Category Archives: Leadership

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Community Resilience: Aid versus Preparedness

Building community resilience means building group solidarity and the connection between this, faith organisations and charities is well known.

Elsewhere I’ve written about Resilience – drawing on Faith for Strength and how faith organisations including places of worship could play an increasingly active role in preparedness. How effective responses from faith organisations are, especially in times of crisis, emergency or disaster is clear: often they are the first on the ground lending assistance and giving aid. In some instances, this is not unproblematic, however, as my counter terrorism colleagues will appreciate for the provision of aid and welfare can also lead to creating a so called ‘enabling environment’ for extremist groups. Maybe this is part of the reason why some of those who really are doing good unconditionally and purely from a humanitarian point-of-view have such a hard time. Maybe it’s simply because some of them look a little different.

Meet Ravi Singh:

Khalsa Aid has a long and outstanding track record of providing aid not only internationally, but also  – yes you are hearing correctly – here in the UK.

“This is our community, these are our countrymen who are in dire need. I never knew the amount of devastation until we drove around to get to this place, we had to go several different routes and it’s amazing. The floods … the fields are like lakes. It’s unbelievable, how will they recover from this disaster? I think we all need to pull together; it’s very very important. ”

Ravi Singh, 2014  Disaster Charity Khalsa Aid Helps (UK) Flood Victims

 

 

“The impact of the floods in the north of England and Scotland has been enormous. Yet the disaster has brought together people who might never normally mix – from the armies of Sikh and Muslim volunteers to the individuals sending care parcels.”

 

The image in The Guardian article How the floods united the north from which the above quote is taken, shows volunteers from Khalsa Aid, giving out food to villagers in the flood-hit Lancashire village of Croston.

…. and in July 2016 they were handing out water to stranded motorists during a heatwave

So, why am I telling you all this? While absolutely brilliant, it simply should not come to this in the first place. Not today, in the 21st century and not in the UK, a first world country.

What is to be done?

Places of worship as centres for community resilience

Previously I’ve talked about Community Resilience Building Blocks – it all starts with prepared individuals which puts the onus on individuals and why that is tricky in Resilience and Preparedness Roadblocks: what stops us? While fundamentally ‘preparedness must begin individually, we also all know that real strength lies in social groups and solidarity; see Altruism and why it pays to be kind.  As I mentioned earlier, one way of building community resilience is by drawing on Faith for Strength but it goes further, for places of worship can do a lot more than prayer and can become the nexus for community preparedness, responding to spiritual as well as bodily needs during times of real crisis.

This approach is already happening in North Yorkshire. Last year the North Yorkshire Resilience Forum created a successful evidence-based model approach which you can read more about in UK Community Resilience, a brilliant example of what works.  It is my and other people’s sincere hope that in the future this kind of forward thinking, pro-active model will be supported and made available much more widely across many parts of the UK. It is also my hope that eventually such models will tackle and include food security issues.

Places of worship are important for another reason: security

The UK Government Home Office reacted swiftly in the aftermath of the horrific attacks in France on Jacques Hamel, the 85 year old priest at St.-Étienne-du-Rouvray.

While certainly a step in the right direction, the funding scheme is sadly limited to securing property, rather than people.  Being rooted in (hate) crime prevention thinking, this is not surprising.  What a brilliant opportunity this could be to broaden capacities and capabilities!

Places of worship, similar to schools, feature as areas of refuge and shelter-in-place on many an emergency planner’s community emergency plan. Why not also provide the wider resources needed to to communities so that they can respond in a major incident, emergency or disaster? I leave you with this question on this hottest September days since 1911 and also with a link to our newest information hub for places of worship evaq8.co.uk/PlacesOfWorship

Wishing you a safe and prepared rest of the week.

Monika  

This post is also accessed by bit.ly/AidVSPreparedness

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Altruism and Resilience – a crucial yet complex link and why it pays to be kind

updated 10/06/2017

This week saw yet another round of London tube strikes resulting in transport misery for thousands. More are planned next week and to boot there are Firefighter strikes this weekend.

As I set out mostly on foot these last couple of days I noticed both the short-tempered rudeness and hostility of some but even more so the many acts of random kindness of complete strangers that conveyed a deep sense of unselfish solidarity: we’re all in this together – we might just as well make it more tolerable for one another.
Broken chainIt all got me thinking about the crucial and complex link of altruism and resilience and how this connects up to disaster preparedness – say, when – perhaps because of a major incident – we all may have to grapple with the consequences of transport and supply disruptions on a very different scale for real.

Doing a bit of background reading what struck me immediately is the large amount of evidence that supports my humanistically inclined belief of “help others so that they in turn may help you for you cannot possibly do it all on your own”. To many this may sound rather counter intuitive. After all, simply picture a few survivors stranded on an island with limited resources – the toughest and fittest one survives, right? Well perhaps not but we may soon get some real insight and I for one can hardly wait to see Bear Gryll’s new series “The Island” that starts this Monday, 5th May on Channel 4 at 9pm.

In the meantime, however, let us be a little bit less dramatic and consider that survival is both short – and long-term and take a look at how…

Altruism moderates Life Stresses and predicts your Health Status

Altruism, also called social interest, is associated with better life adjustment, better marital adjustment and satisfaction, less hopelessness and depression overall. Being interested in and committed to wide social networks helps you to moderate stress to such an extent that it becomes a good predictor of your physical health status.

MIT researchers Schwartz and colleagues who made these findings also think that the links between social interest, better mental resilience and reduced stress are in turn related to augmented self-confidence, an increased ability to be able to reframe one’s own experience and perceive greater meaning in life. Yet more evidence comes from the influential Hawaiian longitudinal study I mentioned in my earlier Nature-Nurture post which found that children who helped others in a meaningful way (i.e. assisting a family member, neighbour or some other community member) were the most likely to lead successful lives as adults. In short…

Altruism is intrinsic, reciprocal, fosters Resilience – AND IT PAYS !

A large amount of scientific evidence from infant research, experimental psychology and ethology (study of animal behaviour) suggests that altruism has had an important influence on behaviour throughout history and has real survival value. Altruism represents an interesting and complex interaction of environmental and genetic influences – nature as well as nurture, a healthy dose of both. For example, research amongst some South American native tribes revealed that those individuals who produce and share more food than average are rewarded during times of hardship. This discovery led the well-known psychiatrist Yakov Shapiro to propose that this reciprocal altruism has many benefits and rewards:

  • enhanced reputation and power – leading to
  • greater status, esteem and influence within the community – resulting in
  • privileged access to resources when the community faces catastrophic stress

Another author, Michael Shermer, further supports these evolutionary origins of our moral sense commenting that as a species of social primates we have evolved a deep sense of right and wrong. We reward reciprocity and cooperation and find ways to ‘punish’ selfishness and free riding. This emotional ‘barometer’ may be crucial and a hallmark of how resilient people wrestle with moral dilemmas. Importantly, resilient people are perhaps better able to make difficult moral decisions based on a more balanced approach of both reason and emotion.

Resilient people make more Balanced Decisions ~ What would YOU do?
The classic “runaway trolley” dilemma – Come and Have a Go !

If you can’t see the embedded video – here is the link to YouTube

First Scenario:

cognitivephilosophy.net

Imagine yourself watching a runaway trolley roll down a track towards five strangers who would be killed if the trolley struck them. You have the ability to flip a switch and divert the trolley to another track where just one stranger is standing. If you flip the switch, one person will be killed instead of five. What would you do?

In Joshua Greene’s famous fMRI study most participants said that it was morally right to flip the switch.

 

Second scenario:

cognitivephilosophy.net

Now imagine standing on a footbridge next to a stranger and that five people are trapped below in the path of the same oncoming runaway trolley. Pushing the stranger onto the track is the only way to save the other five people. What would you do? The end result of the two options are identical (one person dies and five survive) yet most of Greene’s participants said they would refuse to push the stranger. In terms of cognitive psychology, the second scenario involves far more emotional processing than the first which is shown in the fMRI scan by greater activation of the limbic brain regions – the same areas that activate during fear, another rather important aspect when considering resilience as discussed in my previous post “Understanding Fear”.

So, what has Moral Reasoning to do with Resilience? Choices are complex !

Choices in a real Emergency or Disaster situation more often than not involve dilemmas much tougher than the above trolley example. Sometimes there simply are no “right” or “better” choices; sometimes there are no good choices at all. Understandably, many a survivor is later haunted by memories and questions of “what else could I have done?” It is important to acknowledge that in some situations there may be no optimal moral choice and that resilience is simply retaining one’s sanity after the extreme hardship has passed. And that requires moral courage.

The Good News: you can learn Moral Reasoning and Moral Courage !

Gus Lee a former corporate whistle-blower and later US Senate ethics investigator writes in his book on Leadership: “…courage is not something with which we are born… courage is a learned quality, an acquirable set of skills, a practiced competence. It is like boxing except it is easier, smells better and causes fewer nosebleeds.”

Where do you begin learning Moral Courage? As easy as 1 – 2 – 3 and right at your doorstep

The Guardian

First, following Rushworth Kidder’s three steps process, you must make an honest self-assessment. We all have core values and beliefs. What are they? Which are the most important? Are you living by these principles and values? Are you falling short and where? Are you motivated to change and can you do so?

Second, take all these points and discuss them with a highly principled person you admire. Such discussions can help you to recognize and analyse situations where your actions have moral implications. It also allows you to honestly and openly explore and evaluate the risks and dangers involved in defending your core values.

Third, practise your moral values and try to uphold them in challenging situations. Stay vigilant because it’s easy to relax your values, make compromises and take short cuts. By doing again and again what you know to be right and evaluating that against the reactions of the people that matter to you in your communities you will build a strong moral compass and moral courage.

This is nothing new really for Aristotle already wrote in his Nicomachean Ethics:

“We become just by doing just acts, temperate by doing temperate acts, brave by doing brave acts”

Practise makes Perfect – Simple! And where and when do we do all this? Where better than right at our doorstep in everyday life through many acts of random kindness aka altruism; hopefully reciprocal but one cannot always be greedy – besides, altruism and reciprocity work much better on a ‘grand’ scale when freed from simplistic one to one constraints. It all goes towards making our shared realities on planet earth just this much more tolerable no matter what modern life – and the forces of nature – throw at us.

“Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.” Plato

Wishing you a happy Bank Holiday weekend full of Moral Courage and plenty of Altruism to continue building your ever increasing Resilience !

Monika

You might also be interested in the TED talk on altruism by Matthieu Ricard


Thank you for sharing.

 

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References:

UK Flooding – Community Resilience is the only answer

Community efforts in clearing floods in Cornwall - source BBC

Community efforts in clearing floods in Cornwall – source BBC

Is this crazy weather ever going to stop?
This question must have been asked millions of times this last week. I’ve read it in the newspapers and magazines, heard it on radio, on the streets, in buses and the tube, on TV. The UK’s resilience, our resilience to cope, adapt, prevail and move on is being sorely tested.

Looking back at the heart-breaking images from the Somerset Levels, the South West and East and noting this weekend’s new severe flood warnings for substantial parts of the Thames Valley it is hard to keep optimistic. It is hard not to descend into depression, to keep up mental agility, thinking flexibly and accurately, neither over- nor underestimating the severity of the impact to our lives and that of loved ones. It is hard to find the energy and willingness to go on and change, willing to find new strategies and simply to continue.

Where is the strength going to come from? How can it be tapped? In ‘resilience speak’ this concerns two key ‘ingredients’ that make up resilience:

character strength – identifying the top strengths in oneself and others, relying on one’s strengths to overcome challenges and meet goals, cultivating a strength approach throughout, including these key virtues (positive psychology)

Source: https://positivepsychologyprogram.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/02/character-strengths-and-virtues-classification.jpg

connections – building strong relationships through positive and effective communication, empathy, a willingness to ask for and to offer help

Source http://www.oneworldbirth.net/wp-content/uploads/2014/02/Lets-work-together.jpg

Both these key ‘ingredients’ to resilience go hand in hand, neither can really be separated out.

Character strength is never built in isolation. How strong we can be crucially depends on our early and continued social connections throughout life. In turn the strength of our social groups, small and large, are nourished and propelled by inspired individuals that choose to be extraordinary. These extraordinary times have produced extraordinary communities in all flood affected parts of the United Kingdom.

As a somewhat removed Swiss observer yet from ‘within so to speak as someone who lives here I am continually amazed at the British: the speed and boundless generosity with which communities have come together, pooling resources and sheer man (and woman and child!) power to help each another as well as to offer help across wider areas. In fact, generosity is and was so overwhelming that this morning the local newspaper Cheddarvalley Gazette reports that the Westfield Church flood rest centre in Bridgwater had to close their intake of food donations. However, many flood relief funds are active or are just being formed:

Somerset: Somerset Emergency Relief Fund; Farming Communities need help with animal feed (Farmers Weekly); donate via Just Giving (donations should be marked “For Somerset Farmers”); Rotary UK flood appeal for Somerset
Southwest: Devon Flood Fund; Tauheedul Relief Trust;
West and North:
RSPB appeal to help repair extensive damage at Snettisham, Havergate, Dingle and other nature reserves; EDP Norfolk Flood Appeal is ongoing

Also see Storify for more ways to help, courtesy of @wildwalkerwoman via @ThirlwallAssoc Thanks!

Eric Pickles, the Local Government Secretary, was reported in The Telegraph on Sunday suggesting to “spend aid abroad to stop flooding in the UK”. Calls to divert foreign aid are not new, i.e. BBC last September on austerity. While showing flexible thinking and a willingness to try new approaches, simply diverting foreign aid is unfortunately not entirely straight forward. How much is the UK spending? According to the Guardian last year, the UK’s official development assistance (ODA) is expected to rise to GBP11.3bn when it hits the 0.7% target. With a population of about 63 million, the figure works out at roughly GBP137 per Brit. This is part of a long-term resilience strategy as David Cameron argued and in everyone’s interests to build a more prosperous world, otherwise the problems of conflict, mass migration and uncontrollable climate change “will come and visit us at home”. Well, it seems the latter certainly has.

While the politicians wrangle, let us remember that the Disasters Emergency Commitee DEC has raised over GBP90 million for the Typhoon Haiyan victims in the Philippines all mostly from private donations which works out to an average of just GBP1.43 donated per person living in the UK. Despite recent hardships, anyone here luckily can afford to give GBP1.50 or 2.- to help a neighbour in need.

Monika


Thank you for sharing, raising awareness for Community Resilience and Emergency Preparedness.

For more EVAQ8 blog simply use the right hand navigation. For emergency kits and practical resources use the top navigation. For FREE resources head over to our Preparedness Hub and find out why we use humour. If you like this post, please share it to help raise awareness for Emergency and Disaster Preparedness. Thank you!

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