This week I attended the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) Winter Meeting alongside RMS’ chief research officer Robert Muir Wood. RMS recently joined the CGI and is working to develop the programs that the company will enact to effect change, known as CGI Commitments.
Robert was invited to give a kick-off presentation for the “Response and Resilience” breakout session, where members and prospective members from a wide range of backgrounds –corporations, non-profits, and NGOs – came together to discuss pressing problems in the field.
To set the tone for the conversation, Robert discussed risk mapping and underscored how important understanding risk is to resilience. After all, to be resilient is to be resilient to something.
While there are many ways of defining risk, one way of thinking about it is:
Risk = Hazard x Exposure x Vulnerability
As Robert explained, mapping risk is a way of communicating information. By conceptualizing risk, we can evaluate it and determine how to minimize it.
With that in mind, the Response and Resilience track participants broke into groups to discuss case studies ranging from Hurricane Sandy to floods in the Sudan and Syrian refugees in Jordan. Attendees were asked to consider topics such as
- How to improve response to similar events
- How NGOs and the private sector can collaborate more effectively
- How organizations on the ground can take advantage of real-time risk data
While the case studies up for discussion were diverse, a few common themes emerged:
- Community Engagement: In the first few days immediately following a catastrophic event, help from governments and large organizations is hindered by processes and logistics. First response is very localized – neighbors help other neighbors, local emergency services often operate while cut off from central organizations. Engagement at the local level is important to improve ties among community members and provide training so that neighborhoods can react appropriately in the case of a catastrophe.
- Networking: With improved networking, community members can help each other more effectively and outsiders can more easily determine how to assist. Many people now take to social media during crises, posting information about trouble areas, linking to resources for fellow victims, and even calling for rescue when trapped. People are using technology to connect beyond their communities. During Hurricane Sandy, people took to Amazon’s gift registry to fulfill desperately needed requests. Donations were tied directly to actual needs, not made based on assumptions of victims’ needs.
- Preparation and Incentives: Preparation is key to mitigate the damage of everything from natural disasters to the effects of political conflict. However, many simply don’t understand the risks at play or don’t want to take on the burden of steeling against potential disasters. For this reason, incentives to encourage preparation are crucial. They can take many forms, from financial to social.
Conversations at the CGI Winter Meeting, including those during the panel moderated by former president Bill Clinton at the end of the day, demonstrated just how important the topics of risk and resiliency are to the world at large.
RMS’ work with the CGI will continue to take shape as we work toward the goal of creating a safer and more resilient society.