My blog posts to date have been, by and large, about others. As this year comes to a close, I am going to be a bit selfish and talk about the journey I’ve had over the past year, weaving in information that hopefully you will all find valuable. It is incredible to think of all that has happened to me in 12 very short months. At this time last year, I was wondering what I would do in 2014. Coming off my first three task order assignments under my partner firm Novaces, LLC’s master services agreement with the US Department of Commerce Economic Development Administration, and seeing nothing on the horizon, I admit I was a bit worried.
It’s strange to have the majority of your business become that of recovery from disasters, something you would never wish to happen to anyone, but also something that has become your primary source of revenue. All that I had in process was the ongoing discussions I was having with the University of Oklahoma (OU) about standing up a new institute dedicated to applied learning in resilience and recovery. My concerns were needless, of course, as most are in life. In January, I received word that OU wanted to move forward in creating the Resilience Development Institute (OU ReDI), and offered to pay for a trip to Geneva in February to engage the international community, including the UN and World Bank.
This was the beginning of a shift in the nature of my work–one that is playing out nationally and internationally. As I sit writing this in my home, Judith Rodin, CEO of the Rockefeller Foundation, is being interviewed on national television on her new book, “The Resilience Dividend”, which I highly recommend. The foundation she runs is putting its money where its mouth is via the $100 million + “100 Resilient Cities” campaign, and is joining other private, public, and non-governmental organizations in recognizing that it is better to invest in being prepared, and reducing not only in economic damage, but more importantly, lives adversely affected and lost. Resilience may be in danger of becoming a buzzword, but the meaning behind it is anything but irrelevant. The year began, and ended, with this theme. My guess is that resilience will be a critical part of my career, and life, for years to come.
That observation was validated in mid-February. when a task order request for proposals came out for a resilience strategy for the disaster-declared area in central Oklahoma that I had assisted the EDA in developing a recovery strategy for in mid-2013. Beginning in late February, I supported efforts of a committed group of stakeholders in the region who dedicated countless hours to create a best-practices set of initiatives to make central Oklahoma the most resilient region in the nation.
That task was completed and a comprehensive resilience strategy was presented to their stakeholder steering committee in late June. Portions of this strategy continue to be implemented, including an effort to combine principles of resilience with neighborhood-based relationship building and a business emergency communications network especially hold promise. More to come on both of these along with updates on the “Oklahoma Strong” resilience strategy.
Meanwhile, an f-4 tornado stuck two communities in central Arkansas, and again Novaces was selected, so I literally drove straight from ending my assignment in Oklahoma to beginning my assignment in Arkansas. The devastation a tornado brings is simply unmatched. But the brave, committed leaders and citizens of both Vilonia and Mayflower were determined not only to rebuild, but to rebuild better. I was proud to return to help the state of my birth, and where my family had resided for generations, to assist them in realizing their vision.
Working with them was a true honor and pleasure, and together with our colleagues in the Community Planning and Capacity Building recovery support function, we supported their development of a best-practices recovery action agenda (not a plan–plans are stagnant–these people wanted actions, not words) that was presented in mid-December, and is already being implemented. This work was codified in a recovery “binder” that will soon be available for review and download at their newly-built long term recovery website. I will provide the site address in my next post, so stay tuned.
During this time, the OU Resilience Development Institute began to take shape. A world-class advisory board accepted the challenge of working with us to build ReDI, and just prior to Christmas, registration went live. Check out our website at http://www.ou.edu/redi. I am very proud to serve as the Chairman of the Advisory Board, and believe in the concept of applied learning taught by leaders in the field.
In August, a dream of several years came true with the recording of the pilot for my new internet television show. The RED (Resilience and Economic Development) Show will focus on the intersection of those two disciplines, and the broader issues surrounding them. The show will officially launch in February, with on-location productions in areas I’ve worked both here and abroad, that hopefully will inform, educate, and entertain viewers. Watch for it at http://www.bizperity.com, home of the Bizperity internet TV network.
I was again given a gift–to reconnect with several colleagues and friends in Australia, and make new ones in the place where my international career had begun almost 18 years ago. Though several discussions, the idea of a center for tropical resilience began to take shape. To be headquartered in Cairns, the major city in the northeast coast of the state of Queensland, the center would focus on the tropical belt, where 80% of the earth’s biodiversity, many developing nations, and 65% of the world’s major disasters occur.
In September, I was honored to be invited to participate in the Summit on the Future of the Tropics in Cairns, associated with the G-20 meeting there, and learned how critical this area of our globe is to us all. The concept for the Center for International Tropical Resilience Education, and Implementation (CITREI) continues to gain momentum, including the idea of utilizing resilience as a way to increase global GDP via reduction in GDP loss due to disasters.
The year ended with yet another honor, to be invited to lead an effort under the UN Economic Commission for Europe’s Team of Specialists in Public-Private Partnerships (PPP) in developing standards and processes for PPP in disaster resilience and recovery. I’ll be working with esteemed colleagues from several countries to codify processes and protocol to help PPP resilience and recovery projects increase their chances of success.
Finally, just yesterday I was asked by my business partner in Mexico to meet with officials in Mexico City, who are interested in a proposal we developed for a bi-lateral summit on resilience in recovery, to be held in my home town of New Orleans next fall. This idea came as the result of interest generated during our development of a recovery strategy for the Colorado river delta in Baja California Mexico during 2012.
To say it’s been a whirlwind year is an understatement, to say the least. As I observed 20 years, on December 14th, since a horrible accident almost took my life, and prepare to celebrate the beginning of a new year, I cannot help but feel blessed to be able to do something for a living that has so much meaning, with so great a purpose.
Along the way, I’ve met amazing, dedicated, committed, and gifted people who have become both dear friends and trusted colleagues. Some of you reading this are included in those ranks, and although it’s never enough, please know you have my eternal gratitude. The classic holiday movie “It’s a Wonderful Life” ends with the newly-minted angel Clarence leaving a note to his beneficiary, George Bailey, with eight simple words: “No man is a failure who has friends”. By that measure, I am indeed a very successful man.
The next post will get back to the issues and focus on the latest innovations in recovery financing and the role of risk reduction in reducing the costs of those transactions. Until then, may 2015 bring each of you health, happiness, and prosperity.
All the best, David