Over the past weeks we have benefited from an outpouring of support from diverse sources. All have responded knowing that what separates us is simply the timing of when assistance is required.
Crises spur innovation and caring. The need is indisputable. Material resources improve survival and the quality of lives. Those with a willingness to help, resources to provide, and an ability to master the logistics of delivery, do immeasurable good.
It is particularly affirming when outsiders join residents in an effort to ensure that a local need is appropriately addressed. Words seem particularly trite when trying to express sufficient gratitude for these helping hands. Our local newspapers tell of us many who have done incredible acts of kindness. Added to these are those whose work is less well known but none the less important.
Is it now possible to ask these organizations and individuals to help us address the longer term issues facing our community: inclusive economic development, responsible fiscal management, revitalization of community spaces, economic competitiveness, expanded community amenities and the retention of skilled workers?
Absent this assistance, we run a serious risk of losing the very attributes that make our communities an attractive place to live. We have tried on our own for many years to address many of these challenges with limited success. The experiences of others and the resources they may offer us can help move the needle of progress in a more positive direction.
Seeking assistance is evidence of strength and not weakness. Inherent in the “ask” is the determination to get things right.
The long-term problems we face existed well before the storms’ devastation. These will not be remedied without constructive intervention. Each year that critical issues of social well-being, health, education, finance and economic development go unaddressed our community looses competitive standing and falls further behind in the region and globally– in our ability to attract and retain talent, diversify our economy and improve the overall quality of life and environment.
What are the “asks” for assistance: first, a critical evaluation of what is needed to increase domestic and foreign investment; second, technical assistance that helps address fiscal-management and economic development; third, skill development and training to ensure the existence of a workforce that can effectively compete; and fourth, organizational development, which will enhance the ability of community groups and societal organizations to be effective.
An appropriate hope is that these sources of assistance will not disappear once the emergency has subsided but be nurtured and sustained. The resources, creativity and institutional leverage applied to addressing the recent crisis can be redirected. We have evidence of what can be accomplished with assistance to accomplish a desired objective.
Community foundations and non-profit organization, the chambers, industry associations and non-governmental entities can engage those who have stepped forward and provided assistance these past ten weeks. The organizations can provide the administrative structure for organizing this wealth of capability. The recent one off engagement we have witnessed can have organization and direction to address the longer-term need of our communities.
In the past, and as a community, we have fallen short of harnessing the help of others to help overcome some of the challenges we confront.
In an 1885 novel, Anne Ritchie penned the expression. “If you give a man a fish he is hungry again in an hour. If you teach him to catch fish you do him a good turn”.
That proverb described a different paradigm for viewing assistance. It accents the need to develop capacity, which addresses longer-term requirements.
Intervention at a time of crisis is both needed and appreciated. Longer-term assistance is equally important to help right the economic future of these islands. Obtaining this assistance requires that we ask and ensure there is an institutional capacity to take advantage of assistance as it is made available.