Indiana University SPEA Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy University of Pennsylvania AIR American University

Panel Paper: A Managed Participatory Approach to Community Resiliency: A Case Study of New York State's Response to Extreme Weather Events

Thursday, November 12, 2015 : 10:55 AM
Board Room (Hyatt Regency Miami)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Simon McDonnell1, Swati Desai2, Daniel Berkovits1, Pooya Ghorbani3, Maria Jessa Cruz3, Renata Silberblatt1, Alexander Breinin1 and Xavier Williams1, (1)Governor's Office of Storm Recovery (New York), (2)Rockefeller Institute of Government, (3)University at Albany - SUNY
Local participation in disaster recovery and in adaptation activities, intended to reduce vulnerability to climate change as a part of the so-called “bottom-up” approach to planning and reconstruction, has gained increasing policy importance in recent decades, especially after the disappointing outcomes of many top-down community-level interventions (Boin and McConnell, 2007). Research indicates that the advantages of participatory methods include, inter alia: (1) producing more efficient and effective plans as community members may potentially inform policymaking about needs and opportunities best suited to the places they live and/or work (Stivers, 1990; Matsuoka et al., 2012); (2) shortening the vertical gap between policymaking and ground-level input and implementation (Murphy, 2007; Shaw, 2014); and (3) creating additional capacity at different levels of government for policymaking and implementation (Day, 1997).

Policymakers in New York State have chosen to implement a “managed participatory” approach as part of the State’s recovery from Superstorm Sandy, Hurricane Irene, and Tropical Storm Lee—and its efforts to reduce the State’s vulnerability to future disasters through climate change adaptation. In response to these disasters, policymakers initiated the NY Rising Community Reconstruction (NYRCR) Program, which is assisting 124 disaster-affected communities to develop and implement comprehensive reconstruction and resiliency plans through a unique combination of bottom-up community participation and State-provided facilitation, technical expertise and significant financial support. The locality-focused approach, buttressed by rigorous analysis and facilitation of innovative and best practice solutions, is unprecedented in its scale and scope, consequential nature of the plans, and methodology.

This paper presents the case of this managed participatory approach to disaster recovery and climate change adaptation. It first contextualizes the NYRCR Program, comparing it to other programs involved with delegation of recovery and resiliency responsibilities to regional entities, local governments, and other stakeholders (e.g. the Gulf of Mexico region following Hurricane Katrina). It then discusses the types of horizontal (among community stakeholders) and vertical (between political institutions and local communities) engagement mechanisms that were employed, providing evidence in support of such mechanisms as tools to optimize disaster recovery and climate change adaptation at the community level. It establishes criteria (e.g. administration, timing, effectiveness of proposed solutions, stakeholder networks, scalability, replicability, etc.) to measure the “strength” of the community reconstruction plans. Lastly, since the implementation phase is nascent, the paper proposes a number of measurement criteria that can be used to quantify the ongoing effects on local communities’ future economic, environmental, and social resiliency referenced by the literature (e.g. Cutter et al., 2008 & 2010) regarding disaster resilience at the community level. For instance, changes in homeownership rates, employment opportunities, retention of local employment, and sector dependency can be used as proxies for economic resilience. Environmental resilience may be measured as changes in impervious surface due to planned coastal defense structures, green area ratios, and reduced risk through relocation. Social resilience improvements can be quantified as risk awareness (number of training/information sessions), change in access to emergency services, and place attachment. This research then provides recommended policy frameworks to improve resiliency through managed participation.