Disaster Discourse: The Hagerty Blog

Reaching Resilience: Hagerty’s Opening Act

Aiding communities in their efforts to become more resilient has been a mission of Hagerty Consulting for over 15 years. I am thrilled that, to formalize our commitment to the cause, at the start of this year I was named as the firm’s Director of Resilience.

In the past few years, the terms “resilience” and “resiliency” are commonly thrown around in various disciplines, including emergency management, engineering, and community planning. Even though we hear it more and more these days, I would guess many of you are still thinking, “I’ve been hearing about this, but I have no idea what ‘resilience’ means.  So, what does it mean to you?”

I’m glad you asked.

Defining Resilience

Much like the support we give our clients on a project, Hagerty starts this formalized chapter at the beginning by clearly defining our terms. In doing so, we set an even playing field, a basis for which all other assumptions stem. So, as we formalize this practice at Hagerty, we believe resilience to be:

A community’s ability to withstand, recover from, adapt to and/or advance in spite of acute shocks and long-term stressors.  

Resilience is broad, but with parameters; it is dynamic, but measurable; it is abstract, yet tangible. Resilience is imagining success 50 to 100 years in the future, and working towards it with regular rhythm. By clearly defining and systematically implementing resilient policies and practices, resilience becomes part of the fabric of community partners’ daily activities.

Reaching Resilience

You might now be thinking, “so now I get what resilience means to Hagerty, but how can my community achieve it?”

I’m going to put myself out on a limb here by answering quite simply: you can’t.

“Resilience” cannot be a static target, as shocks and stressors in a community will inevitably evolve over time. A community’s resilience must rely upon actively revisiting measurements, goals and objectives, to ensure the path taken is the ultimate path desired, and if not, to course correct. A community will not ever be fully resilient, but it should always be aiming to reach resilience. And that, I firmly believe is within the realm of possibilities.

While Hagerty has previously advocated for achieving resilience, my team and I have been hard at work critically thinking about, in the few short years that resilience has garnered notoriety, what are we now seeing, and how has our opinion evolved?

While nothing within our past methodology is wrong per se, as our body of knowledge grows about resilience and the ways in which to effectively work towards it, our tenants have similarly matured.  In today’s world, I advocate for communities to work towards the following tenants of Reaching Resilience:

  • Empower a champion. Resilience relies on leadership, commitment, and accountability. An organization should have a Resilience Champion intentionally engaging in the topic of resilience, fine tuning, and promoting progress every day for their community.
  • Share a unified vision. A vision of resilience is informed by the issues that a community faces (i.e. risks from shocks and stressors), and must be acknowledged by all parties in an organization. At the end of the day, a unified vision creates a common language whereby the Resilience Champion and others are chipping away at the problem.
  • Define metrics of success. Talk about being resilient is one thing, but how do we know if we’re succeeding? Establishing metrics, and measuring progress against those metrics over time is essential. Re-examination of priorities and projects may be involved, and that’s okay.
  • Create a culture and implement. You might only have one person (your Champion!) or a single department in a community who believes in the cause, but tens or hundreds or thousands of individuals in the community that also need to buy in to the concepts of resilience you’ve identified and get to work on the cause. Creating a culture of those who believe and are acting on the principles of resilience you identify will ensure you are able to make measurable progress in the metrics you’ve identified above.
  • Maintain accountability. Times change, we learn, we reach some levels of success, but identify other gaps in resilience to mitigate. Maintaining accountability is about the review, refresh, and re-engagement process, and it is essential as you continue on the path towards a resilient community.

“Okay. What’s Next?”

I am excited to continue this dialogue in the upcoming weeks, months, and years. Hagerty will be continuing our mission through a blog series, and launching new initiatives and services related to our resilience practice, “Reaching Resilience.” We are determined to learn, evolve, and grow in a way that is beneficial and complementary to the needs our community partners have identified.

As we continue to serve our communities, and further refine and build our resilience capabilities at Hagerty, I am committed to maintaining our core values: that we are a solutions-oriented firm, providing our clients with scalable tools that they can use day-to-day. In the spirit of these values during this opening act, I want to pose a question back to you:

How can Hagerty help you in your aims of Reaching Resilience?

April Geruso, the Director of Resilience, is based out of the Austin, Texas office. In the years leading up to her promotion, April played a key leadership role in the strategic development and growth of the Preparedness Division, supporting a myriad of projects across the nation. Prior to joining Hagerty, April served as the Deputy Director of Planning for the City of Philadelphia’s Office of Emergency Management. April graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree from Virginia Tech and a master’s in science in Community and Regional Planning from the University of Texas at Austin.