A Guide for A Just and Resilient Recovery
As the impacts of COVID-19 continue to worsen, state and local governments must grapple with how to approach the recovery process and what goals to pursue—and now, as ever, pursuing a just and resilient recovery is both a moral imperative and an economic necessity. Disasters and attendant economic contractions exacerbate pre-existing inequities by disproportionately affecting marginalized and vulnerable populations, and the typical implementation of recovery efforts often further entrench these inequities.
This Guide is premised on an ambition for communities to aim higher than simply recovering to a pre-COVID-19 world. That world, through its entrenched inequities, had effectively mired millions of marginalized and vulnerable individuals in everyday crises of poverty, racial injustice, housing insecurity, health challenges, and other ills that have only been amplified—not introduced—by COVID-19. Instead, we must take a path of recovery that aspires to fully overcome preexisting injustices, while also building resilience against future disasters.
To contribute to this effort, this Guide details a framework through which local leaders can understand and approach four phases of recovery planning, with an unwavering focus on addressing the needs of marginalized and vulnerable populations. In broad strokes, these four phases are:
- Emergency Response: Protect health and prioritize outreach to those most in need.
- Stabilization: Restore basic services and avoid further decline in wellbeing.
- Adaptive Recovery: Address damage from disasters while confronting inequities.
- Institutionalization: Codify changes to policies and governance to solidify lessons learned and build community resilience.
These phases are especially important in the midst of multiple crises expected to hit in multiple waves. At the time of writing, many communities are currently in the “stabilization” phase. But at every moment, every other phase remains relevant: communities will need to brace against and be resilient to renewed emergencies, while also thinking ahead to adaptive recovery and institutionalization.
This guide was developed by HR&A Advisors in partnership with the Ford Foundation’s Cities and States team.
Navigate the Guide
Introduction, Glossary, and Context→
Framework and Table of Contents→
Emergency Response →
Adaptive Recovery →
For each phase, the guide will walk through key challenges, guiding questions, action items, and examples, each developed to center the disaster recovery process on the needs of marginalized and vulnerable populations.
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Introduction, Glossary, and Context
This section diagnoses the current disaster as a manifestation and exacerbation of underlying inequities. It also establishes the values of this document by defining key terms.
Framework and Table of Contents
This section presents a framework that divides the post-disaster period into four distinct phases, to guide communities through the recovery process towards a just and resilient future. The section also previews a full list of recommended action items, including notations on a role for philanthropy.
The emergency response phase is about prioritizing and securing basic needs: food, shelter, and health. In the case of COVID-19, though hospitals, homes, and the food supply chain were not ravaged by a physical disaster, access to food, shelter, and medical care will be challenging in every community as households struggle to afford basic needs.
Key challenge: Exercising strong executive leadership during a quickly evolving situation, with limited information and often inadequate preparation.
The stabilization phase is about reopening civil society and restarting the economy as prudently as possible to minimize ongoing damage. Stabilization is the inverse of emergency response, as communities unwind the emergency measures put in place and return to ‘normal’ life.
Key challenge: Gathering and leveraging sufficient capacity to deploy assistance to where help is needed most.
The adaptive recovery phase is about recovering from the disaster with an aim to surpass pre-disaster levels of community well-being, through increased equity. It requires giving communities an active role in their recoveries, both through the process of understanding the pre-crisis issues that contributed to the disaster’s harms, and when setting and implementing solutions to address these issues.
Key challenge: Setting and sticking to community priorities that address longstanding inequities, using limited available funding.
The institutionalization phase is about remembering and codifying the lessons learned through the disaster, by empowering and equipping communities to force the act of remembering and hold leaders accountable, and by adjusting or developing policies and governance structures that address pre-crisis issues and support more just and resilient communities.
Key challenge: Ensuring that the lessons learned through the first three phases—including the importance of leadership, cohesion, and prioritizing a Just and Resilient Recovery—are not lost, but instead operationalized.