It has often been said that the impacts of natural disasters do not stop at jurisdictional boundaries, and recent events across the U.S. have certainly shown this to be true. Nearby cities, towns, and counties usually share the same vulnerabilities and risks, and when they’re struck by severe weather, they often experience the same affects. During the recovery process, individual communities can fare better if they collaborate, share ideas and resources, and rebuild in ways that increase resilience, economic competitiveness, and quality of life across the region as a whole.
For these reasons, regional development organizations (RDOs)—an umbrella term for the councils of government, regional planning commissions, economic development districts, and other multi-jurisdictional planning and economic development organizations that exist throughout the country—are critical partners in disaster recovery. With their regional perspective and interdisciplinary focus, their ability to navigate federal programs, their technical expertise, and their broad network of partners at all levels of government and in the private and philanthropic sectors, RDOs can help communities bounce back from disasters more efficiently and effectively. RDOs regularly work with federal and state agencies to allocate recovery funding, help communities apply for that funding, manage revolving loan funds to support small business and other needs, provide technical assistance to equip communities to “build back better,” convene stakeholders to discuss controversial rebuilding issues in a neutral forum, and provide staff time to fill the gaps in local capacity, a function that is especially important in small towns and rural areas. More broadly, RDOs foster intergovernmental collaboration among federal, state, and local officials at a time when it is particularly needed, and bring a longer-term perspective while communities are busy digging out after the storm.
On August 12, 2014, the NADO Research Foundation hosted a webinar titled “Capacity-Builders, Conveners, Collaborators, and More: The Regional Development Organization’s Role in Disaster Recovery.” The webinar featured speakers from three RDOs that have been intensively involved in disaster recovery efforts. Presenters shared their experiences, lessons learned, and recommendations for other RDOs seeking to engage in recovery work.
- Kevin Geiger, Senior Planner, Two Rivers-Ottauquechee Regional Commission, Woodstock, VT
- Brian Schoon, Director of Development and Transit, Iowa Northland Regional Council of Governments, Waterloo, IA
- Charles Wemple, Chief Operating Officer, Houston-Galveston Area Council, Houston, TX
- Megan McConville, Program Manager, NADO Research Foundation
This webinar is a companion to another webinar titled “Building Resilience through Collaboration: The Regional Development Organization’s Role in Disaster Preparedness” which featured speakers from two RDOs that have developed inventive approaches to preparing for the impacts of natural disasters, climate change, and other disruptions. Click here for more information and to access the slides and recording of that webinar.