Future proofing a small community for success

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    Gregory Bair

    Making a community a good one in the moment is certainly hard, especially for smaller communities lacking the raw resources of large metropolitan area
    [See the full post at: https://underthemarkets.com/future-proofing-a-small-community-for-success/]

    Lloyd Gardner

    Planning for the future requires having access to reliable information and data, using appropriate analytical methods, mobilizing an informed populace that is invested in the future of the community, and engaging in collective action towards some agreed future.

    What does that mean in concrete terms, particularly in the context of anticipated rapid changes caused by climate change, disasters, and the increasing pace of technology innovation? It means having professionals with the necessary knowledge and experience. It means maintaining decision making processes that are transparent, rigorous, and ethical. It means having persons, institutions, and processes that are adaptable to the changing conditions and needs of the community. It means making necessary investments in our social systems.

    The natural, built, economic, and social systems will experience periodic shock, but we can take steps to reduce the vulnerabilities in the systems and build resilience where possible. True future proofing requires investment in the greatest community asset, the most adaptable, and potentially the most durable. That asset, our people and our sense of community.

    Justin Moorhead

    Specific to our VI community, what is the driver that coalesces action around this issue? Irma and Maria seems to have failed. In their aftermath there was hope for a reboot on the issues of collective action, transparency and informed decision making.

    The two hurricanes impacted all three islands. Infrastructure, economy and social fabric were all affected. Consensus seemed to exist that every dollar spent on recovery should add to future proofing of our communities. And, the recovery effort should yield more resilient and appropriate infrastructure, environmental consciousness, economic competitiveness and responsive yet financially sound government operations.

    Two years later, where are the guiding principles that will help us reach this point? Have we shirked our individual responsibilities or was/is it reasonable to expect that elected leadership would help fashion consensus and lead.

    There is no dearth of local talent to assist in this effort. There is, however, little evidence to suggest that the best talent is engaged. Apologist may suggest we are still in the determining phase. We are, however, two years into the recovery. There is little evidence of a consensus-derived planning framework for moving forward. The USVI Hurricane Recovery and Resilience Task Force report is a good compendium of need. Yet is neither clear that the report is the recognized framework for moving forward nor does the report speak to issues of social fabric, environment, economy or government operations.

    So then, what can be inferred from an absence of activism around the issue of thoughtful and informed planning and decision making? Maybe that there is satisfaction with the path we are on or, alternatively, future proofing is not the priority we thought it should be eighteen months ago.

    Lloyd Gardner

    In the U.S. Virgin Islands (USVI), I suspect that a “reboot on the issues of collective action, transparency and informed decision making” during the disaster recovery process was the hope of only a small number of persons. I say that because few persons and institutions engaged around issues of collective action and informed decision making prior to the disasters.

    To the question of a vision of the future, a guiding framework, and a pathway towards that future for the USVI. I don’t think most persons are satisfied with the current path, but I think most are focused on the near term and are concerned with personal matters. A serious community-wide discussion regarding future proofing will require a framework, a supporting institutional structure, and some resources.

    The Foundation for Development Planning, Inc (FDPI) submitted a concept paper to the USVI Centennial Commission in 2015 to examine development issues as part of the centennial activities. The objective of the project was “to examine and articulate key factors that should be addressed in pursuing future development strategies for the U.S. Virgin Islands. The project will (i) identify the main factors that shaped the development of the USVI in the past 100 years, (ii) examine the influence of those key factors on current practices, (iii) identify any emerging or potential driving force, and (iv) facilitate public discussion of the determinants of, and appropriate supporting structures and processes for, sustainable development in the U.S. Virgin Islands.” Neither the concept nor the subsequent project proposal was approved by the Centennial Commission. The FDPI is still interested in pursuing such an initiative.

    The Practice Peace initiative coordinated by two Rotary clubs on St. Thomas around 2013-2014 is a good example of a way to approach the issue at hand. The two clubs worked with many stakeholders to develop a framework and action program. They also facilitated a discussion around violence and peace that exposed the community to the programs of a number of public agencies and community organizations.

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