How to Address Compound Disasters with Renae Hanvin Part 2
“Preparedness and resilience is a shared responsibility.” -Renae Hanvin
For years, we’ve seen how the intensity and scope of disasters have evolved, but our preparedness is yet to be tested again with this new thing called “compound disasters”. It is already happening and will keep happening in the years to come. What can we do to address this? Jennifer and corporate2community founder, Renae Hanvin comes together for part 2 to discuss how serious compound disasters can be and what approaches and strategies are needed to increase resiliency, access, and equity despite the chaos. They also talk about how to bridge the gap between higher-level policies and grassroots, how fundings can sometimes fall into the hands of “overnight” resiliency experts and the extent of damage it can bring, and how to set up systems and processes that will allow us to give more and help better.
If you are a leader, you no doubt have the heart to help others, keeping it anonymous if possible. But while you want to shine the spotlight on the people you want to help, it is imperative that you also make yourself visible. Why is that? Press the play button to hear the answer!
- 00:59: Compound Disasters is the New Thing
- 07:44: Grants and Recovery Programs
- 20:34: CoDesign and Collaborations
- 25:23: Recovery Planning Approaches
- 30:47: Focus on the Outcome
- 38:51: Team Human!
- 44:59: Understand the Risks and Consequences
- 49:33: Make Yourself Visible
02:13: “Compound disaster is the new thing…. We need to think differently and we need to start getting ready.” -Renae Hanvin
06:12: “We have to be prepared because there’s going to be more.” -Renae Hanvin
06:35: “We’re going in the right direction, we just need to keep going in the right direction.” -Renae Hanvin
09:18: “You can’t connect a community when they’re elbowing each other out of the way to try and get some funding.” -Renae Hanvin
10:19: “We will chase the mission, not the funding.” -Jennifer Thompson
13:01: “Resilience now is such a buzzword and it’s in every piece of funding coming out. The problem is that we’ve got overnight resilience experts applying for this funding…. The damage from those overnight experts that are chasing the funding who have no idea about how community disasters impact recovery is frightening.” -Renae Hanvin
16:13: “You got to bring the right people in at the right time for the right purpose.” -Renae Hanvin
17:33: ”The system has to be more responsive and listen. That’s hard to do when you are serving millions of people, but it doesn’t mean it’s impossible to do.” -Jennifer Thompson
19:00: “Preparedness and resilience is a shared responsibility.” -Renae Hanvin
22:26 “There’s no one that understands the community more than the community itself.” -Renae Hanvin
36:31: “You can’t change a community culture overnight. You’ve got to do it gradually.” -Renae Hanvin
38:51: “One of the great challenges and lessons and ironies of COVID is that the world requires we do a group project when we are the most divided.” -Jennifer Thompson
41:53: “Everything we do has to have an outcome and that it’s delivering directly to a need.” -Renae Hanvin
46:15: “It’s got to start with the need. Ask the community, get permission from the community, and then support the community.” -Renae Hanvin
50:11: “Until I made myself visible, people were invariably going to be wrong.” -Jennifer Thompson
51:26: “There’s a fine balance and as long as you do [social media] respectfully, it’s helping others.” -Renae Hanvin
Renae founded corporate2community in 2018, motivated by her personal experience of disasters and understanding of the role businesses can play in helping Australian communities before, during, and after impacts. As a leading partnership broker between industry and government, Renae shapes private sector solutions while bolstering government efforts in the delivery of community resilience-led outcomes. Renae leads forward-thinking approaches, processes, and partnerships; providing pathways for the private sector and government to collaborate and co-design community resilient solutions. Building resilient businesses and helping communities thrive is a shared responsibility that requires collaborative contribution.
Jennifer Gray Thompson: My name is Jennifer Gray Thompson, and I am the CEO of After The Fire. Welcome to the podcast, How to Disaster, recover, rebuild and reimagine. It is a podcast we bring you the very best practices, best hearts and great ideas from other disaster affected communities. Thank you for joining us. Renae Hanvin, you are back with us again on the How to Disaster Podcast. I’m just so very happy to see you. We started chatting right away before we hit record, and I just want to thank you so much for coming back a year later.
Renae Hanvin: Welcome. Thanks so much for having me. Wow, what’s happened in a year? Crazy.
Jennifer Gray Thompson: Well, actually, a lot has happened in a year, and so I thought we could just sort of dive into that right away. One of the things that we were talking about that you’re going to address is what’s gone on in your neck of the woods. You’re based in Australia, specifically, with disasters of all kinds and the concept of compound disasters in response.
“Compound disaster is the new thing…. We need to think differently and we need to start getting ready.” -Renae Hanvin
Renae Hanvin: Yeah, 100%. So I think last time we spoke, we obviously had the horrible bushfires that had impacted so much of Australia. And then of course, as the recovery was starting to kick in, and as you know only too well, the recovery, there’s that short, medium, long term. So we’re just getting through the short term recovery moving into the slightly longer term recovery. And of course, COVID hit. So you’re recovering communities while there’s a pandemic, and Australia had certain measures. We went into lockdown on that quite quickly for quite a long period of time. But on top of that, we’ve still got drought in so many of our country areas, we had storms. So a lot of communities that were recovering from bushfires and other communities lost power for like weeks at a time. We then had floods in other areas in northern New South Wales. So again, those communities now dealing with floods, we had tornadoes recently. I’m in Melbourne which is the biggest lockdown city in the world, I think we earned that title which is not a great title to have. And then I was literally on the phone to a client a few weeks ago, talking to them about a potential media crisis relating to COVID as the building’s shaking, and we had an earthquake. So compound disasters are just the new thing, and so much of the disaster space that I’ve been in the past decade or more has been about that silo disaster. So when the bushfires happened, they set up the reactive government agency, or the reactive help agency. But now, it can’t work that way because we’ve got to prepare for it and we’ve got to realize that there’s disaster on top of disaster on top as disaster, and they all have direct and indirect consequences as well.
So we worked a lot and we’re still working with a lot of communities up in the beautiful blue mountains region of New South Wales just out of Sydney. And they are really tourism based so they lost, tourists couldn’t come because of the fires and the smoking threat to the communities. And then as they’re recovering, COVID hits so they lost all their international tourists overnight, they lost their regional tourists overnight. They’re locked down in LGA. You’ve got businesses here that, for two years have just been one thing after the other. And I think it’s that whole, it’s not going to happen to me, it’s completely out the window. The whole mindset is right, we need to think differently, and we need to start getting ready.
Jennifer Gray Thompson: So what measures have you seen and been taken by the first public sector and then by the private sector to sort of begin to address this, because we are very clear that so much of what we need to get done has to be cross-sector de siloed, and really collaborative leadership is the way forward. But what are you witnessing and seeing in Australia in response?
“Preparedness and resilience is a shared responsibility.” -Renae Hanvin
Renae Hanvin: Yeah, so it’s been really good. I have to say, definitely, maybe small, but definitely steps forward. So I’m pretty sure, last time we spoke, I mentioned here that we have a notion of shared responsibility. So it was identified in a national resilience strategy from 2011. They said that preparedness and resilience is a shared responsibility between individuals, households, businesses, government, emergency services. Obviously not equal because emergency surfaces have their kind of fundamental role that we don’t want the everyday person to have. But ultimately, we all have to play a role in preparing ourselves and building resilience to the compound multiple natural and other disasters to come. And I think it was always a word and a phrase that I loved, but it wasn’t activated. It was written but not implemented. You couldn’t see it in any thing that was happening. After the bushfires, I have to say, particularly in New South Wales which was the state mostly in heat, they set up a resilience, New South Wales, so their whole government structure moved from emergency management and response to resilience. And the leader there, Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons, is amazing. And if ever you wanted another Australian on your podcast, I’ll absolutely introduce you to him because he’s amazing, and he’s from a fire background. So them as a state, they’ve absolutely set themselves up as one of other states that are leading in that resilience space. We then of course had the typical review, inquiry and royal commission that millions of dollars have spent to kind of identify what happened. And as a result of that, the Prime Minister here announced a new federal agency that is recovery and resilience.
“We have to be prepared, because there’s going to be more.” -Renae Hanvin
So that means that rather than those responsive bushfire recovery programs and agencies set up just recently, I think since the start of the financial year in July transition to a national resilience and recovery agency. And so what that has meant is that there is a lot of funding and a lot of grant programs. I can’t tell you how many grants we’ve had to write, but successfully winning a big chunk of them in a sense of setting up preparedness and resilience. So I think the bushfires, then the COVID, and then so many other compound disasters. And even today, there’s a big weather storm, a life-threatening weather storm hitting the north of our country. So we have to be prepared because there’s going to be more. I think the language, the funding are starting to shift which is where it should be. So that’s pretty exciting, but there’s still a long way to come because I think the last stats were that 97% of funding in the space went to recovery. Like that’s ludicrous when we know that the dollar invested before is between 7 and 11, or 14 after. So I think right now, we’re going in the right direction, and we just need to keep going in the right direction.
“We’re going in the right direction, we just need to keep going in the right direction.” -Renae Hanvin
Jennifer Gray Thompson: I actually love to hear that, and we’re seeing a lot of that here too, under FEMA, and HUD, and USDA. So not only looking at, turning on the spigots from the top for resiliency, but also trying to increase access and equity. And we’ve been really vocal nationally, especially to say to our national leaders, we appreciate that. But for small rural counties, how are they going to, what can we do together in order to ensure that they have more access? How do we reform the actual grants process so that it’s more of a common app, or what we call a Turbo Tax model so that it will feed you. You kind of pre register like you do with your taxes. So that’s what we do. Anyway, we have a W-2 form and pull all the information. And then if you follow this one programme, it’ll tell you like, what you’re eligible for and what you’re not? So we’re asking them to not only reform what they want to fund, but how is it that people actually gain access to that funding? So what are you seeing there in that same area? Has it changed? Has it gotten better?
Renae Hanvin: No, there’s a long way to go in the funding aspects over here. And in fact, I’ve got a different state. My own State Department, I sent perhaps a relatively direct but factual email just in terms of my experience of certain processes and what we were hearing from communities, and they’ve asked for a follow up meeting. So to me, the whole grant program is just backwards. It’s completely backwards, and it’s predominantly created and run by people who likely have never been impacted by a disaster and likely have never run a grants program before. That’s my own opinion. I’m sure that there are people that are not in that bucket, but I think it’s what happened to you. At the start of last year, they created these big grants programs about recovery and resilience. That’s great. There are hundreds of millions of dollars put into it, and then they open it up for competitive funding. So this is separate to the grants of like, where you have been impacted, and then you need to apply for your business grant or whatever. That’s a different kettle of fish. But what’s happened is that basically, you’ve got groups in communities, including councils, including not for profits, including businesses and chambers who are all trying to come up with ideas. I work out what they need that fits the eligibility to get some funding. And so our whole word of this competitive grant process, then it does the opposite to building social capital.
“You can’t connect a community when they’re elbowing each other out of the way to try and get some funding.” -Renae Hanvin
And we do a lot of work with Professor Daniel Aldrich from Boston in the states around connected communities are more resilient than affluent communities. So we’ve got to connect these communities. You can’t connect a community when they’re elbowing each other out of the way to try and get some funding, but also those most vulnerable who maybe can’t access the digital forms who can’t write the right words in the submissions and like, I was writing them, it takes me about 40 hours to write each one. How are they ever going to get funded as well, yet they’re those most vulnerable. And the other side of the fence for those who have been impacted, I’m not joking, when the bushfires happened, there were so many forms and repeated information, and they’re looking at streamlining it. But there’s a long way to go and I said, before it needs to be flipped for me, let’s go to needs lead. Let’s not go to press releases dictated or output numbered. I don’t want to know how many grants you’ve given out, I want to know that you’ve given the right people are receiving the help in the right way that they need. And that’s not a cookie cutter approach. So I think there’s a long way to go.
“We will chase the mission, not the funding.” -Jennifer Thompson
Jennifer Gray Thompson: I just want to amen all of that. One of the things that has been a guiding principle in our organisation is we will chase the mission, not the funding. Because the funding set really determines your programming, and it doesn’t often match exactly more. I mean, it’s better in the past year and a half. But before then, there was a huge disconnect between the need we were actually seeing in post disaster communities, and even for resiliency ahead of time, and then the conversation about what people were willing to fund from philanthropy to government funding. It really skews the entire conversation towards, it actually builds inequities into the system, side notes. With the Biden administration, there’s a new focus on building more equity, and we applaud that. We’re like, that is wonderful, thank you. But FEMA released an RFI request for input on equity. And so myself and my program director got on there to answer all of the questions that they had, and we have three master’s degrees in public policy. She also has an MBA and three undergraduate degrees between us and a lot of policy experience. And it took all of what we had to decipher, what are you even asking? And so by the third one, I was like, it just has to be said that we have all this education and experience, and I cannot imagine having less education and trying to navigate the questions you’re asking about access. And so I would like you to look right here, because this is it in action. It’s just an interesting human. I mean, I didn’t create a revolution or anything, but at least it’s in writing somewhere.
Renae Hanvin: 100%. I think there’s such a disconnect between that higher level policy and that grassroots, and we need to work together, we need to find that commonality in language. But also, everything we do is outcomes. I’m not interested in output. You’ll never see, very rarely, will you see for us, how many communities we’re working with, or how many businesses we’ve helped, because I don’t care about that. I want to have business communities that are ready and raring to go. So we are 100% focused on outcomes. I think that’s a really big gap from our government here because it’s very press release driven in terms of, we gave out x 100 million dollars of grants to x participants, and that’s going to get x, y, z. It shouldn’t be that way. It should be that these communities need x, y, z. And here’s the way we’re going to be there.
“Resilience now is such a buzzword and it’s in every piece of funding coming out. The problem is that we’ve got overnight resilience experts applying for this funding…. The damage from those overnight experts that are chasing the funding who have no idea about how community disasters impact recovery is frightening.” -Renae Hanvin
The biggest thing that I’ve noticed most recently is resilience. I was advocating federal state local governments to build preparedness and resilience for two years before the major bushfires here. Now, it’s not going to happen to us, not me, nothing, no, no. Resilience now is such a buzzword, and it’s in every piece of funding coming out. So the problem that we have over here is that we’ve got like overnight resilience experts applying for this funding. And if they have the capabilities to write well, they’re getting funding. I’m having conversations with not for profits and other leading organizations that I spoke to two years ago and we’re like, let’s collaborate and do things. And they’re like, oh, no, we do sustainability. We don’t do resilience. Now, they’re ringing me up saying, oh, we do resilience. And I was like, oh, wow, that’s amazing. How long have you been doing resilience then as a cultural strategic priority? Three weeks. It’s funny–
Jennifer Gray Thompson: It’s not funny.
Renae Hanvin: The damage from those overnight experts that are chasing the funding who have no idea about community disasters impacts recovery, that is frightening. So yeah, I’m quite bewildered by the sharks chasing the funding, and I’m possibly a little bit vocal about it when I need to be too.
Jennifer Gray Thompson: Well, but I think that there’s, we had this lesson this year where people started contacting me about this organization, I won’t name them, and they’re like, have you heard of them? Because they were very aggressive in their outreach, and they’re bad people to be clear, but this is not what they were tasked to do. And given all these state grants to do, they are not qualified to do by any stretch of the imagination. And so I got on a call with, not the CEO, but somebody high up and I was like, what are you doing? The damage that you can do from not knowing, and this person said to me: “Look, we didn’t even necessarily want these contracts. We applied for one on a whim, and we got it because of our background. But we have to actually turn around and say to the people, who are the practitioners on the ground? You are not x, y and z that we have been contracted for.” But the state actually threw another 16 contracts at them. They are like, they’re going to end this year. So I sent them contracts that they could apply for that they were qualified for and would do no harm. So I think that they sort of, I mean, it’s like looking at a gift albatross in the mouth where you’re like, well, no, I don’t want your $13 million. Of course they do. Exactly. Yeah, damage is, yeah, is big. And then a lot of people just rushing into the space because they’re chasing the money. And our position is, thank you. Welcome. We want you here with us too, but you have to be ethical. And I, no, no, no, I’m seeing the exact same thing.
“You got to bring the right people in at the right time for the right purpose.” -Renae Hanvin
Renae Hanvin: We’re about bringing the money and giving the money out, but we’re all about co design here. We’re our corporate community. Our models are collective models so we don’t have people just sitting, waiting with various experiences, we have a whole network of people with the right experience. Because in those communities, there’s everything from stakeholder engagement to risk compliance management, to risk reduction like expertise. You gotta bring the right people in at the right time for the right purpose, not just have these credible organizations and be great at what they’ve been doing for 20 years. But the harm is that’s the thing for me. If you can imagine those inexperienced, unskilled people in this sector are going into those communities and businesses, and business industries and the advice, it’s just going to be so harmful.
“The system has to be more responsive and listen. That’s hard to do when you are serving millions of people, but it doesn’t mean it’s impossible to do.” -Jennifer Thompson
Jennifer Gray Thompson: And not only to the people that they are tasked with serving. I talked to one of the people who is working for them because finally I was like, oh, it was one of these people. And what I saw was that the question is similar. I know, I know, this is why Brick Nelson was like, you two should know each other. What I saw was a person really traumatized, he was well aware of what he wasn’t qualified to do. And then he was like, he was in that stage where we’ve all seen posts disasters where people are like, I got to help, I got to do everything, I need to do everything. People need everything, and I don’t know how to do it. And so I’m googling madly, and he’d like veered way off even the mission that he was qualified for, to the mission that he wasn’t qualified for, to like all the way into housing and permitting. And I was like, yeah, first of all, you need to take care of yourself because that is not sustainable what’s happening to you now. But I’m not mad at anybody. But the system has to be more responsive. And yeah, it has to listen. That’s hard to do when you are serving literally millions of people, but it doesn’t mean it’s impossible to do.
Renae Hanvin: 100%. Again, we’ve been reaching out to, I mean our key focus is businesses, business and business industries, and business communities. And we’ve been reaching out to certain associations for a number of years saying, hey, let’s collaborate. And even though they didn’t have resilience on their agenda, they had other things in industrial relations. But now, they’re coming to us and saying, we tried to do something in response. And 30%, maybe 50% was really great. 50% didn’t work because we had the wrong people, so let’s now collaborate. And by collaborating with us, it’s like, well, great. So we know that there’s going to be a surge capacity whatever the next disaster impact is, wherever it will happen. So collaborate with us. We’ll help you with your secretariat in the good times, but we will get all those corporates that are your members to train their people so that when the bad times hit, you’re not sending in a director level person who just seems to want to do something different with their role into an environment that they’ve never experienced in. It’s disastrous for the corporate helping, but it’s also really disastrous for the community. So it goes back to preparedness and resilience, and that shared responsibility. We can all play a role. And if we prepare ourselves and set ourselves up for those times when a lot more support and help is going to be needed, let’s do it. It’s great people building, connection building, training, I think it’s a whole new skill set.
Jennifer Gray Thompson: I think that one of the things that you said that is so important is when you mentioned co designing, and I just wanted to highlight that for a minute because you’re all excited because it’s not that often that I know people I don’t know that many people like you and I who do very very similar things and have that kind of unique organization in this space that is very like bottom up. And no heroes, no saviors. You’re not even allowed. Don’t come near me. And because I understand the human response to want to be a hero and a savior, but it’s super functional. And re-traumatises the people in front of you if you do not keep your promises because you don’t even know how. So the co designing, we are so clear that we go into a community post disaster that we must listen, we do not want to lead their disaster. We don’t do that. We’re like, we’ll learn with you, and we will bring you resources and adaptable systems and refer to you. And we are here for community led and designed disaster recovery and resiliency. And you have to actually do recovery, do resiliency, it’s like everyone wants. Everyone talks about equity, but how do you actually do it instead of just checking the mark? So can you go in more deep into the concept of co design, because I think it’s critically important.
Renae Hanvin: Yes. So we’re a social enterprise here, which means we’re not a not for profit, but we’re not for profit, we’re in the middle. So our whole purpose is about building resilient businesses, helping communities thrive and leading collaborations. So the leading corporations, we see a really important role for us to advocate the top down kind of approach, but we do it with 100% commitment to that bottom up. So any program or project that we run, and we’ve winning like millions of dollars in grants to run projects and pilot projects, everything has a co-design approach.
“There’s no one that understands the community more than the community itself.” -Renae Hanvin
So we set up working groups in the local government areas or the regions, we invite the council, the emergency services and not for profits, the business chambers, that are a whole cohort of local experts, and we have conversations with them for like a couple of months before we start implementing anything to really understand. So we’ve just won one on Kangaroo Island, which is in South Australia, a beautiful island that just got us absolutely decimated from the bushfires and lost half of their environmental plantations. And that, yeah, it’s 18 months, we’re just about to start going in to help them because they’re almost ready. Now, we know that they’re not going to come out like the businesses, they’re not going to come out for someone coming in to say, let’s talk about business resents. So we’re working with people on the ground there. I’m like, okay, well, let’s have a bingo night at the pub, and let’s call out bingo numbers relating to resilience. And they’re like, what? And it’s like, well, we need to co design and come to you and work with what’s already working in the community. So I’m not going to roll up and go, hey, here’s Renae Hanvin, let’s talk about business resilience and preparedness. Now, let’s say, well, where are you meeting? What are you doing? What’s important to you? Having those conversation that needs lead because there’s no one that understands the community more than the community itself in saying that there are communities within communities.
So my background is stakeholder engagement, which is absolutely fundamental for the conversations and the planning, and the response and recovery because you’ve got to understand the loudest is not always right, it’s usually not right. The quiet person sitting in the corner that you watch everyone else just looks to see how they’re responding and then how they respond, the others respond. So you’ve got to pick out those. I understand those people within the communities. And then really, find those vulnerable people and ask them, what do you need? And there’s a perceived need, and there’s a real need, and then there’s the assumption of who should deliver that. So we have a lot of conversations in communities with businesses. And it’s like, that’s what you need. Love that you’ve identified that. You think the council should do that for you. I’m going to tell you, no, they shouldn’t. So let’s work out how you as a group, as a business group can do that yourselves. And that’s the exciting part because I think once I understand the roles of all the different players, the needs that they have, they can then start that process and journey to say, okay, we need to empower ourselves, and we need help. So we bring in partners in that, but we need to lead the direction that’s right for us to get to the outcome that’s right for us. And that’s really different in every community, so you can’t do that cookie cutter.
Jennifer Gray Thompson: You can’t, and as soon as I say like, even sometimes, they’ll say that the local community leaders. It’s happened again this year where they’ll say, hey, you know what? I really want to do is you’ll tell us how to do this. You can take over that. I’m always like, no, actually, what I’m going to do is teach you how to do it. We’re actually going to break here for a minute because we have a little commercial break. And if you haven’t yet hit like, subscribe or follow, please do so, and we will be back in just a few seconds under 30. Thank you.
Jennifer Gray Thompson: So welcome back to the podcast on today’s show. I’m so happy to have back Renae Hanvin, the Founder and Director of corporate2community. She’s based in Melbourne, Australia. So thank you again. We were just getting into the, I want to get right back to it because I love this topic, even in the trauma response and somebody is asking you to do a bigger role, when you’re talking about being ready to come in 18 months, if that’s something you’re really ready for you. Can you talk about long term disaster and how a trauma response at the beginning does not look the same 12 to 18 months out. And people who do this work have to bear that in mind that people may ask you to do stuff that’s not your place, and is not actually what’s best for them in the long term or their community.
Renae Hanvin: I mentioned just before the break that my background is stakeholder engagement and stakeholder relations. So I guess I’ve got a lot of years behind me to understand the people. I can pick up the cues in terms of what people are saying, but what they’re really saying and then who’s not saying it. So I mentioned before that I’m really interested in those that are not saying the other thing that I’m always first to look out for is, who’s not in the room? Who’s missing? Who hasn’t been invited? Or who hasn’t decided to turn up, and why not? So I’ll be there ticking lists and mapping them all out. But I think the reality is that every community is different, and every community can prepare differently. Every community has different responses and levels of resilience, and every community recovers differently. And then people in those communities recover differently too. So you can’t necessarily take a whole community and say, bang, we’re going to do this weekend workshop, and you’re resilient. So it’s got to be an evolving process. We’ve seen a lot of really great communities up in the [inaudible], they’ve had leaders in their communities who’ve set up like music festivals. So every year, they have a music festival. Now, that’s partly about having music, partly about bringing the community together, but they use that specifically to test their fire response systems. It’s a great idea.
Jennifer Gray Thompson: I love that.
Renae Hanvin: Yeah, like September, October, just before going into the next bushfire season here. And they have it. So they test the partners, they test the emergency services, they have a meeting. And so the process of planning for the music festival is actually about planning for the potential recovery at the same time. So I think there are many, many ways. We like to work on things as do it yourself, do it with you, or do it together. We never ever, ever go into anything that’s a do it for you. We’ll help you, but we never do it for you. So we taught the language and how we approach things. It’s like, well, this is what you might like to do, so how about you go and do that? And those that are willing, happy and have the skills to do that can do that. Others, it’s like, well, let us help facilitate a session or something with the random people in the community, and we’ll see if we can find a commonality. And the commonality might be just that everyone’s got a mobile phone.
So we start there. So we find that, okay, y’all hate each other, and y’all want different things. We’ve all got our mobile phones, so how can we use the mobile phone to connect or to communicate? Or what’s that purpose? And then the other thing is to do it together. So it’s like, we’ve identified that it’s not Council’s responsibility to do this, or they can play that role so let’s come together and then work out who’s going to do what, and collectively we get to that outcome. And I think they’re three really good ways to sort of approach the strategic aspects of it, because it’s never about me, and it’s never about me not wanting to help. Because I tell you, I want to help every person that I meet, exactly like you. But I can’t, and I also am very aware of where I fit in the pie. I’m not an emergency responder, I’m not a government support worker, I’m not a red cross support worker. So knowing who I can connect people with, and that’s a big part of what we do too. It’s like, I get what you’re saying. I can’t help you, but I know who can and you follow that up. So you connect them in the right direction.
Jennifer Gray Thompson: All those promises. If you say, follow up, you must be accountable. And I think that that’s like it has to be such an internal core value of an organization like yours or mine.
Renae Hanvin: 100%. You always close the loop. Even with the media, you always close the loop in the sense that you always want to make sure that you can take that task or that need, and that you’re comfortable, and you know that they’re in the hands of other people, or that they’re doing it themselves, or 100% so important because there’s nothing worse for a community that is recovering, and then particularly recovering while they’re also in the middle of another one. So like COVID on top of bushfires, they know there’s going to be more. If you leave them hanging in limbo, that’s the worst thing you do. You’re better off not going in there in the first place.
Jennifer Gray Thompson: How do you address though, that call you sort of talked about this earlier that a lot of grant making organizations and the government that they want to know like, what numbers? I just got this question from a philanthropy group the other day, they love our work and they’re so happy, but they have to put something down on paper and go, how are you going to work in community X? It’s a community that we’re working in now. I said, you know what? He’s like, what’s that gonna look like over the next year? And I said: “I don’t know yet because I have listened, and I have to see the levers of recovery. They’re not the same for every community. Now we want to case study it and document it, but I’m not going to sit here and tell you specifically, it’s X, Y, and Z when they mean like D, F and G.” I have to actually listen, that’s an uncomfortable place for funders though to live. Because currently, I have to do their due diligence. How do you deal with that?
Renae Hanvin: Yeah. So I have two key questions. I always go back and say, why is that important? Why are the numbers important? And I find that a really interesting approach, because then, they think about, well, why are they important? And I think that to me goes back to the outcome versus the outputs. So I then have lead the conversation into, is it more important for me to help 2000 families, or move the whole community to this point? So I find it, it’s an education process. And then if they say, well, we have to have numbers in the submission. And like we have to submit numbers into certain grant programs, I do really teeny tiny numbers, I just do big big outcomes. And so I say, well, what do you think the numbers to be? Or what do you need the numbers to be? And if those numbers sound possible, I go, okay, we’ll do our best, and we’ll aim to try and meet those numbers, but we’re delivering to the outcome. Because what that does too is sometimes, they don’t know what the numbers have to be. So when you go back to them to say, well, why do you need numbers? And what do you want them to be? They get to the point where they’re like, well, it’s not really about numbers, is it? Like, no. So then you can kind of help them in that education part to go back to their funders and say, why do we need these numbers? Or do we really need those numbers? Or can’t we just focus on this being the outcome that after two years of working with these communities, we go from x to y. And yes, you can have participants and all that kind of thing. But again, every community is different, and not everything works in all the communities. That’s okay too.
Jennifer Gray Thompson: Actually, I’m going to totally take that advice. Because I, I found myself avoiding those conversations because I don’t want to make a promise or say, I’m going to do something to a funder, either that I don’t know yet is possible. So I’d rather show them like, over the past four years, here’s what we have done, here’s where we have been, here’s what we’re learning. And yes, what we believe will happen. But in our case, I’m like, I need you to understand that the prevalence of mega fires and compound disasters here is not pretty new. And yeah, I really don’t want to, I will not fudge that. And so I love that answer. I’m totally going to try that out because that’s been a point of confusion. And sometimes, I’m like, is there something wrong with me, that that’s not at all where I think the direction should be? I also like saying to them, I’m so glad you’re here and that you want to come along for this journey, like you can come along too with this journey with us. You can call me any time or ask for just a snapshot of how it’s going there, and what are you seeing and what are the long term recovery? What are we hearing? And also what are really cool things they are doing. I was so pleased the other day because we’re working in a little town called Greenville. You probably saw in the news, it burned down like 90%. I was all excited the other day because some other partners that we’re working with in Malibu, they were like, do you know about Greensburg, Kansas? They rebuilt and they were about the same size. And I sent all the information off to Greenville, and then I got a text that night from a supervisor. They’d already sent a delegation, they already knew this. And so maybe it gave me chills of joy because they were ahead of me. That means that they’re not always going to be ahead. But I was like, oh, because they have capacity. Even though they’re a tiny rural community, they have enough emergent leaders that we can support them in other ways, but they’re also dedicated to innovating their way out of this. It was just a wonderful moment. A funder doesn’t want to hear that though too.
Renae Hanvin: 100%. And I think like, again, I go to funders, or corporates, or anyone who wants to come on board. And I’m like, why? What do you want out of this? So really clearly in the conversations, I have that really direct like, let’s just call a spade a spade. So what do you want? Do you want a brand reputation? Do you want to be in press releases? Do you want your staff to think that you’re amazing as an employer of choice because you’re helping here? Or are you doing it silently and you don’t really want anyone to know? Because I think if you can understand that from the funder perspective early, you can then understand what you need to share back with them or what they need. I guess, get the internal approvals and for their job to be sort of shining as well. And I think it’s a really good way to set it up right from the start. So when you talk about the money, great, you’re going to give us X million dollars or whatever. Amazing. We can do so much for that. What do you actually want to see from it? So what do you want? And then you can have, again, it’s education as well because a lot of people, so a lot of corporates, were finding us to put big millions of dollars into trust funds waiting for the next disaster. So when the next disaster happened, and that we had a fair few years there that there were no major ones, dare I say. So then when the bushfires happened, there were billions and 10, 20, $30 million sitting in these trust funds.
“You can’t change a community culture overnight. You’ve got to do it gradually.” -Renae Hanvin
So we’re having conversations now with these corporates to say, well, why don’t you reallocate it to a resilience building initiative or something like that. They like, oh, well, that’s not going to get the same media coverage. Communities won’t know that we’re there to help when something happens. I was like, they’ll know that you’re helping them before, which I think is more important. We can remind them when the disaster happens that you’ve been helping them before. But tracking that and getting the social impact measurement is really hard. Because again, we’re giving $10 million at the time of disaster, which is that quick snap. Over three years, we’re giving $20 million to go from A to B, but we’re not going to find the measurements, and you can’t change a community in a culture overnight so you’ve got to do it gradually.
Jennifer Gray Thompson: I have to highlight that, because it’s the reason why people don’t really like to enter into long term disaster recovery. Because it is a slog, it is a grind, and it is not that sexy.You and I’ve talked about this before, but people are more interested in it sort of at the tail end of the pandemic entering into an endemic where they’re like, oh, well, maybe this does take years, and maybe they’re more, and we are seeing a major shift. I do credit COVID, so some good things will come out of that. But it’s not a quick hit, that’s for sure. It’s a long slog. But the results though that is like doing resiliency as opposed to doing heroics.
Renae Hanvin: 100%. And look, I absolutely agree with you. I think after the bushfires, and after tornadoes, and after storms, and all that kind of here, if it wasn’t for COVID, nothing would have changed. I’m not joking, even though we have had multiple compounds, those quick impact ones, it would have been the same. COVID has been horrific, and you never would want anything like that in a million years. But I think that’s been the game changer, particularly in the business community sense too because of COVID impacting businesses, which impact livelihoods that impact lives. And I think that’s where the focus around, well hang on a minute, we have to think differently, and we have to do differently. We’ve got to prepare better, but it is taking longer to recover. But we don’t want it to take that long to recover. So if we get ready more before, that’s why I think, the COVID has enabled a mindset shift and a funding shift, which I think is a really, really positive thing. And again, you would not wish it at all, but I just hope that it lasts. I hope it’s not like they say that the pandemic lasts for three years. I hope it’s not when the pandemic finishes that we all just go back to that, oh, no, it won’t happen again. We’ll be right. We’ll just do that reactive kind of approach and funding. I really hope it’s the start of a cultural change across the globe in the sense of just having more awareness, and education, and capability building to be able to get prepared, and then know how to adapt.
“One of the great challenges and lessons and ironies of COVID is that the world requires we do a group project when we are the most divided.” -Jennifer Thompson
Jennifer Gray Thompson: One of the great challenges, lessons and ironies of COVID is that when the world requires we do a group project, we are the most divided. I don’t think those things are much of a coincidence. But I hope that by year three, maybe which we’re going to enter into pretty soon, that we start to sort of take those lessons. I was thinking about this recently when I was watching with the surf, you may have seen it. A condo collapsed in Florida, and a lot of there like 150 people, middle of the night collapses. And what I noticed is that when people were talking about it on television, and FEMA did go in and offer assistance, nobody was like, can you please tell me your political background before I pull your relatives out of the rubble? Can you please tell me how much you make a year? And can you identify your demographic and see whether or not I’m on your team or you’re on my team? And instead, it was like Team Human. I like Team Human. I mean, that’s a place I can totally live. I may have completely different politics from somebody, but I can shake their hand. And as long as we agree on the playing field which seems to be in play over here anyway, that we’re going to be fine on the other side. So maybe in year three, that’ll be the case. I have recounted that analogy many times to people who are also coming to me and saying, we definitely want to help in a disaster, but we have a very narrow group of people that are willing to help. And sometimes, I can find that swath of people that they’re interested in, and I’m happy to connect with them. And other times, I’m like, well, that’s not the people who actually are in the rubble. So what are you gonna do with like, I’m looking at the rubble in front of me, and those are the people that we need to serve. I’m sure that that will happen.
Renae Hanvin: Yeah, 100%. And again, I go back to one of my favorite questions is, why? If people are coming to help and they’ve got that prenotion in terms of how they want that help to help? That’s based on their own level of education and experience in the space. And most of those funders are not disaster response or recovery experts. So I think that now’s a really great time for that education around, okay, that’s what you say you want, but why do you want that? Because then, you could educate them to go, well, did you know that these are other needs, and these are other groups as well. And some have their clauses or their governance processes, and that’s all they can do. So that’s what it is. But the majority of them, they just don’t know. They have this perception of what they should be doing, but they don’t know of what the real needs is. And now, I’d see to see where all about needs lead. So I will never go into any grant program, or going present, or pitch, or ask for funding on something that is just a fly pie in the sky idea. Everything for us has to be grassroots community needs lead, and real needs, not perceived needs, and then we are off and running.
“Everything we do has to have an outcome and that it’s delivering directly to a need.” -Renae Hanvin
So everything we do has to have an outcome that it’s delivering directly to a need. We’re waiting to hear about a couple of big grants, but one of them is focused on setting communities up to receive goodwill. Before, not just during, but setting them up to receive that help before. We’re not putting the small businesses out of business that didn’t get impacted by the disaster, but the wealth of free food and donations that come in after the bushfires put them out of business because no one bought from them. So setting up the systems and processes so that we can give better, we can help better, we’re helping before, and then we’re not harmfully helping in the during as well. So big education piece.
Jennifer Gray Thompson: It is amazing how much harm is accidental and comes from great intentions. We saw that in our fires after, I may have mentioned this before, that this sort of food place anyway, this hot meals place continued to go for months, but it undermined accidentally all the small businesses around it that actually we needed some money to circulate in the economy. So we’re not saying that there shouldn’t always be a place to go get a free lunch. I’m okay with that. But like the amount and the number in the outreach, it was so like, well, why would I go spend money at the Latino market over there when I can go right next door, exactly free.
Renae Hanvin: 100%. In that constant, like the wildfires, or the bush fires, or the disaster, for that little general store that’s been the epicenter of that community, it’s actually the aftermath of the free roll ups, that’s the disaster for that business. And the disaster for that business then becomes a disaster for the community when that business goes under because they can’t keep trading. And then that whole town after the impact and everyone’s packed up and left, that town doesn’t have a general store. So then all those people then have to drive kilometers, miles to get essential products and services because they can’t recover and come back. That’s the disaster to it.
Jennifer Gray Thompson: And then you’ve lost a community member or like an element of the community where people gather, people talk or people connect, and that’s often we talked about this before in a small business. And yeah, there are ways that, but you’re right, if you build it ahead of time, then you’ll know what to do. It’s not going to be perfect, it’s not going to go exactly as you thought it was going to but it has a much better chance of coming out the other side with your community intact. And that includes your small businesses, because the other thing that kind of went wrong in that situation was like every policymaker would go there and then take a photo of themselves. And like, oh, I’m giving out free. And you’re like, oh, my God, you know it, or you’re also ruining the small business right next door. I know you don’t mean it that way, but you’re also in charge of all the decisions. It was like, it’s hard to get mad at people for thinking that they’re doing the exact right thing, but it can be infuriating in the space of disaster when you’re like, did you ask? Did you do a community assessment to ask the other stakeholders who are not at the table like you do?
“It’s got to start with the need. Ask the community, get permission from the community, and then support the community.” -Renae Hanvin
Renae Hanvin: Exactly. I’ve done a lot of consequence, stakeholder mapping for the Victoria emergency services department and government bodies and whatnot, and everything has a consequence. So every decision you make, it has a risk, and it has a consequence. So you might decide to stand in front of a certain shot and say a certain message. And the consequence of that might be that the message you’re saying impacts that shop, and then they lose sales. Or the fire truck comes and parks outside of the driveway, which the consequence means that no customers can get in and out of the carwash or something like that. So I think it’s, again, it’s that understanding and having clarity, and really sort of resonating and recognising where you are and what you’re wanting to do, and who that can impact because it can have really devastating impacts positive but also negative. And I think, in that instant response when the politicians are rolling into town, it’s happy snap land and everyone’s coming to help. But the reality is that they want your help, they asked for your help, are you helping them with what they need? Or are you just literally there for yourself? Because so much is about, will I want to help? So I’m telling you what you need, or I’m telling you that I’m here, who quite frankly, who cares? Like it’s got to go the other way, it’s got to be starting with what’s the need, asking the community, getting permission from the community, and then supporting the community.
Jennifer Gray Thompson: And I think the community has a good opportunity here to come down and actually ask also, because they will say like, a social media can be such a gift to the community and a disaster or in any situation. But it can also be such a huge liability where it’s like, well, why aren’t you doing this perfectly just for me in the way that I want you to in the time period I have set forth. And so politicians and leaders in particular build a sort of toxic circular relationship where they are trying to feel, trying to hyper like, yes, I’m doing all of this, there’s almost no time to ask the people who aren’t as vocal. Is this what you needed? Why is this effective? Instead, you have to move on to the next demand that, I like to say, when we demand God’s may inherit monsters. And if that’s kind of the space that I think that we’re in politically, it’s so image based, and so not outcomes based. I think that that’s just preaching to your choir, but I think social media certainly contributes to it.
Renae Hanvin: Well, social media has just put everything in a whole other kind of context too as well because you can have, someone can put up one tiny comment that’s completely personal out of context, and that blows up, and then the whole community gets impacted by it. I think moving back to your comment about the politicians, images and whatnot. In Australia, not the bushfires or others, but the COVID has just been political.
I don’t know how to say this without saying the root of the word so I won’t say that. I think you might have to bleep it over there because I know you have words you can and can’t say. But it’s just been a nightmare because the whole COVID response is political. We are locked down because our state kind of politician is different from the federal politicians. So they just fight and just like being known armwrestling each other, and then we’re the ones who were like locked down not being able to do anything. And I think I’ve kind of joked to certain people. It’s not my role to lead this, but I’ve certainly mentioned to people that we need a national referendum whereby emergency resilience and response is taken away from our states and goes to the federal level. And I’m not saying it’s right for every country. But over here, it’s just been despicable how we’ve been treated and what support that we have to get through COVID. And then what other states around the country have like, it’s ridiculous, and it’s just politically led, it’s 1,000% politically led. And I think even to the point where, and I’m sure I mentioned last time, bushfires go out of state lines, but the trucks can’t. You get to a border, and the fire truck can’t go over and help the people because we have different laws, different governance, different ways to put the fire out. So it’s ludicrous. In my view, it should be a national approach that we’re all Australians, we all deserve to have the same level of preparedness, the best level we can, and the same response in any type of disaster. So I think that’s a fair way off, though.
“Until I made myself visible, people were invariably going to be wrong.” -Jennifer Thompson
Jennifer Gray Thompson: Well, it is a fair way off, but there has to be something good that comes out of this. And I will say that working in a disaster, I resisted having to bring people along in the story of what we do when we got on deployments because I was like, why would I go in there and take a selfie, because I flippin hated that during our disasters. And then I realized in the past couple of years that I have to go in and do that because people need to root for somebody. They need to root for a person. I have a very conflicted relationship with that reality like, I just want to acknowledge that I totally have not resolved that feeling. But I have reconciled the fact that until I made myself visible, I’m going to tell your story for you, and they were invariably going to be wrong. So yeah.
“There’s a fine balance and as long as you do [social media] respectfully, it’s helping others.” -Renae Hanvin
Renae Hanvin: I think we’re so similar, which is why I love always catching up. And again, Brick Nelson connected us. Yeah, love, love, love. I’m the same. I hate taking photos of myself. I go into communities and businesses, and it’s about them. It’s not about me. But when they started saying to me, we trust you, we know what you’re doing. We know what your intent is so you need to be sharing that with others. We’re in the process of rebranding, got some really exciting things coming up at the start of next year. And the whole premise around it is about humanizing us to help you because in many ways, people say to me, well, you’re like the favorite primary school teacher because everyone wants to be in your class because you’re sort of engaging, and we know that you want to help us learn. But you also enable us to get there at our own pace. And I’m like, wow, yeah, okay, that’s exactly the sort of person I want to be in space. But then only those who come into my class would know that. But ultimately, the whole school community should know that. So it’s hard personal. I don’t feel comfortable at all, but I think there’s a fine balance. And as long as you do it respectfully, I think helping others, it’s okay.
Jennifer Gray Thompson: Yeah, I love our parallel paths in that way. You’ve been in this longer than I have, but it is like the state of the world, though, is in the same place. I can talk to you for another like two hours, because in some ways, it’s like a colleague experience that I don’t often have. I do have it with my colleague, Charles Brooks from Rebuild Paradise Foundation. My staff is great, but we’re such a unique organization, and you’re such a unique organization. And I will say that it’s been nice to hear people actually get it for the first time in the past couple of years, or less than the last six months in particular, they’re like, I’m still doing that. Okay. But I just really appreciate you, Renae. I love that we’re both on Team Human and all the way in. I’m hoping that we make this a thing that we do maybe every 6 to 12 months, even like there has always been an open invitation for you to be on this podcast, or just to jump on a Zoom call to catch up. And then there are no cameras anywhere.
Renae Hanvin: I love chatting with you. And again, I think we are exactly on the same path. I think we’ve got so many things in common, and I love what you’re doing, and catching up with him on Facebook. And that even though we’re many, many, many miles away, I feel like I’m a little part of following your story. What you’re doing over there is just amazing as well. People like us are needed, so I think we need to support each other and competently compliment each other and help each other to continue. And who knows, maybe one day when everything, we get out of whatever, lockdown. 48.0, and the world perhaps goes back to a dare I say a little bit normal, we can catch up face to face because that will be released.
Jennifer Gray Thompson: We just got to travel partner. I won’t say who it is, but that may be possible. So yeah, we’ll get all the confirmation in another 30 days, but it’s a really nice, huge difference in our ability to take delegations, but also they were like, you need to go to conferences, and like we do it for free. And I’m like, oh, I’d like to go see Renae in Australia.
Renae Hanvin: Let’s make it happen. I recommend some white paper or research project that we need to do.
Jennifer Gray Thompson: Once again, our guest today on the podcast is Renae Hanvin. She is the Founder and Director of corporate2community, and she is a good friend of After the Fire, a wonderful colleague and a thought leader in this space. So we are going to drop all of her information in the links, and we highly encourage you to check out her website. She too has a podcast and doing disasters differently, and we highly encourage you to listen in on that as well and support her work. So thank you again.
Renae Hanvin: Thanks so much. So great to chat with you. We’ll see you again.
Jennifer Gray Thompson: See you again soon.