Sarah’s Snippets 2/8/2016

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Sarah’s Snippets 2/8/2016

On February 11, 2016, Posted by , In Sarah's Snippets, With No Comments

Last week’s Snippets spoke about SALT’s partnership with a graduate class at Sage College in Albany to conduct a Community Needs Assessment in the Schoharie County area. Understandably, we received the question:

“Hasn’t that already been done recently?”

Good question! Several villages within the county have undergone assessments since the flooding in 2011 and developed their Comprehensive Recovery Plans. However, for the county as a whole, there are many gaps in data and critical pieces of data that are severely outdated. These missing pieces are essential to finding the right solutions to advance the county toward post-flood vibrancy.

We have all learned that the idea of a quick fix is an oxymoron. Effective change within a community takes at least three to five years and often many more. This is true of changes needed for long-term recovery that create a renewed and revitalized, self-sustaining community.

Another feature of effective change is the understanding that we all live in multiple circles of life (also called systems). We have our nuclear families within extended families, neighborhoods within villages within towns within the county, and so on. Each person as an individual not only lives in many circles, but is also affected by each circle. By the same token, each individual may have interesting and valid ideas to contribute to any of these circles, ideas that are important to the eventual solutions employed. Therefore, when looking to move toward renewal, it is important to seek input from the various circles.

“Living systems generally remain in a stable state. That’s a good thing; otherwise, we’d be living in chaos. But it’s also why systems change can be so difficult. From time to time, however, a system encounters a point of instability where it is confronted by new circumstances or information that it can’t absorb without giving up some of its old structures, behaviors, or beliefs.”  Michael K. Stone, Zenobia Barlow

For Schoharie County, the flooding of 2011 created that intense point of instability by presenting us with new circumstances that could not be ignored.

To return to a sense of stability, it is tempting to push toward solutions too quickly and bypass people with important ideas. Often these are the very people who will have to live with the solutions. Engaging a large cross-section of people in the process of finding solutions helps ensure that improvements are meaningful to those who will be affected by them. The adjustments are also more apt to be long-lasting.

The work that Sage graduate students are doing with SALT will build on the work that has already been done in local recovery plans. It will assist filling gaps in data critical to the overall knowledge about the county post-flood. Currently, the students are strategizing about howthe assessment will be conducted. Due to their limit of one semester, they may focus on a couple of villages to create a model that can be used throughout the remainder of the county villages and towns. Snippets will keep sharing updates as their class plans develop.

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