Guest Post: Complexity of disasters allow room for new realities

Posted on July 26, 2012 by Guest Blogger

Editor's Note: Veronica Taylor is a consultant specializing in disaster preparedness, response and recovery. She previously worked with The Patterson Foundation to help deepen its understanding of the disaster space. As a guest blogger, she will cover issues relevant to the disaster sector. 

Imagine a piece of paper being sculpted into a beautiful work of origami art. Now imagine a huge hand coming down from nowhere, snatching up the piece of art, and wadding the paper into a ball. Disaster has struck and our community is now facing a New Reality.

Where do you start?  We can save the piece of paper, but how are we ever going to smooth out all the creases, much less reconstruct a beautiful piece of origami? It seems overwhelming.

Disasters are complex events. Like the crinkled paper, the chaos looks like random behavior, but it’s really unstable behavior over time that stays within clear boundaries. Interestingly, chaos may also be a necessary and desirable condition, which accommodates adaptations, cross-communication, creativity, cooperation, innovation, and other such emergent behavior essential to creating quantum leap New Realities – the silver lining in the clouds.

Disasters are our opportunity to see things not as they are, but as they could be.

Through the next several blogs, I will explore how realities change pre-disaster, during a disaster event, and post disaster and why things are not always as they appear to be. I will discuss philanthropy’s role in disaster, and make proven recommendations for areas of disaster investment that will gain the best dollar-for-dollar return on social investment and the biggest impact on a recovering community. I will then share several additional “think outside of the box” recommendations.

Over the past few months, I had the pleasure of evaluating the disaster preparedness of Sarasota County, Florida.  Sarasota County often serves as a model for the rest of Florida and the nation as a disaster-resilient community. Since I’ve worked with communities all over the world, either impacted by disaster or preparing for disaster, I was excited to compare the differences and learn some best practices.

I hope this will be a learning dialogue for all of us.  I want to learn from you.  Please jump in anytime and respond to my blogs or contact me at

  • Learn about these and other concepts used in TPF's approach to philanthropy.


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