'Tis the Season to Recognize Local Heroes

Monday, December 21, 2015
Authors: 
Virgil Storr

With the holiday season upon us, many people will be looking to find ways to not only give gifts to their loved ones and friends but to also give back to their communities and donate to worthy causes. There are many options to choose from, including large multinational NGOs as well as local nonprofits and religious organizations, and determining where to donate your time and money is a difficult decision to make. However, lessons from post-disaster recovery suggest that donating to local social entrepreneurs can be a worthy endeavor.

Just over three years ago, Hurricane Sandy devastated the coast of Maryland, New Jersey and New York. The storm caused more than $60 billion in damages and displaced an estimated 37,000 primary residences in New Jersey and over 300,000 residences in New York. While much of the media coverage of the three-year anniversary focused on the role of government assistance in recovery, there have been fewer stories that show the efforts within civil society to provide assistance. Through our research on the ground after Hurricane Sandy, we saw that local community leaders and social entrepreneurs were critical to recovery.

For instance, in the Orthodox Jewish community on the Rockaway Peninsula, a local nonprofit, Achiezer, worked with local rabbis to distribute assistance to those in need. The Community Assistance Fund, which had previously been used to help community members during the recession, helped more than 1,000 families and distributed $11 million. It enlisted the help of rabbis and other members of the community to work as representatives who would help community members apply for funding. The 48 representatives, spread throughout the Orthodox Jewish community on the peninsula, helped people fill out and submit applications.

Its funding was distributed in three distinct phases. The first phase provided victims with emergency cash between $2,000 to $3,000. The second and third phases included larger payments for repairing and rebuilding homes.

Less than a year after the storm, Rabbi Bender expressed pride in his team's ability to raise and distribute the funds quickly and efficiently, "The staggering fact from this, which I am extremely proud of, [is that] … we raised it, $11 million, and we gave out $11 million and there was no overhead costs." Bender compares this to government efforts, which still have not succeeded in distributing aid to those in need.

In addition to providing the resources necessary to repair and rebuild damaged property, these local heroes help restore and replace disrupted social networks by connecting and informing residents, signaling that community rebound is likely and, in fact, under way.

Community Revival in the Wake of Disaster | Official Book Trailer

Rebounding after disasters like tsunamis, hurricanes, earthquakes, and floods can be daunting. Communities must have residents who can not only gain access to the resources that they need to rebuild but who can also overcome the collective action problem that characterizes post-disaster relief efforts.

In their new book, Community Revival in the Wake of Disaster: Lessons in Local Entrepreneurship, Virgil Henry Storr, Stefanie Haeffele-Balch, and Laura E. Grube use examples of recovery efforts following Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans, Louisiana, and Hurricane Sandy on the Rockaway Peninsula in New York to show that entrepreneurs, conceived broadly as individuals who recognize and act on opportunities to promote social change, fill this critical role.

Learn more at communityrevival.us.

People: 
Virgil Storr
Stefanie Haeffele
External People: 
Image: 
Date: 
Thursday, November 5, 2015
Video URL: 
Publish to Announcements page?: 
Publish to The Bridge?: 

The Role of Culture in Economic Action

August, 2015

Culture shapes economic action and, as such, impacts economic life. Although there is a growing recognition amongst economists that culture matters, there is nothing approaching a universal agreement on how to incorporate culture into economic analysis. We provide a brief summary of how economists have discussed culture and then argue that Austrian School Economics is particularly well suited to contribute to our understanding of the relationship between culture and economic action. Indeed, Austrian economics has an advantage (1) because of its links to Max Weber’s approach to social science and (2) because of its emphasis on economics as a science of meaning. A Weber-inspired Austrian economics that stresses meaning, we argue, brings a focus on culture to the fore of economic analysis and opens the door for a progressive research program within cultural economics. Austrian economists can and have made significant contributions to our understanding of the relationship between culture and economic action. Moreover, we argue, explorations of the connection between culture and economic action can be a fruitful field of study within Austrian economics.

Culture and Economic Action

August, 2015

Culture has been a relatively understudied subject within economics. Economists who have studied it often conceive culture as a form of capital, treating it as a set of tools or a resource that certain groups possess and other groups do not. Austrian economics, in contrast, is a science of human behavior that is primarily concerned with making sense of meaningful human action. Because of this, Austrian economists are particularly well suited to inject cultural considerations into economic analysis.

This edited volume, a collection of both theoretical essays and empirical studies, presents an Austrian economics perspective on the role of culture in economic action. The authors illustrate that culture cannot be separated from economic action, but that it is in fact part of all decision-making.

Culture and Economic Action is an enlightening cross-disciplinary exploration that will appeal to all scholars in the social sciences, from anthropologists to economists.

Community Revival in the Wake of Disaster

October, 2015

Rebounding after disasters like tsunamis, hurricanes, earthquakes, and floods can be daunting. Communities must have residents who can not only gain access to the resources that they need to rebuild but can overcome the collective action problem that characterizes post-disaster relief efforts. 

Community Revival in the Wake of Disaster argues that entrepreneurs, conceived broadly as individuals who recognize and act on opportunities to promote social change, fill this critical role. Using examples of recovery efforts following Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans, Louisiana, and Hurricane Sandy in Rockaway, New York, the authors demonstrate how entrepreneurs promote community recovery by providing necessary goods and services, restoring and replacing disrupted social networks, and signaling that community rebound is likely and, in fact, underway. They argue that creating space for entrepreneurs to act after disasters is essential for promoting recovery and fostering resilient communities.

Endorsements

“Too often we look only to the government to help with disaster recovery when, as this excellent book reveals, the answer is already right in front of us. Using hundreds of interviews and months in the field after Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Sandy, the authors skillfully show us how entrepreneurs and local business people serve as change agents after crisis.”

— Daniel P. Aldrich, Professor of Political Science, University Faculty Scholar, and Director of Asian Studies, Purdue University; author of Building Resilience: Social Capital in Post-Disaster Recovery

“Community Revival in the Wake of Disaster focuses attention on the role that economic as well as social entrepreneurs may play in promoting community recovery and fostering resiliency. The case studies included in the book are compelling, and the broader lessons regarding the potential for social change in the wake of disaster are important.”

— Lori Peek, Associate Professor of Sociology and Co-Director of the Center for Disaster and Risk Analysis, Colorado State University; co-author of Children of Katrina

“When disaster strikes a community, the natural instinct of those who want to assist in the recovery process is that ‘we must do something,’ which usually translates into a bureaucratic effort to centrally plan the recovery. However, in this book, the authors put forth a compelling case for decentralizing recovery efforts and allowing space for entrepreneurial activity to take place in the wake of a disaster. Storr, Haeffele-Balch, and Grube effectively argue that it is entrepreneurship that leads to a more robust and long-term recovery for the community affected by the disaster. This work is an important step in the process toward understanding the role that individuals and informal institutions play in post-disaster community recovery.”

— Peter J. Boettke, University Professor of Economics and Philosophy, George Mason University

“Having spent hundreds of hours interviewing New Orleans and Gulf Coast residents in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, my fellow researchers and I have been repeatedly struck by the scale and scope of the challenges disaster victims must overcome as they attempt to rebuild their homes and their communities. In Community Revival in the Wake of Disaster, Storr, Haeffele-Balch, and Grube demonstrate vividly and compellingly how entrepreneurs across all sectors drive community recovery by providing necessary resources and coordinating recovery efforts. Scholars, students, and practitioners who are interested in how communities can rebound in the wake of disaster and how policymakers can promote resilient communities should read this book.”

— Emily Chamlee-Wright, Provost and Dean, Washington College; author of The Cultural and Political Economy of Recovery: Social Learning in a Post-Disaster Environment

“Storr, Haeffele-Balch, and Grube take a critical and rejuvenating approach to the meaning of ‘entrepreneur’. This book describes how post-disaster communities can make a comeback through collective return and renewal. As a retired fire marshal, I want this book in the hands of every community stakeholder. As an educator, I think it belongs in the hands of every student involved in becoming his or her community’s future.”

— Rodger E. Broomé, Assistant Professor, Department of Emergency Services, Utah Valley University; Retired Battalion Chief and City Fire Marshal, West Jordan Fire Department, Utah

 

Communities of Liberal Learning as Social Spaces

February, 2015

The authors examine the ways in which the residential liberal arts college as a social space fosters habits of association in ways that are profound (e.g., collective student response to social issues involving race or gender dynamics on campus) and mundane (e.g., learning to live compatibly with others in tight dormitory quarters). Further, through case study analysis, the authors argue that it is within the context of these social spaces that young adults gain experience in building community with others significantly different from themselves. 

Editors: 
People: 
Emily Chamlee-Wright

The Capacity for Self-Governance and Post-Disaster Resiliency

September, 2014

A community’s capacity for self-governance depends on the social coordination capacity of community organizations and associations, the ability of community members to effectively access both bonding and bridging social capital, the ability of community members to leverage their shared histories and perspectives, and the stability of social networks within the community. Both Elinor Ostrom and Jane Jacobs have explored how a community’s capacity for self-governance affects its ability to solve complex problems (for example, dealing with crime, the provision of public goods, or problems of neighborhood blight). The greater a community’s capacity for self-governance the better able it is to deal with these complex challenges. This paper examines how pre-disaster systems of self-governance aid in post-disaster community recovery. Our analysis focuses on the Mary Queen of Vietnam (MQVN) community and Gentilly, examines the effectiveness of their systems of self-governance prior to Hurricane Katrina and explores the role these systems played in promoting community recovery after the disaster.

Pages