Organizing in Disaster-Vulnerable Environments: Emerging Role of Grassroots, Entrepreneurs, and Corporate Players in Resilience Building

To create resilient communities in disaster-vulnerable environments, the ‘big vision’ for the research community is to tell the multiple narratives of the private actors helping make the Philippines resilient. The goal is to have an organic interdisciplinary, multi-stakeholder, and representative network of private actors who can openly exchange knowledge and collaborate on impact-oriented projects on disaster resilience through research, capacity building, mentorship, and/or white papers.

This is the core discussion during a round table discussion in the 6th National Business and Management Conference.

The main objective of the round table discussion was to bring together various stakeholders beyond the academia to discuss the ongoing efforts of private actors in resilience building, and consequently to identify areas of collaboration between the academia and the private actors.

Representatives from the government, the civic community, private sector, and the academia were present, with the following members leading the discussions:

  • Angelo Hernan Melencio, Consortium Manager, Tuklas Innovation Labs PH
  • Carl Vincent Caro, Geo-Hazard and Spatial Information Manager, Philippine Disaster Resilience Foundation
  • Veronica Gabaldon, Executive Director, Philippine Disaster Resilience Foundation
  • Trina Aspuria, Philippine Disaster Resilience Foundation
  • Edwin Pasahol, Senior Trade and Development Specialist, Department of Trade and Industry – Bureau of Small and Medium Enterprise Development
  • Rachel Quiero, Associate Professorial Lecturer, Management and Organization Department – De La Salle University
  • Raymond Paderna, Assistant Professorial Lecturer, Decision Sciences and Innovation Department – De La Salle University

There is an increasing need to highlight the self-organizing capacity of communities during disasters. The ability of communities to address their constraints and come up with innovative solutions during disasters have been highlighted in management and disasters literature. This is further reinforced by the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) (2015-2030), which highlights the importance of a systemic approach to DRR with emphasis on the take-up of responsibility of all stakeholders beyond national and local government. The core rationale for the round table discussion is that while the government is responsible, it is not solely responsible for making the country resilient to disasters.

The tangible target is to create a sub-center on resilient organizing under the Center for Business Research and Development (CBRD). The sub-center will be focused on knowledge creation that is grounded on the experience of private actors. To begin the work on creating the sub-center, the round table will serve as the impetus for engaging the stakeholders.

The key questions for the round table discussion thus center on: (a) who the private actors are, (b) what their respective roles are, (c) how their role may be leveraged in making the country resilient to disasters, and (d) what themes the research community should be tackling to help them in their respective roles.

The representatives surfaced the insights below, which are deemed to be actionable items from the side of the research community:

  • It is important to clarify that there is already an existing platform that already allows an exchange among the non-government sector (note that instead of using the term ‘private actors’, ‘non-government sector’ is the current nomenclature used to describe non-government actors that are engaged in DRR. An example of the platform is Connecting Business Initiative (CBI). On that note, there is no need to make multi-sector platforms redundant. Instead, it is highly encouraged to use existing platforms, which the research community can join.
  • Another non-government actor that can be included in the discussions is the media.
  • The non-government sector possesses rich data which may be made accessible to the academia. The private sector specifically hosts data that is largely available to the academia. The research community, however, can leverage its position by subjecting the data into analysis, and consequently contributing to the generalization of findings at both the data and analytical levels. To this end, the non-government sector expressed the need to go beyond descriptions and existing indicators.

The most critical point that was raised includes an identification of research themes that the non-government sector deems most helpful for their existing initiatives. The following are the themes/topics identified by the non-government sector:

  • What new designs can we contemplate for greater magnitude of hazards, i.e. earthquakes?
  • What kind of ‘futures’ should the community anticipate, and how can that knowledge be used to prepare for resilience?
  • What is the media’s role in the post-truth era? How can the role of media be leveraged to safeguard the truth?
  • How can we continue to close the gap between the existing disconnection between practice and theory in disaster management?
  • How can we espouse culture-sensitive interventions in disaster management? An example raised in this regard involves the ‘death of bayanihan’ due to incentivization/monetization of volunteerism in local communities.
  • What is the role of innovation in disaster resilience, and how can the Philippines leverage the transformative capacity of innovation? This relates to the position of the Philippines as continuously being ranked within Top 10 of most vulnerable nations to natural and man-made hazards. Can the Philippines move back on the vulnerability scale if it can harness its innovative capacity?
  • How can we understand better the ‘resilient-seeking behavior’ of policy-makers? What goes into the policy formulation, community-level interventions, and business continuity initiatives? How do we understand them beyond the policy rhetoric?
  • What are the implications of existing regulations, e.g. Safety Law, in resilience building?
  • Considering that the Philippines is a religious country, faith-based organizations have played a role in disaster management. On that note, it would be interesting to explore the role they play in resilience building.

The roundtable discussion concluded with notes on the plans to establish the sub-center for Organizing in Disaster Environments under the institutional umbrella of CBRD. Exchange of contact details was also encouraged, so that whenever there are events or opportunities to collaborate, every member can reach out. Likewise, if the non-government sector finds the need to commission studies, they can contact CBRD.