Environmental Policy News

How US Communities Can Better Measure Progress Towards Resilience

A new report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine recommends steps U.S. communities can take to better measure their progress in building resilience to disasters, including measuring resilience around multiple dimensions of a community, and incentivizing the measurement of resilience.

The report also recommends that the National Academies’ Gulf Research Program develop a major, coordinated initiative around building or enhancing community resilience across the Gulf of Mexico region.

The frequency and severity of disasters due to hurricanes, floods, tornadoes, and earthquakes in the first decades of the 21st century have resulted in unprecedented challenges for communities in the United States, the report notes. Many cities have or are creating offices and programs to build resilience to disasters, and many regions are organizing around resilience and leveraging resources and partnerships.

Measuring resilience can help community efforts in a range of ways, the report says – for example, by helping to identify risks and prioritize needs and goals, to allocate resources among resilience-building efforts, and to help communities determine whether they are making progress toward their goals.

In conducting its study of how to improve measurement of resilience, the committee that wrote the report examined the experiences of 13 U.S. communities. These communities stressed that engagement and buy-in across diverse stakeholders and sectors are critical to community resilience, and the communities supported efforts that build resilience across multiple dimensions. These communities are not explicitly measuring resilience, however, in part because decision-makers are unsure of which, if any, of the available tools to use.

The report offers communities four recommendations for tracking and measuring their resilience efforts:

Communities should use community participation and engagement at the outset of their resilience building and measurement efforts.

The participatory process can facilitate goal setting and prioritization for community resilience, generate buy-in for the goals and approaches, and identify people within the community who can be leaders, champions, implementers, or trainers.

Communities should design and measure resilience around multiple dimensions of a community.

Communities comprise many different dimensions: natural, economic/financial, physical/built, social, human, and political. These dimensions provide structure for setting community resilience goals and a reference for measurements that reflect progress toward communities’ achievements.

Communities should ensure that the data collected, integrated, or synthesized for community resilience are relatable and usable for decision making.

The data collected, integrated, or synthesized need to be ultimately used to make decisions about public sector budgets and public-private financing, to gauge the efficacy of progress of resilience goals, or to inform policy and implementation.

Communities should incentivize the measurement of resilience. Valuation models and financial tools like green, resilience, or catastrophe bonds have been shown to support resilience measurement.

Measuring the multiple benefits of community resilience investments can be connected to existing financial and insurance structures, because these structures require and incentivize measures of resilience.

In addition, the report recommends that the Gulf Research Program develop a major initiative around building or enhancing resilience in Gulf communities. The initiative should include multiple communities, capture and document community resilience strategies and measurements, foster interactions among communities through a learning collaborative, and implement longitudinal research that systematically analyzes and integrates data from various sources.

The study — undertaken by the Committee on Measuring Community Resilience — was sponsored by the National Academies’ Gulf Research Program. The National Academies are private, nonprofit institutions that provide independent, objective analysis and advice to the nation to solve complex problems and inform public policy decisions related to science, technology, and medicine. They operate under an 1863 congressional charter to the National Academy of Sciences, signed by President Lincoln. For more information, click here..

Story by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine

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