The Resilience Review 2016

Resources for Resilience

Stratiscope’s resources for resilience that make an impact.
Resilience. It’s a buzzword, and it means different things to different people. Why? Because it isn’t really clear what resilience is. The editors at the LA Times even shy away from the term, telling reporters covering topics like earthquakes not to use it. So, we pivot. After all, the work is the same, no matter what it’s called.  Stratiscope spent 2016 building stronger communities capable of handling what nature and society throws at them (take a look at some highlights below).  I continue to have the honor of working alongside Dr. Lucy Jones in various capacities, as well as working with local cities, the media, and community partners to make an impact in the realm of earthquakes and risk reduction.
So, what will it mean to be resilient in 2017? We can’t predict the future, but you can count on Stratiscope as your resource to tackle challenges requiring a broader reach, a stronger connection, a public face, and a strategy to advance safer, more connected communities.  Please reach out with problems that we can help you solve in 2017. We’ll be even more resilient together!

    John Bwarie 
Founder & CEO, Stratiscope

Check out some of the key programs, projects, and initiatives that Stratiscope developed and launched in 2016…
Southern California Disaster Risk Reduction Initiative:
Strengthening SoCal Report, as featured in the LA Times quoting Stratiscope CEO, John Bwarie. 
Thriving Earth Exchange:
Stratiscope helped develop an innovative program to connect scientists to communities. Check out “Science Impact” from the AGU Fall Meeting.
SCAG Earthquake Preparedness Initiative:
Check out the release of the initiative to bring earthquake policy support to 191 cities in SoCal. 
Public Presentations such as the National Earthquake Conference and the SCDF where Stratiscope’s expertise is tapped to inspire action and share resilience strategies.
SEAOSC Safer Cities Initiative:
Stratiscope supported SEAOSC’s 
Strengthening Our Cities Summit, the Safer Cities Advisory Program,
and the just-released Safer Cities Survey.
Dr. Lucy Jones Center for Science and Society:
Stratiscope is working alongside Dr. Jones as a founding strategist for the Center. 
At Stratiscope, we believe every person, company, and organization should have the opportunity to make a meaningful contribution to society and their local community. We leverage authentic relationships and employ effective strategies to enable tangible impacts. Contact us to see how we can help you make an impact in your community. 
Copyright © 2016 Stratiscope, All rights reserved.

Getting from Plan A…to Plan D

post itsWhen one door closes…
When life gives you lemons…
When at first you don’t succeed…

…and other euphemisms explain that things don’t always go the way you had originally hoped. It’s such a tired lesson, we’ve cleverly softened the blow time and again.

If you’ve been frustrated by roadblocks at seemingly every turn, there’s a good chance you’ve tried working with government on some level.  I’m looking at you, neighborhood council members.  Before you think I’m just telling you to keep your chin up and keep fighting the good fight, rest assured there are success stories out there in which to take solace.

Take the case of the Palms Neighborhood Council‘s Land-Use Committee as your paradigm of hope.  Recognizing a lack of open, green space in this most dense community on LA’s Westside, the plan in 2005 was to find land for sale, buy it, and make it a park. The roadblock? No affordable land available. Even during the recession, land was at a premium in a neighborhood ripe for multi-family, transit-oriented development.

Plan B: Acquire existing LA City-owned land, like the recently closed fire station, and build a park there.  The roadblock? City government decided to -sell these properties instead, citing the City’s financial woes as the priority over this underserved community’s park needs.

Plan C: Work cooperatively with a local middle school to open several acres of soccer fields, basketball courts, and baseball diamonds to the community after school hours and on the weekends.  The roadblock?  The school cited insurance and maintenance concerns and refused to play out any negotiation for a solution to the community’s needs.

Plan D: Re-build the one local pocket park in Palms to better serve community needs.  The roadblock?  Money – but compared to the millions required to buy a separate lot, this was relatively attainable.

Herein lies the true lesson learned through this process.  When exploring Plans A, B, and C, the representatives of the Palms NC had only the righteous belief that more park space was needed, and looked for support from government to make it happen, from beginning to end.  In fact, once Plan D was settled upon as seemingly the last resort, steps were taken in-house to move forward and develop a specific plan for the land.

Community events were organized to garner stakeholder input, a landscape architect was partnered with to design an appropriate blueprint, what little funds the Palms NC did have access to were earmarked, and even more community input was sought online and in-person over the course of almost two years.  Having plowed forward this far, the hurdle would still be money – a significant percentage of the project.  Yet once city departments and elected officials realized this project was shovel-ready, they were happy to assign funds, from various sources, to complete the project.  It was the perseverance, the dedication, and the resilience of the Palms NC, over the course of almost 8 years, that gave the community’s needs a solution that government would/could take to the finish line.

Playing Monday-morning quarterback…
Hindsight being 20/20….

Well, you get the idea.  Isn’t that grassroots effort the way it was supposed to work all along?

Further reading: What’s Resilience anyway?________________________________________________________________________

rounded_corners_Neal_A_avatarNeal Anderberg works with organizations, coordinating outreach efforts, strategizing partnerships, evaluating brand effectiveness, and advising on management and fundraising efficiency. He enjoys sharing knowledge and insight, but thrives on collaboration, and is passionate about helping others use their passion to make an impact. Check him out on LinkedIn.

Be ready: Plan for the Unknown 

glassdoor meeting

As you’re ready to ring in the New Year, December and January strategic planning sessions are in full swing.

Whether that planning session looks like two people kibbitzing over coffee with napkins for notes or partaking in a formal planning session lasting multiple hours and days (with various teams), the goal is the same: Be more successful at what you do.

But planning for greater success in the year(s) to come means also planning for what you don’t expect. Life, the world, the government, clients, staff, and customers will all throw things at you you’re not expecting, so have a plan in place to respond to the unplanned events.

This is the core of resilience: be ready for what life throws you.

Here are a few ways to incorporate resilience planning into your strategic planning for the upcoming year:

1. Aw snap! The unknown will hit, so have a plan to deal with the unplanned. What are the protocols you’ll use? Who’s in charge? Who makes the calls to respond? Who you gonna call? (Hint: It’s probably not Ghostbusters.)

2. Money, money money. While budgeting, include a contingency budget for unplanned events. This reserve can be rolled from over year-to-year, but it’s more than just insurance: it ensures you to have the resources to respond quickly.

3. Future Tense: Don’t expect past events to be indications of future ones. It’s easy to make assumptions based on how things were, but there will always be variables. Stretch yourself to think beyond what you already know.

4. Keep your head. No matter what, everyone working together makes things happen. Take a little time to let events sink in, keep calm–and then it’s go time.

When your organization is planning for success, think of how you can be resilient; and your success will be even more assured.

Non-profits groups: Strategic planning and resilience are what we do — take a look at our program specifically designed to help you grow on an ongoing basis.

Here’s to your success and ability to weather what life throws at you in 2016!

rounded_corners_John_B_AvatarJohn Bwarie is an impact professional working to connect people and solve problems while focusing on an actionable outcome. He helps many people and organizations plan for the unexpected. Follow him on Twitter and LinkedIn.

Don’t Freak Out. ShakeOut!

ShakeOut_Global_DontFreak_851x315Just last week, the City of LA passed a sweeping law that requires 15,000 of the worst buildings in LA (soft-story and non-ductile concrete) to be repaired to prevent both death and the loss of much needed housing.

This is the result of years of work I’ve been honored to be a part of.

I’ve spent over 8 years working around earthquakes and risk reduction in Los Angeles, SoCal, and across the nation. It’s great to see leaders use expert information to take action to make communities safer and more resilient.

Here are a few things you can do TODAY to reduce the “freak out factor” at home and/or at work (even if you don’t live in LA!):

  • Register now for the Great ShakeOut wherever you live or work.
  • Plan to attend the Strengthening Our Cities Summit in LA in November. Register here and see some of California’s seismic all-stars do their thing.
  • At the very least, talk to someone you love (or like a lot) about what to do in your community. What’s your plan when you’re confronted by the earthquake, hurricane, tornado, wildfire, blackout, or blizzard?

We live in a dynamic world, and nature will always throw something at us that urban centers won’t necessarily be able to out-engineer.

Further Reading: What’s in a Word: Resilience


rounded_corners_John_B_AvatarJohn Bwarie is an impact professional working to connect people and solve problems while focusing on an actionable outcome. He was one of the founders of the Great ShakeOut in 2008 and helps produce the Strengthening our Cities Summit. Follow him on Twitter and LinkedIn.

When They Just Won’t Listen

Stratiscope Drew retouchedEven an expert’s advice isn’t always taken. So how do you keep on truckin’ when your community partners want to drive in different directions?

It’s happened before in history, I’m sure. Gronk the caveman and his friend Bob implemented a plan to create some warmth for cooking. But while Bob was formulating his idea based on his experience, Gronk grabbed some flint and a rock, struck them together with brute force, and the next thing the two knew, there were s’mores.

When you’re brought into a team as an expert, it’s important to know that people are still prone to being like Bob the caveman. Not all meetings of the mind follow the same, precise path. When they don’t, try to keep the end goal in perspective by keeping the following in mind instead.

When your partners don’t listen to your advice, keep your cool. While it’s easy to get hung up on the fact that you said it was time to zig and your partners zagged, it’s more important to reiterate why, as a team, you came to the consensus to zig in the first place. Plus, there could be s’mores.

Be sure you’re sharing with your team how the outcome changes when zig changes to zag. Use the best information to communicate the results of various decisions, which is especially important when the ultimate decision lies with someone who is not you. You’re being asked because they trust your experience and knowledge as a thought leader in the field. That said, even when there are s’mores, be sure to let your partners know that their change in direction is fine, but they also need to keep other factors in mind because of their decided shift (like caveman diabetes).

Sometimes the zag leads to a less than desirable (read: bad) outcome. No matter how good it might feel to say, “See? I told you,” refrain from the blame game. As a team, it’s important to keep moving toward your agreed upon goals. And when fingers are pointing, they’re not busy dialing a phone, sending an important text, or crafting a clever marketing campaign for your fundraiser.

Further reading: When it’s Personal: Investing Yourself Responsibly

Besides, sometimes the zags are the kind of momentum you need to keep progress moving toward a beneficial ending for everyone involved. And, again, who doesn’t like s’mores?

How do you respond to the zags? Join the convo on @Stratiscope on Twitter.


rounded_corners_John_B_AvatarJohn Bwarie is an impact professional working to connect people and solve problems while focusing on an actionable outcome. He likes s’mores and can zig and zag with the best of them. Follow him on Twitter and LinkedIn.

Community Resilience: The Thai CDC

Thai CDC StratiscopeThe Thai Community Development Center (Thai CDC) in Los Angeles recently commemorated the twentieth anniversary of the release of seventy-two modern day slaves who had been held as garment workers in a makeshift factory in El Monte, California. But the Thai CDC has much more depth than just one case 20 years ago.

On that early August morning in 1995, Chancee Martorell, Thai CDC’s founder and Executive Director, supported law enforcement during the raid, repeatedly calling out to the men and women behind locked doors, “We are here to help!” More than just comforting words, this is a mantra of an organization committed to social justice and human dignity.

Located in the heart of Hollywood, the Thai CDC’s mission is to advance the social and economic well being of Los Angeles by advocating for human rights, affordable housing, healthcare access, and small business development. They are fulfilling their mission by operating a Farmers Market in an East Hollywood neighborhood where senior citizens and other community members congregate.

Looking ahead, the best is yet to come. In 2016, the Thai CDC will launch the Thai Town Marketplace, a small business development project where artisans and burgeoning restauranteurs will set up shop and receive supportive services to help them succeed. Nestled beneath affordable senior housing atop the Metro Redline station, this economic development project will provide opportunities for low income individuals to become self sufficient all while offering a dynamic space for foodies to venture.

Though active in many important events, the Thai CDC continues to stay true to its mission of lifting people up, be they recent Thai immigrants or long-time Angelenos.

For more information, follow @thaicdc on Twitter.


rounded_corners_Angela_B_avatarAngela Babcock works to make neighborhoods better through engaging all stakeholders and solving problems. She assists those who most could use a helping hand and celebrates community resilience. Check her out on LinkedIn.

What’s in a Word: Resilience

BUR Resilient structuresResilience is a tough word; nonetheless, with all its difficulty, I still use it all the time.

It’s a buzzword, a catch-all word, a misunderstood word. Resilience is one of those words that means so many things, it’s almost hard to assign it the meaning and the importance it deserves. (Go ahead: Ask someone what it means and see if anyone near you can define it.)

We tend to relegate its use to ‘being able to withstand what life throws at you,’ and ‘the dynamic changes that strain ‘the system.’’ Even that’s misleading, though, since the systems are so much more dynamic than that. (Still, I use it in various ways anyway, and I make sure to explain its use in each circumstance.)

We know the official definition is clear, but the act of resilience means so mean so much to so many who’ve come out of a devastating event stronger than ever. Even psychology’s definition of resilience has its place in advocacy groups, from FEMA to NOAA to NIST to even groups of groups.

Why so such emphasis on one word? More importantly: What does it mean to those not engaged– you know, the public and local decision-makers?

With so many interpretations and applications, resilience almost begins to lose meaning. It’s only when you see the smile on the face of a young child who’s been given school clothes for a year, a community able to quickly get back on its feet after a devastating earthquake, or the relief of a mother who can sacrificed to take night classes to finally land a better job to support her family that you begin to know what resilience really is.

That’s when resilience becomes more than just a definition. It becomes gritty. Human. Raw. It’s working toward making the kind of impact that transforms the world in a better, stronger place through adversity.

Let your own frame of experience define what you feel resiliency to mean, but no matter what, help others find that power for themselves within themselves.

What does resilience mean to you? Join the conversation on Twitter @stratiscope


rounded_corners_John_B_AvatarJohn Bwarie is an impact professional working to connect people and solve problems while focusing on an actionable outcome. He speaks nationally on resilience issues and has created numerous programs to build resilience in the broadest sense. Follow him on Twitter and LinkedIn.