In this episode I want to reflect on the conversations I’ve had so far – what I’ve learnt and what the key themes coming through are. It’s interesting that many of the themes seems to be across all guests.
What I like most about this episode is that I can pull together all the different views and levels of experience and insights from those I’ve been speaking with and inject some current COVID lockdown relevance to it too.
Yes, this episode is by me based in Melbourne, Australia in a stage 4 lockdown with an 8pm curfew. I’m guessing my personal situation confirms exactly how disasters are changing and we need to change too!
A little bit about Renae...
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.
My reflection on conversations so far...
So those who have met me and know me well also know the wonderful James Ritchie. James was with me when over a coffee I had this crazy idea that there should be more the private sector can do. And it was over that coffee (or chai to be honest) that corporate2community was created.
And for the past 5 or so years, James has reminded me that every conversation I’ve had with corporates or government there’s been no one who’s said more private sector contribution is a bad idea. And to be honest that’s a big part of why I’m still on this journey today.
Because there is support for activating a ‘shared responsibility’ philosophy and I guess it takes people like James and I to lead the way.
In my conversation with James one of his 2 things he’d like to change is moving from a silo’d operations mindset into a holistic and strategic approach. And I couldn’t agree more. If we thought differently then we could act different.
His other wish is that we don’t recoil post how Australia has handled COVID-19. You’d have to say there’s been some positive outcomes in many ways within the sector, and glimpses of change that would bring great benefit if it continued. I agree with James and my hope too is that while we are treading the covid hamster wheel and fighting to survive that there is also a dual focus from key leaders to think strategically about using this time to prepare ourselves for them something like this happens again, because this won’t be the only disaster we see.
My conversation with Jodie Willmer focused on governance. An area that I really think is undervalued particularly when it comes to community-led recovery. I often say community members are absolutely the best placed to identify what’s best for their community yet community members are not community recovery or strategic planners for communities.
Many are voted onto community recovery roles with little understanding of what that entails – both from a responsibility and risk management aspect. Yet good governance can set the pace for a great recovery.
My conversation with Jodie demonstated some great examples where communities and government could benefit from an increase in governance related capabilities – all to benefit communities as a whole.
Changing direction and talking to Anna Dear from Coca Cola South Pacific was a great opportunity to showcase someone who is driving authentic disaster response from a corporate social responsibility perspective.
It was so great to hear Anna’s first wish for change in the disaster space being to enable better opportunities for the private sector to collaborate and mobilise. It’s exactly what I identified when working at Australia Post many years ago and exactly what I’m driving change in today.
There is such an important role for the private sector and it’s wonderful to see the likes of Anna as a peer in the sector too. Activating greater collaboration between private sector, government and non-profits is as Anna said “where the wonderful comes”.
I couldn’t agree more and that’s exactly why our approach at corporate2community always has a multi stakeholder lense. I remember during the bushfires earlier this year we were advising corporates on how to give and I thought it strange that I always had to pose the question to who we were working with about “why not”….
Tell me every reason why you should not give how you’re planning to give.
And the response was often quick startling. It demonstrated there’s a big lack in corporate understanding of what is helpful or what is harmful to communities during that disaster relief and response period.
Can you imagine the helpful donations that would have gone straight to communities if corporates effectively knew how to give? I guess that’s another podcast review and I just pose the concept to any corporate CEO’s, Executive Teams or leaders of corporate giving – we’re about to enter the fire season so if you need strategic advice on how to give now’s a good time to think about it.
After Anna I spoke with John Blackburn. In many ways John and I have a very different background yet we have both ended in agreeance that the narrative around disasters needs to change.
We need to activate resilience based on an understanding of what resilience means to me and everyone out in the community. A current buzzword, but resilience is really key in our ability to adapt to future changes and disruptions.
I agree with John that building capabilities in disaster resilience won’t be enough and we need to activate a language that seed in preparedness as well. Let’s be honest as a nation we’re not particularly prepared. We definitely have a “she’ll be right” frame of mind.
And without wanting to lose any element of that culture, I think it’s time we took a sense check and re-aligned what’s relevant to now. My own hope with John’s focus on narrative is that we can get the media to play along too!
It was Chris Quin who introduced and educated me on infrastructure resilience. An area I guess I’ve taken a little for granted. Having had many conversations and done presentations with Chris I think it’s a very important part of the resilience and disaster conversation.
Talking with Chris I think he said there will be more infrastructure built in the next 20 years than we have had in history which is crazy to think. And when I asked Chris about the two things he’d like to see change he went straight to a low hanging fruit. Being collaboration and partnerships…. I’m starting to see a trend!
Chris and I have presented a couple of times on unified resilience alongside Dr Margaret Moreton and it was great to have a conversation with Margaret too. Not surprising to those who have heard Margaret and I chat, but our focus was on community resilience, do we understand it and are we holding back.
I really valued Margaret’s honest contribution and her suggestion for the revival of a Federal Department of Communities. As communities are the epicentre of our nation, I agree there would much more efficient and effective ways to enhance our communities if it became a national Federal Government focus.
I then spoke with Jennifer Gray Thompson from the Rebuild North Bay Foundation in California has me adopting part of her tagline being reimagine.
I love it.
What a wonderfully positive and hopeful way to refer to recovery. Let’s reimagine what we want to be. I must confess I’m a little obsessed with that word now and actively use it a few times a day.
I guess in many ways corporate2community is supporting communities and businesses to reimagine their future with the new normal of compound disasters.
And lastly in my recent conversations I’ve spoken with W Craig Fugate. I cannot tell you how much I have wanted to connect with Craig over the years. Since I worked at Australia Post nearly 10 years ago, the Waffle House Index has been what I would say a best practice in a business establishing a leadership culture of serving and being there for its community – in the good times and the bad.
The conversation with Craig explained how an unassuming stop over for breakfast during a hurricane, resulted in a fast food chain assisting the Federal Government in America to identify how a community was tracking post a devastating event.
Simple yet so effective.
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?
So, for example, should they be giving out government grants? Should they be giving out cash donations? Should they be offering their logistics supply chain to enable other organisations like bedding providers to give free beds and other items that the communities needed?
As an organization I got to see what the response was in terms of a holistic approach to disasters, so how ready the Australia post supply chain and operations were to respond to this incident.
Plus also 80% of Australia Post businesses and retail outlets at the local community levels are independently owned or licensees, so small businesses provided a really good insight in terms of how ready they were and not were ready to respond to the disasters that took place.
When I left Post, I spent a bit of time consulting to 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. And 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 is 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 actually 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.
What 2 things would I liked to be done differently in the disaster space...
1: It has to be to upskill the emergency management and disaster resilience sector as well as private sector on the benefits of collaboration. We are so much stronger when we work together and there is so much evidence to support tangible benefits when government and the private sector understand each other, understand the roles and capabilities each other has and then work together to activate it to the benefit of all Australians
2: My second wish would be to move all businesses and governments away from a silo mindset when it comes to disaster preparedness, response, recovery and resilience towards a holistic whole of organisation, whole of government or whole of community approach.
Reimagine for a minute how much more efficient and effective we would be if we thought bigger based not just on the now but on the future too.
And while we’re not formally launching anything just yet, I ask you to look at for details on the Resilient Australia Alliance, a corproate2community national model that will be appearing soon as I’m really excited to be leading a solution that will activate what so many are saying about change that’s needed in the disaster space.