A key part of supporting community resilience lies in accentuating what is working in communities, giving it attention and putting to use. Today my friend Jerry Nagel wrote from Minnesota to ask for advice about what to do with some of the communities who have been devastated by tornadoes in the last week. My reply:
Might be useful to go through an appreciative process of studying what happened to get people back on their feet. What aspect about our community made it possible to look after those who lost their homes? What stories of response do we need to harvest and celebrate and what do those tell us about our community? Where did those values come from and how as a community can we support the continued development and practice of those values as we rebuild? I would keep the questions quite grounded on people’s personal experiences and not do too much abstract reflection while the need and hurt is still very close to the surface. The point of appreciative inquiry at this point is to surface the stories of life in the community and harvesting them so that the community knows its intangible assets better.I have done similar inquiries in communities that have been hit by tragedies like suicides and chronic drug use or violence. It helps a lot with the healing and it harvests what’s working to put all of that to use.Communities do this anyway. With the perspective of time, everyone will tell the stories of how we came together and what worked and how we survived it. For those that arrive in the community from this time on, they will always be “outsiders” to some extent for not having gone through the experience with others.