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Post Disaster Community Project Management

Updated: Nov 30, 2020

The recent media coverage and overall focus on the COVID-19 pandemic has shifted the spotlight from the devastating bushfires of late 2019 - early 2020 which ravaged many communities across the country. This has caused recovery efforts to stall in the challenging and compounding conditions as affected towns and communities feel largely forgotten at a time where they are most in need.

Aware of the serious needs of the bushfire affected Communities, PSA launched an appeal to Project Management Professionals with a view to assembling a Community of Practice to provide much needed skilled and capable resources to assist in the Community led recovery. PSA has been involved in many post-disaster environments, from founding director Paul Steinfort’s project involvement in the recovery and reconstruction of Darwin in the 1970’s through to the past two decades of world-wide disasters such as his work following the Asian Tsunami, the Christchurch Earthquakes, the Nepal earthquake, the Pakistan floods and the Philippines typhoon and more locally, PSA’s involvement with VBRRA in the wake of the Black Saturday fires in Victoria. PSA’s own Post-Disaster Community Project Management methodology is well informed and tested to enable communities to identify their own needs and priorities.

PSA Project working with the support of the Australian Institute of Project Management (AIPM), has brought together the Recovery and Resilience Community of Practice (R&RCoP) to utilise that Post Disaster methodology, refined through years of experience, to promote standardisation of practice, create new ideas, and enable a body of knowledge for members to draw on and connect into affected communities. With the prevalence of disasters increasing, the two groups are now exploring how this model of upskilling the community can be applied with greater reach and enable resilient community recovery.

This methodology uniquely centres around community stakeholders and requires practitioners to listen to, and empathise with them and use their own emotional intelligence to provide a value based approach to recovery seeking a long-term healthy community. This healthy community may look unique to different regions of the country and even within the different community groups which is why it is important that practitioners understand the specific needs of those communities so that they are empowered to carry forward sustainable and resilient outcomes for themselves.

In post-disaster environments negative outcomes of a poorly implemented program are magnified more than in your typical project environment because of the trauma the community has experienced – for many it is more than just their livelihoods at stake if projects are not successful. For this reason, PSA’s methodology, steeped as it is in community experience, is crucial in providing the ethical and empathetic soft skills required to meet the community stakeholder view point, and this has been a major learning point for the community of practice to then apply in their wider community.

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