’s work together to help the communities currently cleaning up after Cyclone Debbie.