Principles of the Resilient Communities Program

Resilient Communities at New America defines resiliency not only as the ability of a community to recover in times of disaster or crisis, but as a catalytic and collaborative process of transformation. We believe that increasing resiliency means building and deepening relationships and developing creative solutions to strengthen communities in times of change and uncertainty.

Our work starts from a set of core principles that focus on listening, participation, and equity as a foundation for building community resiliency. We work with local leaders and groups to uplift and share creative, visionary, and locally-rooted solutions -- and to make the systems and institutions they depend on more responsive.

In particular, looking at current changes to the built and natural environment, we see a critical opportunity especially to develop future-ready solutions together with the communities most affected by climate change, particularly through the redesign and rebuilding of brittle physical and digital infrastructures.

Our approach blends learning and teaching across the areas of self-reliance, community technology, popular education, and collaborative design. In partnership with groups with an existing practice of community organizing and training, community resiliency projects can strengthen existing relationships, build new ones, and increase a community’s capacity to handle adversity.

Definition statements:

  • Community resiliency is the ability of individuals and neighborhoods to support each other before, during, and after a disaster or crisis, strengthening community ties and relationships and developing holistic support systems.

  • Community technology is a principled approach to technology projects that places value on equity, access, participation, common ownership and healthy communities. It is a vision of technology in which communities develop direct control over their communications, allowing for greater self determination and deeper democracy.

  • Community infrastructure comprises both the social and physical systems that support holistic community health.

Resilient Communities commits to:

  • Listen and learn from communities

  • Uplift and help seed local visions

  • Nurture honest and transparent partnerships

  • Support local self-governance

  • Respect, support, and uplift the priorities of our local partners

  • Develop accountability within and among institutions and power centers

  • Address systemic factors that deepen inequities around climate change and economic insecurity

  • Collaboratively design and build flexible, future-ready infrastructure

  • Build and share models for peer teaching and learning

  • Practice community technology in alignment with our partners and allies

Authors:

Greta Byrum is the director of the Resilient Communities program at New America. She reimagines the way we design, build, and manage communications systems to support local residents as leaders, organizers, and preparedness experts.

Katherine Ortiz is a program associate at New America’s Resilient Communities program. In this role, she helps communities become more resilient by training them to build their own mesh network infrastructure.

Raul Enriquez is the technology coordinator & training specialist at New America’s Resilient Communities program.

Houman Saberi is a program manager in the Resilient Communities program for RISE:NYC. In this role, he is helping to build resilient community wireless networks in Sandy-affected areas of the city in partnership with local businesses, civic organizations, and residents. 

Andy Gunn was a program fellow with the Resilient Communities Project and Open Technology Institute at New America, where he partnered with communities to build and govern their own digital communications using the principles of Community Technology.