For the last few months, I’ve offered an invitation for individuals and organisations to carefully consider how they engage with and respond to the effects and implications of COVID-19 on their own lives and their organisations. Much of what I have read on this topic references terms such as: “post trauma” and “disaster recovery” and it doesn’t take much to see that this is a monumental experience for the whole of society and the human race across the globe.
The approach that I’d like to share in this blog is that of “Build Back Better” (BBB). The concept of BBB first emerged as a result of a multi-national recovery campaign in response to the Indian Ocean Tsunami in 2004. Since that time the United Nations has adopted this principle and its associated approach when working with countries that have experienced major disaster. The COVID-19 experience has been described in ‘disastrous’ terms many times and there may therefore be great wisdom and benefit in looking to a concept and model such as BBB for guidance and inspiration when it comes to rebuilding organisations.
The BBB concept comprises three areas of focus:
This also encompasses Risk Reduction and Resilience building and is focussed on the Restoration of basic services and facilities for the organisation affected by the situation to function.
- What are the basic services and facilities that your organisation needs in order to function?
- Are these the same as you had before, or have you now come to know that you can in fact function with less and/or different ones?
- What are the minimal structural foundations your organisation needs in order to function? (E.g. location, equipment, human and other resources, processes?)
Recovery seeks to restore or improve health and livelihood and focuses on two key areas:
- Social recovery
- Economic recovery
- What are the social, physical, cultural and environmental systems and activities needed for social recovery in your organisation?
- What is needed to instigate and nurture economic recovery for your organisation?
- How can your understanding of these needs and requirements not only underpin your current recovery but also increase your resilience as an organisation to avoid or minimise future disaster-risk? This aspect closely aligns with the principles of ‘Build Back Better’ around sustainable development.
A ‘Recovery Framework’ establishes a common platform for your organisation to build, sustain and coordinate your recovery activities. Such a framework may include principles, processes and capabilities that are needed in order to enable the recovery from any incident in the future of any size or scale (Build Back Better). This framework also identifies the stakeholders who need to be mobilised and work closely together to most effectively utilise the available resources and to promote and support the recovery and resilience of all those affected by the situation.
In this way, the recovery framework describes a vision and a strategy leading towards a new and better normal as opposed to an action plan that seeks to get ‘back to normal’.
The effective combination of rehabilitation and recovery in the short term, enable the sustainable rebuilding of the organisation in the medium- and long-term. This implies rebuilding what is required for the full functioning of your organisation aligning with the principles of sustainable development and ‘build back better’ i.e. to avoid or reduce future disaster risk.
With each of these three area of focus the BBB approach also invites some generic questions such as:
- What’s the purpose of this phase/task?
- Why is it important?
- How does it relate to other priority tasks?
- Who should be involved?
- What conditions facilitate the phase/task?
With each element of BBB, the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR) offers a series of powerful questions that invite some valuable and thought-provoking inquiries amongst all stakeholders. These thought-provoking conversations are greatly facilitated by adopting a coaching style both in 1-1 and groups discussions.
How could your organisation adapt the UN’s approach to Build Back Better, so that you not only survive this challenging situation but come back better as a result?
Friedrich Nietzsche said: “What does not kill me makes me stronger.”
Sadly, some organisations will be killed by this pandemic, and some will come back stronger and better for it!