As noted in the previous session, one way to start is by helping residents heal the traumas they experienced and/or start by helping residents understand systems effects to map out the cycles of trauma in their community and existing assets that aid the healing process.
Resilience Pause: “Tracking”
Bob led participants through Tracking, which assists in stabilizing the nervous system. What we pay attention to amplifies. For example, paying attention to pleasant or neutral sensations in one’s body can calm the nervous system. Focusing on unpleasant sensations can activate the nervous system. When experiencing an unpleasant sensation anywhere in the body, try to deliberately shift attention to areas that have pleasant or neutral sensations and note any changes in breathing, muscle tension, where the mind is going, etc. The exercise then opened into the first 10-minute breakout room and subsequent discussion.
Bob then reminded participants of the Six-Step Process for Forming and Operating an RCC as mentioned during the previous week’s session (11/1). This week’s session focused on the first element of step 3: “Building social connections across boundaries in communities”. See PowerPoint and previously provided document detailing step 3. The next session will focus on element 2: Ensuring a just transition by creating supportive physical/built, economic, and ecological conditions. Bob asked participants to consider and post in the chat when they feel happiest, most fulfilled, and most peaceful and to note how much these elements depend on their social connections.
Bob spoke to how loneliness and social isolation can impact mental health wellness, lead to a loss of self-worth and sense of purpose, and inhibit the immune system. Lack of social connections can also prompt inflammation and aggravate the stress response, making it twice as harmful to mental and physical health than obesity, increasing the risk of premature mortality. Social connectedness, however, generates positive feedback that enhances psychological, social, emotional, and physical wellness and increases the chance of longevity by 50%. Greater social connectedness correlates with higher self-esteem, empathy, trust, and cooperation. Social connections are vital in emergencies, especially during the initial 5 days following the disaster. All RCC activities should build social connections. See the PowerPoint for details on the three types of social connections.
Howard Lawrence, the Coordinator of Abundant Community Edmonton, City of Edmonton, Canada
The Abundant Community Edmonton (ACE) seeks to foster social connections between neighbors at the block level. The city of Edmonton has delineated neighborhoods, each consisting of 2,000 individuals (about 1,000 households) with volunteer leadership teams that give direction to their neighborhoods to encourage enriched, intentional, neighbor-to-neighbor relationships. The values emphasized for these connections are Inclusion (connection with those different from us); Health (physical, emotional, mental wellbeing); Care (looking out for each other in the style of a village or family); and Safety (street-level attention to crime and disaster).
ACE paired with Asset Based Community Development Institute (ABCD) in Chicago to build a framework for what makes a neighborhood healthy, focusing on neighborhood and individual assets. Individuals can integrate the gifts, skills, and interests from their daily life into their neighborly connections. Community development includes all types of neighborhoods (not just troubled communities) and allows neighbors to connect at the block level. Across neighborhoods, neighbors with similar interests meet as friends to do activities together, strengthening the social fabric of the neighborhood (affinity groups within proximity).
ACE’s strategy is to start with a neighborhood block and a point person (block connector) who already facilitates social connections organically. A neighborhood of about 1,000 households requires 50 point people. A neighborhood connector then identifies and supports the block connector to work with a support team and neighborhood leadership and develop new activity groups as well as communicate with ACE. ACE measures community connection through the Sense of Community Index-1 (SCI-1), a measure used within the social sciences to gauge a sense of community through a Block Score, which consists of four indicators for neighborly connection: 1. Number of times per month neighbors greet each other; 2. How many names a neighbor knows from 20 nearest households; 3. Number of neighbors attending block socials; and 4. Amount of neighbors the block’s “contact list”. The contact list is crucial for disaster/emergency preparedness.
Daniel Homsey, the Executive Director of the City and County of San Francisco Neighborhood Empowerment Network (SF NEN)
SF NEN works to shrink the resilience gap so every community can perform in the same way pre- and post-shock. SF NEN uses the Harvard Kennedy School Community Resilience Performance Model to show how communities perform in disasters, starting with a healthy community baseline disrupted by a shock and tracking how quickly communities recover. What SF NEN found was that communities already on a downward track were severely impacted by shocks and had a much slower recovery process. This is called the resilience gap.
The model calls for investing in communities through local leadership, inclusiveness, and self-reliance. SF NEN is a cohort of multiple sectors that follows this model to build a stronger, more connected, and resilient San Francisco. These are neighborhood hubs that connect to the network. Their approach is planning/designing with people via human-centered designs and facilitated conversations. Projects are created by and for neighborhoods, with ownership of these programs at the neighborhood level. All programs are scalable, replicable, and sustainable with real value to all sectors. This prioritizes community-based organizations (CBOs) as being connected to neighborhood leaders and acting as the backbone of the first response to disasters.
Daniel described the basic steps to bringing neighborhoods together: 1) Bring together active leaders in the community to map resources, assets, and available services, 2) Bring in the community and use table-top exercises to identify goals and objectives, 3) Cultivate leaders through facilitation and skills development, and 4) Asset-based organization around goals and objectives. During a disaster, a block support center helps people shelter in place at the block level. The pre-event hub network has an anchor institution at the center (church, nonprofit, neighborhood association). In the map, beyond the anchor is an outer ring of hub member organizations that works daily with community residents. Block champions are identified during the “neighborfest” block party program. Neighborfest fuses fun & the popular activity of hosting a block party with classic emergency management goals.
SF NEN ran the program for 6 years pre-pandemic and participated with the USF Public Health Administration program to assess how to establish a program from neighborhood to the block level. CBOs must connect with neighborhood team leads to ensure the highest inter-operational abilities. All stakeholders in a neighborhood are brought together annually to participate in a tabletop exercise to identify where to build a central shelter, how to shelter in place, how to do mass meetings in the community, and how to establish a command post. Exercises are used to identify gaps in the investments that are needed to achieve future response goals. Gaps are converted to objectives and included in resilient action plans that guide community investments moving forward on mitigation, readiness, and response and recovery investments at the individual, organizational, and community levels. Daniel offered multiple examples of neighborhood hubs. See the PowerPoint and recording for more information.