College of Engineering News • Iowa State University

In this together: Collaborative networks create community resilience

Cristina Poleacovschi
Cristina Poleacovschi

Cyclone Engineer Cristina Poleacovschi studies how to build community resilience during challenges like natural disasters or economic changes.

In this time of unprecedented challenges, Poleacovschi offers steps her work has shown help community resilience.

“As I look around at our responses to the coronavirus outbreak, I’m heartened to see us all come together in ways most likely to support strong communities,” said Poleacovschi, assistant professor of civil, construction and environmental engineering.

Strong public-private collaborations. Partnerships between public and private organizations make large-scale investment in infrastructure possible and help local business competitiveness and retention. Ideally, these partnerships are formalized, long-term and include continuous assessments of local industries’ and community members’ needs – and focus on quality of life.

Empower many stakeholders. Collaboration between public officials, like mayors and chambers of commerce, and empowering as many community stakeholders as possible is key to generating and working toward common goals. The more partners, the more shared knowledge, learning, and impact.

Protect the most vulnerable. During community challenges, vulnerable populations are often most at risk. So, prioritize development strategies that address the most vulnerable by emphasizing community context and using local resources. Assuring that all citizens are protected is critical for preventing the amplification of inequalities during challenges – and inclusion in solutions builds local capacity and resilience.

Bridge between communities. In the midst of a challenge, communities rely on local bonds like family, friends and civic groups, but building connections with neighboring communities and institutions is needed for long-term recovery. Creating relationships with “different” organizations and communities creates a fluidity of ideas and resources that help protect all communities from future challenges.

“Of course, collaboration and decentralized power in place prior to a challenge is the best strategy to support community resilience, but these approaches are useful no matter when you start them. Encouraging the immediate development of these approaches after a challenge offers a hopeful trajectory for a community’s future,” said Poleacovschi. “Everywhere I look right now, I see communities organizing to support their members and each other – near and far.”