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Know Thy Neighbour

Resilient Hamilton workshop
Resilient Hamilton Workshop, Art Gallery of Hamilton. Feb 8th, 2017

“Recovery from natural and other disasters does not depend on the overall amount of aid received nor on the amount of damage done by the disaster; instead, social capital — the bonds which tie citizens together — functions as the main engine of long term recovery.” — Daniel P. Aldrich, assistant professor of public policy at Purdue University

Early last week, Faith & the Common Good partnered with Environment Hamilton and Community-Led Action for Resiliency in Our Neighbourhoods (CLARION) to host a Resilient Hamilton workshop.

Stakeholders from Neighbourhood Action Strategy, faith communities, the City of Hamilton Public Health and Emergency Services departments, the YWCA, Tamarack institute, the Hamilton Public Library, Community Resilience to Extreme Weather (CREW) and more came together to gain a better understanding of the concerns around Hamilton’s extreme weather preparedness infrastructure at the community level.

Throughout the day, participants contributed their ideas and expertise towards the development of a Hamilton-wide conversation around community-based climate adaptation and emergency preparedness. They identified actions their organizations were taking and could take to support better prepared and more resilient communities.

Common themes that emerged are as follows:

  • We need to develop community networks, and map these out before emergencies strike.
  • We need to understand where the gaps are, who is doing what, what are the community assets, so we should be focusing on "place making."
  • Know thy neighbour! We are our neighbourhood’s first responders in the first days of an emergency. Communities that survive catastrophes are communities with strong support, people who know each other, "people with porches" as opposed to closed-off buildings.
  • Normalize the emergency kit as we have done with things like smoke detectors and fire escapes. Consider making available for donation “emergency preparedness kits”, which build awareness about climate change impacts. Education about WHY climate change is happening and what residents can do to help slow it down could be included in the kit.
  • Communicate constantly about emergency preparedness and climate change, through information centres, local hub newspapers and social media.
  • Communication points around food, for example food banks, grocery stores.
  • Create a community “best practice kit.”
  • Plan the infrastructure which scans anything from ramps and generators to urban farms.
  • Resiliency must be resident-led.

We need to deepen community and break the isolation many residents experience by creating reasons for people to get together. This could be done by hosting regular street parties and barbecues, events, etc. Service providers could be facilitators and catalysts to help people help each other. We all have skills; we need to be able to shift the idea about who has skills. Finally, community resilience is a process — it takes time and trust to build.

The meeting took place in the beautiful Art Gallery of Hamilton. It was supported by The BMW Foundation. The BMW Foundation brings together leaders from across communities, cultures and countries to drive Social Innovation, facilitate Global Dialogue and promote Responsible Leadership.

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