I’ve been invited by PopTech and the Rockefeller Foundation to give the opening remarks at an upcoming event on interdisciplinary dimensions of resilience, which is being hosted at Georgetown University. This event is connected to their new program focus on “Creating Resilience Through Big Data.” I’m absolutely de-lighted to be involved and am very much looking forward to the conversations. The purpose of this blog post is to summarize the presentation I intend to give and to solicit feedback from readers. So please feel free to use the comments section below to share your thoughts. My focus is primarily on disaster resilience. Why? Because understanding how to bolster resilience to extreme events will provide insights on how to also manage less extreme events, while the converse may not be true.
One of the guiding questions for the meeting is this: “How do you understand resilience conceptually at present?” First, discourse matters. The term resilience is important because it focuses not on us, the development and disaster response community, but rather on local at-risk communities. While “vulnerability” and “fragility” were used in past discourse, these terms focus on the negative and seem to invoke the need for external protection, overlooking the fact that many local coping mechanisms do exist. From the perspective of this top-down approach, international organizations are the rescuers and aid does not arrive until these institutions mobilize.
Phi Beta Iota: Dr. Meier is one of the most gifted people we know. There are three missing pieces. First, this concept of resilience is reactive. It seeks to prepare for rapid information-sharing and sense-making if and when. Our focus is on leveraging big historical, cultural, and practical data in order to be pro-active — to avoid paving over watersheds, releasing toxins, etcetera. The second missing piece is on the over-all urgency of using big data to rapidly identify and eradicate information pathologies — lies are like sand in the gears of a complex delicate machine. Third and finally, the international crisis mapping network is focused on open source software and hardware, but not on spreading the meme of Open Source Everything (OSE). In combination, OSE and a commitment to M4IS2 (Multinational, Multiagency, Multdisciplinary, Multidomain Information-Sharing and Sense-Making), with a strong appreciation for harvesting history across all perspectives, are the foundation for both resilience and for creating prosperity.