Read the Winning DRI Foundation Scholarship Essay by Mariel Thompson

For an organization or nation to be best prepared requires a holistic, united collaboration among all the elements that will reduce risk and increase the state of readiness. While resources are an important requirement; the ability for participants to work together is of equal, if not greater importance. In the politically charged world of today, there seems to be less and less cooperation among governments and more partisan agenda focused policies.

Private sector organizations have found that an integrated, unified, non-siloed approach to tackling problems has been the most effective approach to being resilient. Having a vested interest in the success of the organization, there is an inherent reason for cooperation.

As a future leader, and one who will be an heir to this legacy, how would you bring together the various factions to create an environment that will reduce risk and increase our state of preparedness?

The United States Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) identifies its National Preparedness Goal as, “A secure and resilient nation with the capabilities required across the whole community to prevent, protect against, mitigate, respond to, and recover from the threats and hazards that pose the greatest risk.” This goal is ultimately dependent on the community structure upon which this nation relies. The National Preparedness Goal outlines five mission areas which categorize the methods in which the nation and its communities can contribute to the execution of the National Preparedness Goal. These five mission areas are: prevention, protection, mitigation, response and recovery. Also, FEMA clearly identifies various ‘Core Capabilities’ which are specific and nuanced methods that community members with varied specialties can contribute to the National Preparedness Goal.

As a college student with leadership aspirations in finance and global studies, I plan to contribute to my community — and subsequently my nation — in the areas of ‘Economic Recovery’, and ‘Public Information and Warning’. One of the most threatening aspects of disasters are the unexpectedness of the event. The core capability of ‘Public Information and Warning’ implores citizens to inform their community members of potential threats or hazards they may face with “clear, consistent, accessible, and culturally and linguistically appropriate methods” (FEMA). My education and experiences in Global Studies have allowed me to recognize the importance of cultural relativism. For instance, the deadly Category 5 hurricane that devastated Puerto Rico in 2017, while unexpected, was not unusual for the time of year or region. However, Puerto Rico suffered from an unreasonably lengthy state of emergency due to the lack of international cooperation and intervention. Community members were unable to contact one another due to failed power, and there was little to no communication from outside of the island. As a result, residents were put in grave danger and fatal chaos ensued. As a community member I am prepared to help develop communication networks in the community where I live and at work to ensure citizens have a specific person of contact whom they may rely on for information in times of disaster with or without power.

The organizations that assisted Puerto Rico had little information on the current communication systems — simply, how information gets shared — that existed on the island, and were unable to address Puerto Rican communities appropriately. The same concept could be applied in communities where residents are not fluent in English and cannot understand directions being given out by leaders. By developing a clear and transitive communication network, people can have a concrete chain of contact person to be accountable and counted upon. This may be executed by hosting community workshops which ask citizens to critically examine their current social networks and plan their communication strategies in various scenarios.

The ‘Economic Recovery’ core capability as presented by FEMA describes the process of restoring businesses and economic activity which undergirds traditional society. Recent activity in the US government trade relations and agreements is a perfect example for how a company can fail at the hands of changing political climate. The existing factions of the United States government have varying opinions on how the US should go about international trade relations; however, the US economy ultimately relies upon trade for prosperity. In light of this, I am committed to helping unite the various factions by addressing everyday citizens from partisan backgrounds to create nonpartisan preparedness plans.

Changing trade agreements have produced hardships for producers in both China and the United States. While fiscal disasters tend to be less immediate and drastic, they still present very real consequences for communities which rely on certain fiscal activities for their livelihood. Tariffs and taxes are a natural part of global economics and should be factored into the long run considerations of their economic plan. Exports are a natural aspect of the global market, and many US farmers rely on foreign consumers to pay for their products and keep the flow of money constant. Therefore, the current political rifts have created surpluses for domestic US farmers and disrupted the economic systems that farmers and farming communities have come to rely on. As a financial advisor, I would like to work with businesses or individuals to create specific and flexible plans for production that can work when the ‘normal’ political climate is absent, or disaster ensues. For example, in the case of a farmer, I would work with that individual to create a plan to slow or accelerate production in response to what is going on in the world. This plan of action is contingent on being constantly aware of current events and having the ability to estimate the worst-case scenarios that could occur.

Globalization is an abstract idea that is used to describe the proliferating flow of ideas, people, and things transnationally. As the world is becoming used to being in constant conversation, there are bound to be rifts between ideas and peoples from different backgrounds or mindsets. In an effort to be pragmatic, it is necessary to acknowledge the political interests or disinterests which prevent nations from being totally beneficent to nations that are suffering and don’t have an immediate opportunity to compensate their donors in the form of monetary reimbursement or political support. Moreover, the international political system hosts various interests and nations, which is an inevitable environment for alliances and estrangements. Therefore, it can be argued that it is unreasonable to expect the international community to step in and support a foreign disaster despite their ally relationship with the nation. While alliances cannot be ignored, it is critical to understand the fragility of interdependence in the international community. Even if countries are only willing to offer support to a nation in need on the grounds of trade agreements, their support will determine the difference between rehabilitation and turmoil. The purpose of addressing international affairs and domestic affairs at a community level is to acknowledge the exponential fragility of the communities on an international scale, therefore addressing preparedness at a domestic and community level is a necessary step toward international preparedness.

As a future leader in finance and global affairs, I intend to unite the various factions of international and domestic cooperation by curating interdependent plans of action for states of emergency that reduce risk and promote preparedness. In order to encourage nations to support others in disaster, there should be advanced contracts of firm agreements on how much support a nation will provide, monetary or not, to nations that are suffering from disaster. Within these contracts, there should be indications of time periods in which the nation should be especially prepared to support based on environmental or political climate. This will allow the international community at large to benefit from proactive initiatives and rely less on being reactive to natural disasters and the turmoil of their aftermath. Contracts stipulating terms of support will actualize the concept of environmental connectedness and discourage nations from creating negative externalities in pursuit of money which will ultimately be lost in their support of countries in distress. As a leader within my community I intend use clear public information and economic recovery on a community level to prepare for and respond to disaster, to help mitigate the strain of political interests on national preparedness. I believe my efforts within the community will contribute to an overall goal of international connectedness and preparedness.