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People focus gives South Australia leading edge in building disaster resilience

A project that focuses on people connections (social capital) and the places where people connect (social infrastructure) as a way of building national disaster resilience has quietly begun in South Australia.

Led by certified social enterprise Resilient Ready alongside global social capital expert Professor Daniel Aldrich, the seven-month thought leadership snapshot project is funded under the SAFECOM Disaster Risk Reduction Grants Program by the Australian and South Australian governments.

The project swings the focus away from the traditional buildings and bridges, with outcomes of this new approach to provide recommendations on practical ways to embed social capital and social infrastructure into future planning and investments for a safer, more resilient state.

``We can’t sit passively by and wait for the government to save us when there’s a disaster,’’ Professor Aldrich, who draws on his experience living in tsunami and earthquake-prone Japan and the USA, says.

``It’s unrealistic and unsustainable. We must save ourselves and our neighbours.

``But we can’t expect our communities to save themselves without the knowledge and the tools to do so.

``We must teach them how to prepare for disaster, survive and thrive afterwards.’’

Resilient Ready CEO and founder Renae Hanvin says Professor Aldrich’s global approach will help South Australia take a national leadership role in understanding how people connections and places people connect can build resilience.

``Buying more `things’ may not be the answer. We’ve built more bridges, stronger buildings and levees, and they’re not building the holistic resilience our communities need.

``We need to think and do disaster preparedness and resilience differently by focusing on and valuing people connections and the places where they connect.

``People build resilience. People reduce risks. So why don’t we invest in building knowledge, capabilities and connections in people?’’

While SA is committed to building resilience and reducing risks before, during and after disasters, the state does not have a clear approach to measuring, investing in and embedding social capital and social infrastructure.


The snapshot project will provide quantitative and qualitative data, insights and recommendations on what social capital and social infrastructure across SA could and should be.


Resilient Ready will host about 70 people at an invitation only forum in Adelaide on May 20.

An online forum from 9.30am to 11.30am ACST (Adelaide) or 10am to 12pm AEST (Melbourne/Sydney) on Friday, May 24, is open to everyone, especially community, government, local council, business and industry not-for-profit representatives in South Australia.

Professor Aldrich and the Resilient Ready team will explain what social capital and social infrastructure is, could be and should be for South Australia.

There will be discussion on developing a South Australian definition for social capital and social infrastructure, identifying South Australian categories for heatmapping indices and defining data measurement opportunities, gaps and benefits.

Findings from the forum will contribute to a South Australian Snapshot Report.

Click HERE to register for the online forum.

Click HERE for information about the project.


A full professor and director of the Resilience Studies program at Northeastern University, Professor Aldrich specialises in Japanese politics, nuclear power, NIMBY politics and disaster recovery.

Previously at Purdue University, in 2012-13 he was a Fulbright research professor at Tokyo University and, in 2011-12 academic year an American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) fellow at USAID.

Professor Aldrich’s first book, Site Fights, focused on how states handle conflict over controversial facilities like nuclear power plants, airports and dams. His second, Building Resilience (2012 from the University of Chicago), investigated how social capital facilitates recovery following disasters. His third, Black Wave (2019 from the University of Chicago Press), showed how horizontal and vertical ties were critical to helping people survive and thrive in crisis. His next book will be on social infrastructure (the places and spaces where we build ties and trust, such as libraries, parks and pubs).


CEO and founder of Resilient Ready, a certified social enterprise driving a new ecosystem in business and community risk reduction and resilience, Renae’s focus is to strengthen community networks and global wellbeing in this new era of disasters. Host of the Doing Disasters Differently Podcast, Renae consults to corporates, governments, councils, not-for-profits and SME/small businesses on risk reduction and social capital strategies, crisis and issues management, resilience program delivery and multi-stakeholder engagement. Delivering innovative solutions, Renae is transforming the business community sector across Australia by building a new culture of resilient and ready people in businesses of any size, structure, location and industry. Renae released a white paper on business community connections in the Blue Mountains, designed a business community resilience toolkit for bushfire impacted communities and co-designed an Award-winning business climate adaptation tool with the Kangaroo Island community.


This project is funded under the Disaster Risk Reduction Grants Program funded by the Australian Government and South Australian Government.

Views and findings associated with this initiative/project are expressed independently and do not necessarily represent the view of State and Commonwealth funding bodies.

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Norman Lindsay Gallery, Faulconbridge.

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