A Connected Community Approach: Citizens and Formal Institutions Working Together to Build Community-Centred Resilience
- What is the current understanding of what community resilience is, including both bounce back and bounce forward?
- What is the role of the community in building community resilience?
- What has been written about the need for connecting community and formal institutional players in building community resilience, and how has that been executed?
- What is core to the Connected Community Approach that is critical to fostering resilience in communities? What is adaptable based on context? How can the inherent values in CCA be operationalized in other contexts?
- How has resilience been measured? (This question is out of scope for this paper.)
3. Framing Resilience as Social Infrastructure
4. Building Resilience: Re-Centring Community
5. Community-Based Organizations and Community-Centred Resilience
6. A Connected Community Approach
“The Storefront is much more than a space for residents to access services, however. It has played a profound role in building community capacity and vision, organizing new initiatives and creating opportunity for connection across the diverse threads of the community” (p. 4)
Conflicts of Interest
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|Type of Community |
|Examples||Governance Structure||Role in Community-Centred Resilience|
|Community-basedorganizations with governance and decision making that rests outside of the community||Public libraries; public health departments; disaster relief organizations such as the Red Cross||Includes any organization with multiple branches and centralized decision-making||Can act as a conduit between larger systems and communities; often have large community-based facilities that can be leveraged for planning and responding activities; often have reduced autonomy in facilitating community driven |
decision making, planning, and action
|Social service organizations||Foodbanks; employment centres; immigration services; legal aid; counselling centres||Governance can be either local or centralized elsewhere; mandates primarily focus on addressing individual needs||Play critical roles in helping individuals with needs caused by chronic stressors |
and major shocks are typically focused on the individual/professional relationship rather than on facilitating collective action
|Interest focused organizations||Arts organizations; recreational sports leagues; after-school programs||Governance can be either local or centralized elsewhere; mandates primarily focus on convening around shared interests including drama, music, or sports groups||These groups can play specific and even surprising roles in the event of an extreme shock, but are not usually designed to facilitate community-wide processes|
|Grassroots organizations||Mutual aid networks; peer to peer support groups; residents’ and neighbourhood associations||May or may not have formalized structures; deeply rooted in communities; usually have a purpose/focus on either service delivery, community development, or advocacy||Critical players in community-centred resilience; they often hold knowledge and relationships with community members that formal institutions cannot|
|Community development organizations||Community Development Corporations||Governance and decision making is firmly in the community with significant grassroots and resident participation. The purpose of these organizations is to foster processes and build local capacity to generate community-led solutions to local issues.||These organizations are critical in ensuring the resilience efforts are truly community centred. Planning and execution of strategies are based on local context, lived experience, and local knowledge. May or may not hold or foster relationships with formalized structures outside of the community.|
|Community backbone organizations (local integrators or intermediaries)||East Scarborough Storefront (Toronto)||Like community development organizations described above, these organizations have community driven governance and decision making structures. The primary purpose of these organizations is to facilitate connections, strategy and action, between and among the various players engaged in community-building work||These organizations are ideally suited to bridging grassroots, civil society actors and more formalized organizations, institutions, and governments; facilitate processes that allow the various actors to collectively, plan for, respond to, recover from, and bounce forward after major shock events.|
|Build on everyone’s strengths||CCA is an asset-based approach that emphasizes that local |
residents are not vulnerable people waiting to be helped, but people with agency to affect the outcomes in their own community. Strengths can be found in local residents, organizations, and physical and natural resources. CCA seeks to nurture local strengths and connect them to the opportunities that emerge both from within and outside the community.
|Create connected communities from the inside out||CCA is a practical approach that supports the idea that there needs to be key actors in a community that intentionally focus on strengthening and connecting the actions and initiatives taken on by a diversity of local actors. The entity that plays this role is sometimes called a community backbone organization, an integrator or community facilitator. CCA suggests that whatever the entity is called, it needs to be locally created, governed, and deeply rooted in co-created values and principles and to prioritize a healthy work environment.|
|Facilitate collaborative processes||CCA is built on relationships. CCA posits that community-centred resilience is about how a multitude of individual actions interact with each other to strengthen the overall social fabric of the community in agile and adaptable ways. Therefore, in a CCA, the community backbone organization focuses on network weaving and strategic facilitation so that community actors and institutions can leverage each other’s strengths and work better together.|
|Learn together||CCA both embeds learning feedback loops and knowledge |
mobilization to strengthen a community on an ongoing basis and over time, in the event of a major shock event, accumulated collective experience of intentional and collective learning can help everyone (grassroots groups, institutions, organizations, funders, etc.) generate stories and various cultural ways of knowing to reflect, learn, and adapt together.
|Embrace the messiness||CCA likens the community to a natural ecosystem, evolving and adapting over time and changing with the introduction of each new stimulus. CCA emphasizes the capacity for communities to work in emergencies, making their ability to respond and adapt in a crisis much more nimble than a government-led emergency response. CCA focuses on a community’s unique capacity to adapt to ever changing contexts, which is important when addressing ongoing stresses and paramount when responding to, recovering from, and bouncing forward after a shock event.|
|Prioritize equity and power sharing||Power is a complex dynamic in all communities. Labeling people in marginalized communities as “vulnerable people” maintains the status quo and perpetuates systemic inequities. CCA sees shifting power and locus of knowledge, action, and decision making as fundamental to community-centred resilience.|
|Let values lead||CCA is a values-driven approach. In using a CCA methodology to bridge differences, success can be measured by the degree to which diverse sets of players can share common purpose and values and draw on their own experiences, passions, and talents to co-design solutions. Designing and implementing purpose- and values-based strategies allows for creativity, innovation, and agility in the face of complex local challenges (both shocks and stressors).|
|Work at multiple scales||Community-centred resilience does not mean downloading responsibility for emergency response to communities. Instead, it means strengthening both community-led response and government actions by intentionally investing in the connections between the two. Unlike other CBOs and community development strategies (see Table 1), CCA focuses on both building strong local social fabric, and on connecting community-led initiatives to larger systems, thereby simultaneously centring community and taking |
full advantage of the knowledge, resources, and opportunities afforded by the scale of larger systems.
|Make community building visual||Communication is foundational to community-centred |
resilience. How communication flows within a community
and between community and governments/institutions can
make or break local response or recovery efforts. CCA focuses on using creative and visual ways to mobilize knowledge and facilitate effective local communication channels. This means that, in a shock event, local people know where to go to receive trusted information, how to shape the response undertaken, and share knowledge effectively with their networks.
|Build creative infrastructure||CCA is predicated on the imperative to invest in the kinds of social infrastructure that strengthens local decision making, agency, and influence on broader systems. A connected community requires intentional structures to ensure that the community really does strengthen over time and can effectively respond to, recover from, and bounce forward after major shock events. In CCA, creative infrastructure means putting as much emphasis on investing in |
the supports, facilitative roles, and connective tissue that centre community priorities and actions as on the buildings and structures in which those activities take place.
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Poland, B.; Gloger, A.; Morgan, G.T.; Lach, N.; Jackson, S.F.; Urban, R.; Rolston, I. A Connected Community Approach: Citizens and Formal Institutions Working Together to Build Community-Centred Resilience. Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2021, 18, 10175. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph181910175
Poland B, Gloger A, Morgan GT, Lach N, Jackson SF, Urban R, Rolston I. A Connected Community Approach: Citizens and Formal Institutions Working Together to Build Community-Centred Resilience. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health. 2021; 18(19):10175. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph181910175Chicago/Turabian Style
Poland, Blake, Anne Gloger, Garrett T. Morgan, Norene Lach, Suzanne F. Jackson, Rylan Urban, and Imara Rolston. 2021. "A Connected Community Approach: Citizens and Formal Institutions Working Together to Build Community-Centred Resilience" International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health 18, no. 19: 10175. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph181910175