Building Resilience

As we have seen time and again, most donations in response to disasters occur in the days immediately after a disaster strikes. Within three months, donations typically stop or have slowed to a trickle.
The reality, however, is that the need for support begins well before disaster strikes, as well as long after. In fact disaster response almost always involves four phases: relief (initial food and shelter), recovery (rebuilding infrastructures, economies and livelihoods), mitigation (rebuilding with disasters in mind, implementing new building codes) and preparedness (understanding risks and being ready to respond).
There is a growing recognition that a key ingredient in lessening the impact of disasters is a concept called “resilience” that impacts all four of these phases.
As part of an effort to promote resilient communities, several of us from CDP have been participating in a series of Resilience Academies across the country being conducted through a partnership between The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and The Rockefeller Foundation. These academies are part of the National Disaster Resilience Competition, which is making $1 billion available to communities that have suffered natural disasters in recent years. Through the academies, communities are learning how to plan to mitigate the effects of future disasters and make the best and most creative use of limited federal resources. You can learn more about it here.
So what is resilience? The Rockefeller Foundation has a simple but compelling definition:
Resilience is the capacity of individuals, communities and systems to survive, adapt, and grow in the face of stress and shocks, and even transform when conditions require it.
Resilience is a recognition that despite our best efforts and plans, disasters will occur, causing death and destruction.  Resilience is about making people, communities and systems better prepared to withstand catastrophic events and better able to bounce back more quickly and emerge stronger from these shocks and stresses.
It’s a concept we support and one we hope you will consider as you work with your communities and grantees on disaster planning and response.
If you’d like to know more about the National Disaster Resilience Academy, email me at

Robert G. Ottenhoff

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