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Toward resilient community organisations

27 July 2020 at 6:29 pm
Mike Davis
COVID-19 has posed an important question to all community organisations – are you working towards becoming resilient, writes Mike Davis.

Mike Davis | 27 July 2020 at 6:29 pm


Toward resilient community organisations
27 July 2020 at 6:29 pm

COVID-19 has posed an important question to all community organisations – are you working towards becoming resilient, writes Mike Davis.

Resilience or the quality of being resilient may seem hard to reconcile with what we do as community organisations. Let’s discuss what resilience means, why it is critical now for community organisations and what steps can be taken to get there. 

Defining resilience

The American Psychological Association defines resilience as “the process of adapting well in the face of adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats or significant sources of stress – such as family and relationship problems, serious health problems, or workplace and financial stressors. As much as resilience involves ‘bouncing back’ from these difficult experiences, it can also involve profound personal growth.” Key concepts to draw upon here are: adapting well, bouncing back and profound growth. 

Closer to home the Department of Home Affairs describes organisational resilience as “a business’ ability to adapt and evolve as the global market is evolving, to respond to short-term shocks – be they natural disasters or significant changes in market dynamics – and to shape itself to respond to long-term challenges.” 

Key concepts we can draw upon from both definitions are the need to adapt for current and future challenges and the idea of bouncing back or returning stronger than before. Developing organisational strength, maturity and an ability to adapt to face future challenges if and when they arise. These concepts can best be addressed in three areas: adaptive strategy, peer communication and discuss challenges.

1. Adaptive strategy

Does your organisation have a strategic plan that offers adequate treatment to the risks and current reality of a global pandemic that has followed a devastating spate of bushfires? Is your governance framework planning for and treating the risks that come with these black swan events?

Many organisations will simply not have been prepared for the challenges we have faced and continue to face over the coming months. These events are what we can refer to as “known unknowns” – we know these events are all possible but we don’t know how, when and why they will occur and the damage they may occasion when they occur. 

Some key steps to consider here include:

  • consulting with all stakeholders;
  • revisiting and updating your strategic plan;
  • updating your risk register;
  • ensuring your annual reporting captures COVID-19 impacts; and
  • creating or convening appropriate action groups.

A key discussion that came up for us at TaskForce in the midst of our risk register review meeting was how do we plan to support our employees that have suffered the mental health impact of COVID-19 or physical injury whilst working from home? How will we manage a safe eventual return to work? What are the funding risks or implications of COVID-19 for our services and meeting our clients needs?

2. Peer communication 

An oft-overlooked message for a time of crisis is are you connecting regularly with industry peers and colleagues at different organisations? Fostering and maintaining these connections and networks for support are critical in trying times. They will also enable you to bring back intelligence and adaptive insights to your organisation and consider ways to strengthen. 

Maintaining your roster of Zoom meetings, whether they be weekly, fortnightly or monthly, with or without an agenda, is essential. This is especially the case in the absence of an ability to connect with peers physically and offers the vital casual social interaction we all need to optimise our work. 

Some key steps to consider here include:

  • ensuring regular catch ups with external peers;
  • randomly calling your team members at work;
  • sharing information that affects your industry;
  • sending regular messages of support and kindness; and
  • thanking your colleagues and peers regularly.  

We should never underestimate the power of reaching out and of showing gratitude. Focusing on these human qualities will make your work far more rewarding and bearable in trying times. Gratitude and kindness will also enable you to elevate relationships and mobilise your teams most effectively. 

3. Discuss challenges

Open and transparent communication of the challenges you are facing is key to becoming a more adaptive and resilient organisation. This means having an open multi-faceted conversation about the impact of COVID-19 on your workplace and work. This can happen at many levels of the organisation in different ways. 

Some key steps to consider here include:

  • setting regular town hall virtual meetings;
  • setting regular briefings from leadership;
  • planning regular wellbeing pulse surveys;
  • having a working group to specifically discuss COVID-19; and
  • sending regular email communication from leadership.

At TaskForce a key to recovery has been talking to staff about how we plan to tackle emergent challenges, to regularly check in our staff wellbeing and to plan interventions that address issues that come up in our survey results.

Organisations that can openly and transparently discuss the present and future challenges posed by crises such as COVID-19 will grow stronger, develop more trust and in the long term develop more adaptive capability. 

In the community sector it is vital that we band together and support each other in the midst of the current challenges we face. We can do so by taking deliberate steps to become more resilient. Developing adaptive strategy, peer communication and discussing challenges are key areas to address to do so. 

Mike Davis  |  @mikedav84

Mike Davis is a for-purpose executive leader, chief podcaster at Humans of Purpose and a board director at not for profits SIMNA Ltd and L2R Dance.

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