In this episode, I wanted to reflect on some of the conversations we’ve had. I set up corporate2community and this Doing Disasters Differently podcast because we need to start thinking differently and doing things differently before, during, and after all types of disasters.
2020 and 2021 have shown us that disasters are the new future – it’s now normal and just the way that we’re now living. I will reflect on recent conversations and discuss the largest issues facing the disaster recovery space in Australia.
A little bit about Renae...
Renae Hanvin is a multi-stakeholder specialist with over a decade of experience in disaster resilience. Renae established corporate2community (C2C) knowing the need for industry, small to medium enterprises, government and communities to start thinking differently and doing differently before, during and after all-hazards disasters.
Renae’s forward-thinking, holistic approach to disasters has positioned her and C2C as a thought leader in driving positive change across the sector and beyond.
Why Doing Disasters Differently...
I started thinking differently and doing differently when it comes to disasters when I worked at Australia Post, which is an Australian national postal outlet, and basically, I led the community response to the disasters, which was about identifying what role should Australia Post play. When I left Post, I spent a bit of time consulting with a state government in Australia looking at a multi-stakeholder lens. So, that’s my passion and I guess that’s what makes me wake up in the morning.
I look at stakeholders from a direct and indirect perspective, and I worked on a Victorian fire management strategy, which was really interesting and informative because we could not just look at the typical stakeholders that were part of all the conversations relating to fire management, but really expand that and look at all the consequence related stakeholders that would indirectly be impacted as well.
I wrote stakeholder engagement frameworks and toolkits to enable and try and educate the government representatives working in the disaster space as to how they could better understand and better engage with and collaborate with other stakeholders.
This got me starting to question the national philosophy in Australia relating to shared responsibility when it comes to disasters in the sense that everyone, individuals, businesses, not-for-profits organizations and governments all play a role in the before, during and after stages of disasters, most importantly, in building resilience.
So, I started questioning what does this mean, what role can we each play and how can we activate shared responsibility to be more than merely a vision?
At the start of 2018, I formally launched corporate2community, and I have to say there’s about three years of planning and mapping and researching internationally before that. The focus of corporate2community is about advocating and activating a greater role that the private sector or businesses can play because businesses are innovators, they’re enablers and through stakeholders, they drive solutions and positive outcomes.
But in the current landscape of disasters, the business stakeholder group I’d say is pretty misunderstood, and I think there’s a really big opportunity to better understand and embrace and acknowledge the role that they can play.
So, my focus on Doing Disasters Differently and the foundations for corporate2community are really simple.
It’s about building resilient businesses, helping communities thrive and leading collaborations. We need resilient and thriving businesses for communities, particularly in regional, rural and remote areas where small businesses are the economic heart and soul of communities. If we don’t have thriving businesses in these communities, then there’s no employment, people will have to move or go somewhere else to purchase things so there’s no money being invested into the communities. Or they’ll have to leave to get a job so they can pay for their rent and family requirements.
But we need thriving communities for business success because businesses can’t operate if there’s no community able to purchase their products or services.
Here are some of my reflections...
Welcome to Doing Disasters Differently, the podcast with Renae Hanvin, which is all about inspiring you to start thinking and doing disasters a little bit differently. In this episode, being number 20, I’d like to look back and reflect a little bit on the people that I’ve spoken to and what’s happening in the world of disasters.
When I set up corporate2community and this Doing Disasters Differently podcast, it was because we need to start thinking differently and doing differently before, during, and after all types of disasters. 2020 and 2021 has shown us that disasters are the new future. There are also compound disasters – disasters happening on top of each other, or multiple disasters happening at the same time – which seem to be the new normal, although I hate that term. But I guess it’s now normal and just the way that we are now living.
Resilience as a word, and a buzzword that I’ve heard so much about in the past 12 months, in particular, it’s not just a word anymore. It’s a necessity. So, what is resilience? There are so many interpretations of it. And, what does it mean to the individual, to government, to communities, to businesses and business communities? It has become a lot of what I’ve been trying to explore in our conversations.
So going way back to episode 11, I spoke to Miriam Lumb and Sue Gould from SAFECOM in South Australia. And what I like about the South Australian approach is that they started embedding and integrating resilience a few years ago. I remember meeting and talking to them about their strategy. It’s an effective strategy and is positively stakeholder-led. I think statewide disaster resilience if you’re looking at a great example of creating the strategy and starting to see it in action, I think that’s a really good one to look at. I really recommend you listening to that episode and finding out a little bit more.
Episode #12: A humanitarian aid perspective with Kate Sutton, Director at the Humanitarian Advisory Group (HAG).
There were humanitarian conversations that I had with the wonderful Kate Sutton from the Humanitarian Advisory Group (HAG). It’s such a great organisation in the humanitarian space, and we had some good conversations relating to the role of locals and how sometimes, when a disaster happens, some seagulls fly in to help but actually, it should be about facilitating and building capabilities of locals in communities. And to me, that’s fundamental. Linked to that, Kate was talking about a need for diversity and inclusion.
Episode #14: Leading America’s private sector to make a difference with Brooks Nelson
And I think it kind of links to what Brooks Nelson said, who was at the time at the US Chamber of Commerce Foundation, he’s now gone to Walmart. But he was very much saying that it needs to be about removing silos and then bringing out equity because we need to be thinking about more equitable resilience and recovery. So, when you’re talking about place-based resilience, the comments are quite well aligned in the sense that we need to be thinking differently at that grassroots level.
Episode #18: Top-down disaster resilience doesn’t work with Mark Duckworth
Mark Duckworth, who I spoke to in Episode 18, wrote a great piece about how top-down disaster resilience doesn’t work. The main thing I took out from that conversation is, we need to build capabilities and teach and train all stakeholders on disasters, emergency management and what role they can play. There has never been a more important time, which obviously, is what C2C’s other initiatives we’re working on are setting up to do. But I loved what he said in that communities need to be seen, and should be seen, as assets and not problems. I think that’s a really strong statement. It’s so important because it’s true. Communities are assets. Businesses and business communities are assets too. If you look through the government lens, or other authority lenses, flipped it and thought about communities differently and the role that could play, it would be a different outcome. The level of national resilience would be far higher, in terms of it being part of the everyday business or just everyday cultures.
Episode #15: Social Capital: the foundation for building national resilience with Professor Daniel Aldrich.
Now, I can’t talk about communities and resilience without mentioning Professor Daniel Aldrich. As you know, I am a massive fan of Daniel and his work in the social capital space. I’m also very privileged to have him on our advisory committee for the Resilient Australia Alliance. And again, there are some exciting things coming soon. Daniel talks about getting better at mapping social ties, and also linking the funding for resilience and recovery to people as opposed to infrastructure. It will be so wonderful to have mapped out and to have mapped the social capital across Australian communities like what has been done in communities overseas. It means we would see what the starting point is, and then have people being the foundation of resilience, and having a role, position and a measurement position in any future resilience. And, Daniel’s comment relating to more funding going into people resilience as opposed to infrastructure, the New South Wales Grant Program in particular. While the grant programs themselves are sort of another topic of conversation, the BCRRF Grant program, which was the community recovery and resilience grant, announcing the winners (we were lucky to have received three) those grants were focused on people connections. I have to say, it’s probably the most proactive grants program that I’ve seen, which has been about people and connections and building collaborations and supporting communities to come together to deliver initiatives.
Episode #13: Fire and rain conversations with Emma Ashton and Rachel Lopes, co-producers of the Fire and Rain Conversation Series.
There has been an evolution of the funding structures of the recovery of the bushfires. The funding that has been our focus has certainly evolved in the mindset of being not just focused on infrastructure. I talked to Rachel and Emma at that community level on their Fire and Rain series. It was really good to hear about the words from the community level. And, it’s great that they’re looking for greater ability for the leaders and government to adopt. I’ve just been talking about the grants program. There is an absolute opportunity for government and the top-down leadership to evolve and adapt. And, we’re slowly starting to see that happen. I love how Rachel and Emma mentioned that there needs to be more focus on reimagining. So, resilience, what is it? Well, we need to reimagine what we want it to be. I find that a focus on reimagining the future is needed. Spending some time to say ‘if something happened, what would we want it to be beforehand’, which can help in any of the aftermaths. I guess it is starting a new language and a new way of thinking that we can just integrate into the approach for building readiness or resilience.
Episode #16: Community Connections from a Local Government Perspective with Terry Campese
At the community level, we chatted with Terry Campese which was a great experience.
Terry is the Community Recovery Officer at the Queanbeyan-Palerang Regional Council, a city in New South Wales. I have never met someone who has done more for their local community before, during and after the bushfires. He mentioned the grant process and it needing a bit of a review. And I have to agree, having submitted a lot of grants on behalf of ourselves, and also for communities. The process is very stressful, it’s very time-consuming. And yeah, it would be great perhaps if the new Federal Resilience Agency was able to lead some change and adapt the process to be fit for purpose for communities. Terry also mentioned the structured funding, and again, I think we’re seeing a few changes in that which is positive.
Episode #17: A Winter Festival of Community Resilience with Hayley Hardy
Now talking about changes, I spoke to Hayley Hardy from the East Gippsland Marketing Institute. And we’re talking about, from her perspective, that so much of the funding that is coming to the bushfire impacted communities have been assumed needs or, people saying we can help with this as opposed to needs-led. I think this is a really important point and again, through our Disaster Giving Collective we are looking to evolve that conversation more. We just need communities to be supported to understand what they need, and then set up the systems and processes to enable them to receive helpful, not harmful, and effective help.
Episode #19: A business owner hit by disaster with Susan Gray
The last conversation I had was, I have to say, probably my most exciting one, just from that business community perspective. So I spoke to Susan Gray, the president of the Tilba District Chamber of Commerce in the southern region of New South Wales, and the owner of the main pub in Tilba. And again, they were bushfire impacted, but having a conversation with Susan, in terms of the business community and businesses in the community.
How prepared they were, and they weren’t, and then how they responded and what changes it’s made in the community was a really insightful conversation. The business community has been a major part of building social capital and building resilience in communities at that grassroots level to support before, during and after disasters.
Final thoughts from Renae Hanvin.
So, reflecting on those conversations, and even having just listened to my first reflection, I think it’s the same key themes. I might need to do an eBook with all these comments and suggestions because it’s pretty simple. I think what needs to happen and what can happen is just changing the conversation a little bit. We have been working with some communities in New South Wales, and am really excited because we have been successful in the grant program in New South Wales for helping business communities build resilience. So, we’re delivering a toolkit project in Northern New South Wales, around Lismore and other local council areas up there, and then also in the south like Bega Valley, it’s a similar project. We’re currently in the process of bringing together multi-stakeholders (we’re calling them working groups) and building a content roadmap of what is going to be the focus of conversation building for the next 12 months. And around September 2021, we’ll be launching the formal program in communities. Although, the current COVID lockdown might be just putting that date back a little bit. But in theory, the program is a fortnightly conversation around what is of interest and benefit to businesses and the wider business community.
So, we’re looking forward to sharing that. We’ve had some really great feedback, because whilst a lot is going on in these communities, this approach is different. It has a dual function. The function is to educate and drive active change for those who are participating. So, every business owner in the LGA region’s competitors can participate. It’s also about understanding where the community is at. So, the data and information that we will be collecting will then enable us to help the local council and other organisations to position the need, and the gaps in terms of reducing those gaps of resilience, to enable the business communities to keep trading as much as possible, during and after a disaster. We know a thriving and resilient community needs thriving and resilient businesses because businesses are absolutely fundamental to the economic and social viability of communities.
The other grant that we won is out west of New South Wales with the wonderful team in the Blue Mountains. So, we randomly called the Blue Mountains business chamber and asked them about participating in the toolkit concept. They very politely said ‘No thanks’. And then we just kept talking, and they were telling us about what they needed. What we’re doing with them, I have to say, is really exciting because it’s about pushing the new structure that they are building as a regional business chamber. I’m going to stop using the word business chambers soon – we’ll call it a business community network or business community hub. It’s really about evolving the traditional structure of business chambers. And basically, bringing a new community of businesses into a cohort group where they can work independently and in silos in terms of their location.
So, across the Blue Mountains, there are 26 local towns. We want businesses in those towns to connect at that level, but to also connect across it at the wider level, because a lot of the themes, knowledge gaps, information and data that we find will be pretty similar. So, it’s a really innovative approach that the BusinessBM; Mike, Mark and Lawrence came up with. We’re really excited to be helping with that project. I’ve already had a couple of other business chambers from across New South Wales connect with us to say, we’re trying to do the same thing. So hopefully, what we are doing and learning and creating in the Blue Mountains region will be something that can be scaled up and rolled out across the rest of New South Wales, and if not the rest of Australia. The role of business communities is only just being identified. Businesses and business owners, leaders and operators are a massive asset. They engage with and interact with their customers, their community, their suppliers, their employees each and every day, so the more we can build the skills and the knowledge in the business communities, then that’s going to organically seed into just general communities as well. So, from the grant side, we’ve been super busy. We’ve also engaged a couple of people, Emma Wallace from Lismore, and also Rebecca Lang in the Blue Mountains, as part of our social enterprise commitment to building place-based capabilities. Rebecca and Emma seem to be excited to be learning from us. And again, we’re excited to be having that local person who can become an expert and a future leader in their communities, in business community resilience and the disaster building space.
So, a bit is going on – we’ve got a few more grants coming and we’re also working on our Disaster Giving Collective which I think I’ve mentioned before. And probably in about two months, we’re going to have a pretty big announcement in terms of a new people movement and a business community movement initiative that we’ve been working on for quite a while behind the scenes. Now seems to be the right time that everyone is ready for it. So yeah, we can’t wait to share that with you soon.
Not too far off will be a podcast I’ve had with James Ritchie, who some of you know. James and I had a coffee about five years ago, which turned into corporate2community and the other initiatives that we are evolving. James has been based in Germany since COVID kicked in and he’s just come out of 200 days of lockdown. So, it was really interesting to chat with him about what his experience was, and I guess how it compares from Europe in Germany to Australia and also having bird’s eye view back into Australia. Because let’s be honest, the disaster space has provided a fair bit of entertainment and a fair bit of memes and conversations relating to processes, focuses and outcomes.
Thank you so much for listening to this podcast, we clocked over 1000 downloads, which is really exciting. So, I hope you find some benefit and I hope the podcasts help you to think differently and do differently when it comes to disasters. We all have a role to play and it looks like disasters are here to stay. So, stay safe, and we’ll talk to you again soon. Renae