Advance recovery and the development of resilient organisations and societies

Herman B. Leonard, Arnold M. Howitt, 01 Jun 2010

Societies face a wide array of significant hazards – ranging from the possibility of natural disasters to industrial accidents to large-scale terrorist incidents.

These hazards vary in scale and in frequency, and by their nature we are generally uncertain not only about exactly when and where they might occur, but also about how likely they are to arise. The resilience of societies to natural and human catastrophes is the outcome generated by developing an effective overall strategy for social risk management. This will include both efforts at prevention and mitigation (which increases resilience by reducing the damage from which society has to recover), preparation of response capability (which increases resilience by improving the response when disaster strikes, thus reducing the bad effects of the emergency) and recovery (which embodies resilience by helping society to come back to a functioning equilibrium state from which it can continue its development and social progress).

In the discussion that follows, we outline a framework within which we can develop and view a societal strategy to increase resilience and we point out an important component of such strategies – which we call “advance recovery”. Because advance recovery has generally received little attention, we believe there are significant unexplored, underdeveloped and unexploited opportunities in that domain for building more effective and complete strategies for social resilience.

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Herman B. Leonard, Arnold M. Howitt

Herman B. "Dutch" Leonard is George F. Baker Jr. Professor of Public Management at Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University and Eliot I. Snider and Family Professor of Business Administration and Co-Chair of the Social Enterprise Initiative at Harvard Business School.

Arnold M. Howitt is Executive Director of the Roy and Lila Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation at Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government.

The two authors co-direct the Program on Crisis Leadership at the Kennedy School of Government’s Taubman Center for State and Local Government and Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation.

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