On May 13th I turn 73. In case you don’t know me, here’s my NewStories Bio. For the last 5 years my focus has been community regeneration after wildfires. In arid regions, these fires are massive. They cause death and destruction unimaginable even just a few years ago. I’ve been involved in community building work for half a century now. In this time of multiple crises, I know it is time to reimagine and regenerate our communities. And I believe that our many disasters are a gateway to new possibilities.
People see that they don’t just want to rebuild the past, they want to create a future that is better. Allen Myers, now a NewStories team member, was born in Paradise, California, the community devastated by the Camp Fire on November 8, 2018. When the fires hit Paradise, he showed up to help. A filmmaker, Allen’s short Message from the Future of Paradise creates a clear picture of of the promise of new possibilities.
I’ve been working with people in many communities in the west and around the world devastated by wildfire. It’s clear to them that they must be in charge of their own recovery. Help from outsiders is essential, and local people must turn to each other, figure out what’s important, and imagine their next steps. People themselves weave the social fabric that connects them to create a new future together.
I’ve done leadership and community development work since the 70’s. My focus on disaster started just 11 years ago with the Triple Disasters in Japan on March 11, 2011 when a huge earthquake was followed by a massive tsunami and then the explosion of a nuclear power plant in Fukushima. My book, AfterNow: When We Cannot See the Future, Where do We Begin? shares stories and insights from those disasters where people in Japan found their own next steps. You can download the electronic version with our compliments here.
In 2018 I was invited to bring these insights into Napa and Sonoma Counties in Northern California after the massive fires at the end of 2017. In 2019 this work grew into neighboring California communities, especially Paradise. And grew further into Malden, close to my home in Spokane, Washington, that was burned to the ground in 2020 and communities far away in Australia. We need each other more than ever before. NewStories keeps being called into more communities preparing, recovering, or regenerating after disaster. What we have seen through this local work, through many conversations with many partners, is that it is time to create a learning exchange — a Community Regeneration Collaboratory — connecting people from communities that have been — or may be — devastated by wildfire.
Please help us build this Collaboratory!
The learning exchange we have been dreaming together is a a web of communities that begins in the Western US and Canada and that stretches into more and more spaces. It begins with a focus on wildfires, but is not limited to that one kind of disaster. We’ve defined four important “pillars” needed to support regeneration:
- Start at Year Three on Day One
- Advocate With A Collective Voice
- Create a Collaborative Funding Model
- Learn More. Act Wiser
This Community Regeneration Collaboratory begins by inviting people from fire affected communities to come together to do community-based research together. We know the next steps, AND we must raise money to do it right. Communities themselves know what they need and what they have learned. They have expertise to share with each other and they know when they need support and assistance from outside their communities. But most of this community knowledge is invisible both to the communities themselves, as well as those beyond their borders.
For my birthday this year, I am asking for your help in kickstarting this project. Friends, this work is so needed. As I put the last touches on this appeal, I am in Banff, Alberta to keynote provincial affordable housing conference. Here too, the urge for communities to connect, learn and act together is strong. A different focus — affordable housing not wildfires — but the urge for connection is just as strong. Will you help weave the social fabric we need now to create a future together?