Local Engagement in Pandemic Response

The recent global health pandemic has turned our attention to the role of local-regional coordination in crisis response.  In recent weeks, numerous examples of grassroots coordinated efforts to procure and distribute needed PPE to hospitals, or food distribution in neighbourhoods has become evident.  Communities have rallied to provide needed resources even in the face of racism and abuse, driven by a stronger motive of service.  The agility and responsiveness of highly networked, cohesive and empowered groups is increasingly evident, particularly in times of crisis.

These recent observations echo findings in the 2016 book, Governing Disasters: Engaging Local Populations in Humanitarian Relief, which reported on the attitudes and perceptions of practitioners working in disaster response.  The principal finding, based on survey data and follow-up questions with 96 humanitarian aid practitioners, was that there is a statistically significant correlation between the level of “peer” engagement with local residents and the perceived effectiveness of response.  Beyond “top-down” and “bottom up” governance frameworks, these findings speak to the emergence and efficacy of “hybrid forms” of governance that draw on top down coordination experience and bottom up localized knowledge generation. Such mechanisms have resulted in greater efficiency, better sharing of and access to information, increased strength in networking and coordination systems, improved resilience and the ability to integrate local knowledge with globally shared experience.

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