On Community Crisis & Response
In moments of community crisis there are countless opportunities for extraordinary response. Opportunities, which at their core, are made up of immeasurable human instinct, courage and action void of hesitation.
Opportunity – seize it.
One single tweet brought a crushing blow to my heart with the news of “8 dead community members” on the morning after a night’s tornadic fury. Never could I have foreseen how this would present an opportunity so armed with people ready to conquer the world (ok, our community). It even proved to possess more momentum than the “most organized” local organizations. The opportunity was simply a response of action in the midst community crisis – a powerful and organic response. It was not a thought-out response from board rooms, coffee shops, and in no way was it grounded in research. “Retreat!” was not an option that morning after instinct and courage took control of a few of us. These two elements made it possible to seize the opportunity. When there is opportunity to be seized, do it then! Remember, in most situations, crisis response didn’t fail because someone acted too early. It usually fails because someone acted too late.
Hesitation – avoid it.
A highly effective response to community crisis must reject hesitation. An effective response cannot dance with the trigger of action nor be tempted by the safety of peer approval. When I read THE tweet I didn’t lay there in bed for a few more minutes and I didn’t hop in the shower to think about things. I acted immediately by casting a wide net over my network of friends via twitter, “if you’re available to volunteer today, DM me!” Fish or no fish I was casting my net because there was nothing to lose but time. I didn’t think about who would respond, how they would respond, or when they would respond. I rejected the idea of hesitation early and it never confronted me again during our community crisis.
Direction – display it.
No one follows a timid leader when the heat is on. We didn’t have a clue what we were doing in the aftermath of an EF4 tornado except identifying the basic needs off neighbors. When a need was discovered and verified we used social media to blast it to thousands of locals. In the end, over 1,000 locals joined our grassroots volunteer effort, we distributed over 8,000 meals to victims, and we grew from one needs distribution site to three. Everyone looks to follow leaders who demonstrates decisive action and clear direction, mainly because no one has time to research the countless quick decisions that leaders makers under pressure [the tomatoes always come flying a few days later from the critics]. This is a blessing and curse for community crisis — if people follow the lead of a fool, further chaos can ensue. But when people follow leaders with basic common sense, simple trust, and huge compassion, all systems are a go! This is not rocket science, it’s is a very basic quality that separates leaders from followers. When it’s time to jump off the high dive and no one else will — jump! I promise, most everyone will follow your lead.
Every community, organization, business, church, school and family will face their own form of community crisis and when that day comes, seize opportunity, avoid hesitation, and display clear direction. Someone somewhere, broken and in crisis, will need your support, your leadership, and your response.