What it means to be Inventive
Be creative and explorative in using ICT and social media to connect with citizens and groups. Make sure that the threshold for entering and becoming involved is kept at a low level. There should be no barriers to joining collaborative activities and also no difficulties withdrawing. Make sure administration and bureaucracy are kept at a minimum, while continuing to satisfy legal demands regarding insurance and compensation.
- Be creative and explorative in using ICT and social media to connect with citizens and groups.
- Be creative in finding and utilizing new arenas for recruiting citizens and groups.
- Make it possible for the public to spontaneously engage in crisis management on short-time contracts, or when a crisis happens.
Guidelines to be Inventive
The present project suggests that collaborative efforts may often occur outside the narrow frame of traditional voluntary organizations. For example, formal contracts can hinder people from engaging in volunteer crisis management, thereby highlighting the importance of informal settings and short-time contracts. The growing number of network-like forms of organizations, supported by social media and other ICT tools, offers opportunities to transform bureaucratic and time consuming forms of collaboration to better fit present forms of voluntary involvement.
An important step in this direction would be recognizing community innovation and creative improvisation. An instructive example provided by Kendra and Wachtendorf (2007) is the Project Impact program initiated by the US Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) in 1997. This initiative was a “large-scale programmatic effort to affect the alignment of community social organization with the capacities needed for change” (Kendra & Wachtendorf 2007: 322). For example, one community identified ways to leverage funds from environmental groups, leisure groups, a parks department, a planning department, and emergency management to buy out flood-prone property and develop green spaces for recreational use. The programs initiated under Project Impact were not necessarily, in themselves, new ideas. However, all initiatives were deployed in new ways and for new purposes, and their aim was to foster new thinking within the community.
Another example of community innovation and creative improvisation was the unplanned use of resources during the evacuation of Lower Manhattan on September 11, 2001. The waterborne evacuation of several hundred thousand commuters and others from Lower Manhattan used a wide range of vessels not previously involved in any evacuation planning efforts or schema. Similar examples of community innovation and creative improvisation, though smaller in scale, attracted some attention after the shootings at Utøya in Norway, 2011.
In this connection, new ways of financing insurance and economic compensation for volunteers while on duty need to be developed (Linnell et al. 2013). Insurance and economic compensation is often regulated through traditional member organizations, which means that for voluntary individuals to be insured while on duty, they must become organized volunteers, that is, members of traditional (often civil defense) organizations. However, for many semi- or non-organized volunteers, membership in such organizations is not an option. A suggestion, therefore, is that issues of financing should be disconnected from the mediating role of traditional civil defense organizations and instead handled between the actor responsible for the task (e.g. the municipality) and the voluntary individual.
In addition, new ways of securing the right knowledge, skills and competences need to be developed. This means, first, that the threshold for voluntary individuals to become engaged needs to be lowered (see the sections Inclusive and Interested above) and second, that the distribution of interests, skills, resources and competencies among voluntary individuals need to be documented in an accessible yet ethically tenable way. One way for the municipal safety coordinator (or similar) to single out key individuals is to include different voluntary groups in preparedness exercises and training activities.
Recruitment needs to include other groups than traditional civil defense organizations. Examples of possible arenas and institutions for recruitment identified in the present project are popular adult education, employment services, upper secondary schools, public buildings like town halls, libraries and exhibition halls, education for immigrants and recent citizens’, sports clubs’, religious congregations’, interest-based and cultural associations, and workplaces. Further examples on how to include grassroots organizations and groups, as well as non-organized individuals, in the work of strengthening community resilience are provided by FEMA (2011). The power of grassroots initiatives, community innovation and creative improvisation thus must be facilitated by organized government agencies. Rather than centralize, resilience ought to be stimulated at the levels of society where people actually live their lives. The goal must be to foster preemptive resilience at the community level. Some recent thoughts and applied examples are given in Bennett (2012).