Frequently Asked Questions

Our team answers frequently asked questions from the field


Community members are a vital part of the process of creating a more resilient community. Community members can have connections to the various sectors of society, front-line perspectives about local needs, knowledge about different areas of the community, and engagement with minority groups or vulnerable populations, all of which are vital aspects of building resilience. They are the natural assets of a community with a variety of skills and expertise. With robust and diverse participation in your coalition, the richness of discussions will often be heightened.

The things that will make your project successful will likely vary depending on the characteristics of your community and coalition. One element that all coalitions need is trust. Trust in each other and in the vision of the project is something that will help your group persevere through setbacks and conflict. Building trust often just takes time–time working together, getting to know each other, and forming relationships through a common cause.

Key Ideas

  • Part of the success of a project might not be realized until much later on, after people know where to go for information and resources, who to call, and developing trust in project partners and other community members.
  • If you are having a difficult time, remember that successes come in persevering through struggle and bonds are often formed after emerging from conflict.
  • If your project is not progressing as quickly as you’d like, remember that delays can give people a chance to rethink and refine some of their goals.

All of the sectors are needed in response and recovery so it’s important to plan and prepare with them. With more sectors involved, your community is stronger and will be able to more quickly bounce back after a disaster.

Different sectors have different perspectives, and that interchange of ideas is one thing that will make your coalition strong. The exchanging of ideas can help each sector understand others better, leading to new ways of looking at things and possibly new ideas about how to take on the problems facing your group or organization.

Another benefit of having different sectors involved is the resources and connections that they can bring to the project, which can strengthen your coalition’s access to the things needed to grow and thrive. The connections formed in the coalition can impact members outside of their role in the coalition, potentially creating new perspectives and relationships, strengthening other organizations in which they have a role. Finally, It will help you maximize the recovery resources flowing to your community.

Key Ideas

  •  Think about your common purpose. For example, having grassroots community members and policemen in your coalition can help increase the trust between these groups and the communities that they were working to serve.
  • Think outside of traditional disaster agency perspectives by including faith-based leadership, community leadership, and local city council representatives, among others.


Resilience can be a difficult concept to grasp, and helping someone else understand it requires knowing where they are in their understanding. Some people find the general concept difficult to comprehend, while others may understand the concept but not practical applications.

Even for those who are familiar with the concept, it can be difficult to communicate it to someone just starting to learn about it. In that case, you might ask someone newly familiar with the concept to explain it in his or her own words. This can start a conversation that can deepen everyone’s understanding of resilience.

Key Ideas

  • Meet people where they are in their understanding of and comfort with the concept of resilience.
  • If someone is struggling with the concept, have someone who understands it try to put it in his or her own words.
  • Review RAND’s Community Resilience Learn & Tell Toolkit to develop and practice talking points so you can start telling other people or organizations what they can do to build a more resilient community.


First, prepare for the meeting by thinking about who will be participating and what you want to accomplish by getting these participants together. It’s also useful to think about an appropriate location for everyone to gather if you don’t have a place in mind already. Spread the word via flyers, email, social networking sites, or any other means you can employ, and get participants excited by showing enthusiasm in your communications about the meeting.

Key Ideas

  •  Make it easy for the community to attend meetings (thinking about time and a safe and welcoming location).
  • Set clear ground rules and structure, especially around listening and decision-making.
  • Collect contact information and use a sign-in sheet at meetings to keep track of new participants.

Keeping in mind the interests and goals of the meeting participants, construct an agenda for the meeting and share it with the group in advance. Solicit feedback on the agenda and make changes where appropriate. Get familiar with the level of understanding that participants have about the agenda items. As part of the meeting, build in interactive activities such as small group discussions, debates, role-playing activities or simulations, and case studies.

Key Ideas

  • Include ample opportunities for participants to contribute. For ideas, read more.
  • Develop trust through building rapport, listening, consistency, and ethical behavior.
  • Ensure equal participation and emphasize strength-based thinking.

We all want to feel that we are contributing to something, so it is important that people coming to your group’s meetings/events are getting something out of it. That can be a variety of different things and will likely vary for each member of your group, but figuring out what that is for each member can be a valuable way to keep them coming back.

It is important to invest the time to get buy-in from people, even if it takes time away from planning events or outreach, as this is what will keep your coalition going strong.

Funding & Support

Money can be a powerful motivating force, signaling to participants that a project should be taken seriously. It can make people and organizations feel legitimized, that someone is willing to give resources toward the advancement of resilience.

If funding is obtained with the understanding that the group will decide how to allocate the money, it can give your coalition a purpose, something around which people can come together to more accurately understand each other’s goals and priorities. Even a small amount of money can go a long way, even in a relatively well-off community.

Money, however, can also lead to disagreement and conflict about where and on what to spend it, and there can be a decreased support for your coalition if funding runs out. It is important therefore, to build the organization with people dedicated to furthering resilience whether or not money is involved.

Building a coalition with members who are passionate about building resilience is an important first step. If funding runs out or you are not able to obtain any funding, many people will still want to be a part of the project based on their commitment to helping the community.

Key Ideas

  • If you want your coalition to outlast your money, be very thoughtful about how you get buy-in from people. A strong coalition can persist without a constant stream of funding.
  • Remember that it’s okay for members to come and go as they please. Participants can view the coalition as similar to a bus, where people can get on and off as they desire, but it will continue to move toward its goals.
  • If the time commitment is an issue for participants, you might try to incorporate the objectives of resilience into a partner organization so the work can be continued even if the coalition dissipates.


Assessing progress toward the goals of your project can and should start as soon as possible. Part of this assessment can simply be collecting relevant data that you can use to gauge your progress.

Once you’ve collected some data and have enough time to evaluate progress, you can examine the data and see how your coalition or community has done, keeping in mind that any progress is good, and even negative outcomes are things that you can learn from and will help you do better in the future.

Key Ideas

  • Develop standardized metrics, questions, or measurements to assess progress. Remain constant over time. If you collect data on the same things repeatedly, you’ll better be able to see how things have changed.
  • There are many ways you can measure outcomes. For example, if you collect attendance at meetings, with participants’ organizational affiliation, you can get an idea about how effective the meetings are at engaging participants and what sectors you might need to reach out to more effectively.
  • It is never too late to start evaluating. Even if your project has been underway for a long time, it doesn’t hurt to start looking at outcomes and even look back at materials, agendas, or other items you might use to assess progress from earlier activities.
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