Resilience Begins at Home

Tuesday, July 30, 2013
by Neill Coleman, Vice President, Global Communications,
The Rockefeller Foundation
Family, neighborhood and community are vital components of responding to shocks and stresses and bouncing back stronger. The importance of such community resilience is shown in the results of a major survey conducted by the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research (AP-NORC). The poll explored the resilience of people and neighborhoods directly affected by Superstorm Sandy.
With funding from the Rockefeller Foundation, AP-NORC surveyed 2,025 individuals including an oversample of 1,007 interviews with residents in the NY and NJ region affected by Superstorm Sandy. The Rockefeller Foundation supported the survey because we wanted to learn more about how neighborhood characteristics and social factors relate to recovery and resilience. The Foundation has been deeply involved in the response to Sandy: we helped lead Governor Cuomo’s NYS2100 Commission, which made recommendations on rebuilding better, and just last week announced that the Rockefeller Foundation will be the leading funding partner for REBUILD BY DESIGN, the federal government’s multi-stage regional competition to develop design solutions for rebuilding.
The AP-NORC survey showed that the most important sources of help before, during and after the storm were friends, family and neighbors. About a third say they reached out to friends, family and neighbors for assistance in the aftermath of the storm, rising to 47 percent for people in extremely affected areas.
And the level of trust in a neighborhood is an important signal of resilience and rebuilding. Neighborhoods lacking in social cohesion and trust more generally are having a difficult time recovering from Sandy. Individuals in slowly recovering neighborhoods are less likely to believe that people can be trusted (31 percent vs. 44 percent) or that the storm brought out the best of people compared to people in neighborhoods reporting greater levels of recovery (68 percent vs. 53 percent). Individuals in slowly recovering neighborhoods are also more likely to report greater levels of hoarding food and water (47 percent vs. 25 percent), looting and stealing (31 percent vs. 7 percent), and vandalism (21 percent vs. 5 percent) in their neighborhoods during or immediately after the storm.
But the encouraging news is that overall, the storm brought out the best in neighbors, with reports of many people sharing access to power, food and water, and providing shelter. Just seven percent report that the storm brought out the worst in their neighbors. And across the country, Americans supported the victims, with 54 percent of Americans donating food, money, clothing or other items to help. 63 percent of people in the affected regions did the same.
Superstorm Sandy tested the resilience of New York and New Jersey. As the region works to rebuild and to better prepare for future storms and other disruptions, the results of this poll can inform our thinking and planning in a way that will ensure greater resilience. It can also help to inform other cities as they prepare for shocks and stresses, underling the networking aspect of the 100 Resilient Cities Centennial Challenge the Rockefeller Foundation announced last month. The challenge will help to build truly global learning and practice around urban resilience, of which family, community and neighborhood connections are a vital part.
This post originally appeared on the Rockefeller Foundation’s blog on June 24, 2013 and is reprinted with permission.
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