Resiliency Toolkit for Creating Community Hubs in Case of Climate Disaster
Here is a template for building community and gathering resources to inspire critical climate resiliency action in preparation for hurricanes in Miami. This proposal can serve as a template you can follow to write a grant application to create your own resiliency toolkit for your community.
A gathering of community members planning their resilience strategy in a sustainable building surrounded by South Florida wilderness. Image made in collaboration with Midjourney AI.
Part I. Research Introduction
Community centers like urban farms are strategically positioned to become Community Resilience Hubs during times of crisis that make critical difference in the first week after a major disaster. They just need the clarity of a plan like this one, investment power, and a champion for implementing these measures. The strategy in this case study is focused on Hurricanes in South Florida but its framework could apply to many places. I encourage you to customize this Resiliency Toolkit to create your own Community Resilience Hub in the Case of a Climate Disaster.
The inspiration for this project came from my time as a CLEAR (Community Leadership on the Environment, Advocacy, and Resilience — Apply here!) Fellow for Catalyst Miami in 2020 during our session with Veronica Perez from Miami-Dade Office of Emergency Management. The last time Miami had a big hurricane was Category 4 Irma in 2017 and most of the trees in my neighborhood fell on people’s cars. Threat of another worse impact loomed. Cautious about what the future might hold, I started studying success stories from Puerto Rico’s response to Category 5 Maria in 2017. Two stories stood out and each one exemplified the two building blocks of a thriving response: BUILDING COMMUNITY and GATHERING RESOURCES.
1. ON BUILDING COMMUNITY. The essay “Community Is Our Best Chance” By Christine E. Nieves Rodriguez from the book All We Can Save (2020) shared a story of how a community in the mountains came together to provide energy, cooking, and assistance amid system failures. I was fascinated by analyzing the variables that lead to this community catalyzing: a strong social network, kitchen resources, energy infrastructure, etc. You can watch her TEDtalk to hear more about how Christina has grown the Community Kitchen that sprung up after Maria into an Education Hub project for Puerto Rican youth.
2. ON GATHERING RESOURCES. In the Netflix series “Down to Earth with Zac Efron” Puerto Rico (TV Episode 2020), Casa Sol BnB in the capital city San Juan became a resource in peak crisis because they have certifications for environmental measures as part of their business incentives: water catchment systems, solar energy, etc. When all of San Juan’s city-wide infrastructure collapsed, they were a resource for neighbors to charge their phones and more.
After doing work-trade in permaculture ecovillages like Finca Morpho and Pachamama Nosara in Costa Rica during the pandemic and seeing how resilient they were amid global chaos, I decided to attend Heartland Collective’s Permaculture Design Certification taught by superstars Ryan Rising and Sarah Wu in California in 2021. I received a merit scholarship to develop this climate resiliency project you’re reading now which I was then calling “A Climate Resiliency Toolkit for Urban Farms.” Here are the 12 Permaculture Design Principles which are a great paradigm to apply to designing anything and everything. Beyond these principles, there are two secret golden rules in Permaculture: 1. “the problem is the solution” and 2. When in doubt, try “stacking functions.” I learned ways one can design for resilience. A system can hold its ability to function in the face of change and shocks if it is designed to be:
1. flexible (roles and methods can adapt)
2. redundant (multiple elements serve multiple functions)
3. decentralized (there are pockets of autonomous decision-making that interconnect in a network rather than depend on a hierarchy)
I hope these insights serve you as you design what works for resiliency in your community. Since the PDC, I have considered applying for grants to implement this idea across many locations. I made some moves to build rapport with the local urban farms like Little River Cooperative, Greenhaven Project, Earth n Us Farms, and Finca Morada because they are all located in strategic locations across Miami to reach vulnerable communities. While those relationships grow, and this proposal lands in fertile soil, I hope to see some successful grant applications in the future for similar projects from you readers. I currently do not own an urban farm, yet I do want to create an urban eco-community inspired by Aguacate Sanctuary near me in Kendall, Lee Pivnik’s forthcoming Symbiotic House, and Huerto Roma Verde in Mexico City. I know for sure I want to prioritize designing for resiliency in Miami in the case of a climate disaster. For now, I want to share this vine of an idea with all who can find it valuable so it can propagate. Take your cuttings, please!
Part II. Template for a DIY Resiliency Toolkit
Preparation Phase: Building Community & Gathering Resources
STEP 1: Identify the stakeholders in your strategy.
Who will be impacted? Who is invested or could be interested in investing in your plan? It may be useful to use the zone concept from Permaculture Design to map your stakeholders from Zone 0 (yourself) to Zone 5 (the whole city or country) relative to use and proximity.
STEP 2: Gather your stakeholders to learn and take direct action together.
A. Gather a circle for a Community Mapping Exercise with your reachable stakeholders where everyone shares their Needs and Assets out loud, or document these on on a physical or digital community board. It can be as easy as a shared Google Doc, a Facebook group, and a Whats App or Telegram group chat.
B. Host a community workshop to build your own Home Preparedness Kit.
D. Decide Headquarters during the storm and where the Resilience Hub can set up in the Aftermath.
E. Assess who can volunteer to lead certain initiatives in the Resilience Hub.
F. Set up a Mutual Aid Fund and identify grants for community support to develop the Resilience Hub and help community members impacted by disaster.
BONUS STRATEGY: Shift lifestyles to reduce the impact of Climate Change.
Implement ways to offset your carbon footprint by either cutting out excess consumption (less plastic, less gasoline, etc.) and/or paying organizations to offset your carbon footprint by planting trees, replenishing coral, etc. (e.g. only.one). Through your choices you can spread climate change awareness to motivate others to take action with sustainable lifestyle shifts.
GOING BEYOND: Volunteer to programs or DIY initiatives that create solutions to take care of the most vulnerable in times of crisis like stray animals and homeless people.
HOME RUN: Organize civic engagement through voting and protests that support meaningful long-term changes in climate resiliency policy.
STEP 3: Identify your strengths and weaknesses to get clear on which tools to invest in to cover basic needs for your Community Resilience Hub. Remember that you are problem-solving for providing Basic Needs in case of grid failure anywhere from 1 day to 1 week. You could encounter flooding and property damage from a hurricane. Here are some potential elements to guide you as you develop your resources.
1. Invest in a backup generator.
2. Consider investing in solar panels if they are a good fit for you. Here is an accessible solar panel company for your roof.
3. Buy backup solar batteries in case the electricity goes out for days.
1. Fill up gas tank before the disaster and store backup fuel for the car in a separate container.
2. Invest in some kind of water vehicle like a kayak or boat in case of high flood risk in your zone.
1. Design the Drainage: can you create a way to direct the water flow away from your property? This could look like digging ditches or putting up sandbags.
1. Stock up on food for 1 day to 1 week.
2. If possible, grow your own food in a private or community garden you can access during the aftermath. Take measures to protect crops during storm. Consider DIY or Hiring for Garden Installations for your own backyard if you don’t already have a raised bed garden.
3. Identify kitchen supplies in your network that could be accessed to set up a pop-up community kitchen during the crisis. Identify where that kitchen would be and who would be some potential volunteers.
2. Take immunity boosting measures throughout with healthy food & exercise, and herbal tea recipes.
3. Make sure your insurance and paperwork is up to date.
Endurance Phase: Sheltering for Safety
STEP 4: Survive the storm
A. Check in on your stakeholders to clarify where you can support one another.
B. Get clear on individual plan to evacuate based on your flood zone or decide on a location to spend the hurricane together including emergency safety zones within your home.
C. Make sure your Home Preparedness Kit is fully stocked and you’ve set up measures to protect your house (shutters) and your car (safe parking spot).
D. Find fun ways to entertain one another during the storm. Host a Party in the classic Miami tradition of a Hurricane Getty.
E. Organize and prepare resources to be used in the aftermath to set up a working Climate Disaster Community Resilience Hub. Clarify roles for volunteers and working shifts.
Aftermath Phase: Community Steps Up
STEP 5: Activate the Resilience Hub you planned for in the Preparation Phase:
A. Set up Pop-Up Community Kitchen and distribute shifts
B. Set up Solar Recharge Station for electronics
C. Stay up to date on the digital Community Mapping Board that you set up in the Preparation Phase where people can post needs and assets in real time.
D. As need arises, develop a Neighborhood Tool Share to keep track of folks who borrow tools, and recruit volunteers to help the neighborhood as needed.
E. Provide guidance to community on how to apply for your Mutual Aid funds, set up GoFundMe fundraisers, or apply for government disaster relief options.
F. Designate a person to manage online presence advertising and communications to advertise access as well as stay on top of help requests from community.
GOING BEYOND: Gather a Volunteer Corps for Action Days
A. Clean up the neighborhood
B. Aid the vulnerable like animal strays and homeless folks by providing meals and listening for whatever needs they may have
C. Clean up nature spaces that may not have any immediate caretakers like lakes or beaches or nearby patches of wilderness.
Part III. Disaster Resilience Funding Resource Guide for Miami
When I was conceptualizing this idea, so were many others. I am happy to see more resources are out there now for people to do exactly what I propose. There are many organizations out there actively seeking to fund projects like these. If I already had an urban farm or community center in a vulnerable community, these are the grant opportunities that I would look into to fund building your own Community Resilience Hub:
1. Become a member of the Miami Climate Alliance and attend one of their working groups to get access to their resources and get a clear picture of what moves you can make.
3. Sign up for the Axis Helps newsletter for updates on resources for Miami businesses and families.
4. Register as needed with the Miami-Dade Emergency & Evacuation Assistance Program to receive priority in case of disaster.
Make this research worthwhile, and implement these ideas! Do it. You and your community will be so grateful.