Empathy, Data, and Resiliency

Empathy, Data, and Resiliency

Learning from GFOA's Leading Resilient Communities Conference

by Lindsay Woolward, Founder & President

I recently spent two days at the Leading Resilient Communities conference hosted by the Riley Center for Livable Communities. City, and county managers, finance directors, resiliency officers, and emergency managers from around the US convened at the University of Charleston to discuss the manifold challenges facing local government now, and in the foreseeable future. We dug into everything from the question of how to defend necessary cash reserves in the face of political pressure, to how Fort Lauderdale can keep seawater off its streets during high tides (not to mention a fine dinner at Rodney Scott’s BBQ, thanks to our new friends from Aiken, and Beaufort Counties!). I’ve spent years assessing, and devising mitigation plans for the physical security risks facing local governments, but I walked away from the two days of case studies, collaborative strategizing, and debate over best practices for financial longevity with a far deeper understanding of the needs of local governments. I also left with a renewed enthusiasm for connecting with new partners to help them integrate good security risk management into the bigger picture of resiliency, no matter the kind of crisis that rears its head.

Local governments have been doing amazing work to prepare for emergent challenges. Palo Alto is exploring how a “Startup City” mentality fosters resiliency. Fort Lauderdale is investing in infrastructure to reduce the flooding from ever rising tides. And Hampton Roads cities Norfolk and Hampton are working with communities to ensure that multiple public benefits are wrapped into a resilient infrastructure, to name just a few.

Case study after case study proved that the organizations thriving are:

  • those able to sustain a focus on people over things during times of crisis, and
  • those with data at their fingertips

The former creates a powerful, and positive collective will that can be harnessed without delay to plans, and contingency strategies. In absence of this, precious time, and trust is lost in scrambling to define, and deal with the problem at hand.

21st century government is not well-structured for nimble, data-driven resiliency. To thrive in this century, there must be structural changes, and new approaches to problem-solving in order to overcome challenges that cut across traditional departmental, jurisdictional, and even public/private lines. No single entity can hold back an encroaching tide, thwart a dedicated arsonist, or equip an entire community to handle a years-long drought. No individual has the capacity to conceive of every crisis that their organization might conceivably face.

Fortunately, there are tools, and organizational frameworks to address the challenge of resiliency. Quill is a vital one because it provides:

  • full access to your data to inform your decisions
  • easy-to-read analytics that frame the data
  • a reporting framework designed to quickly communicate the most effective path to minimizing security risk while managing the financial commitment to physical security and keeping as many resources as possible dedicated to the primary mission.

By increasing data transparency without exposing specific vulnerabilities, organizations using Quill can increase community engagement, and empathy for the challenges they face and bring communities together to build and protect a resilient, prosperous future.

No city or county will thrive without preparing for crisis. Whether predictable as the tide, surprising as a flash flood, daunting as a chronic deficit, or terrifying as an active threat, the crises of this century must be met with a multilateral, data-informed approach that communities can understand, support, and afford. Quill does this, and we are excited to support thriving communities across the country.