Resilience must be our new normal
It’s been just two years since we thought “flattening the curve” would get us all back to normal.
But then our country experienced a social justice awakening and an assault on the citadel of our democracy. Wildfires and severe storms drove people from their homes and destroyed their businesses.
And when it was finally safe to remove our masks to take a long-awaited, collective breath, an indefensible act of aggression against the people of Ukraine threatens to destabilize our world.
The forces of disease, war, natural disaster and social upheaval impact us all. They even have some of us hoping that once the latest crisis settles down, we can all go back to the comfort of our own “normal.” But even the idea of a “new normal” seems just as improbable now.
Here’s the thing: We don’t have to return to any normal.
We can be resilient instead. We can be well-prepared, continue to innovate for the future and do better for the organizations we lead, the people we serve, and for ourselves as individuals.
In Deloitte’s most recent Government Trends report, researchers found patterns in the ways that leaders at every level of government are pursuing opportunities amid the adversity. They are deliberately expanding their plans, not just for their community’s recovery, but for future resilience.
The federal government’s decision to help financially support millions of families, unemployed workers, and businesses impacted by the pandemic was itself a catalyst for building a stronger and more resilient country.
State agencies from Sacramento, Calif., to Albany, N.Y., took the opportunity to upgrade their human services technology to be more efficient, and to use data and predictive analytics to be even more effective. And the federal government made substantial investments in innovative research and development by the private sector.
The federal Joint Cyber Defense Collaborative, launched in August 2021, is one example. This collaboration with companies like Amazon Web Services, Google Cloud, Microsoft and Verizon is supporting a strategic national defense to cyber intrusion.
In his State of the Union address, President Biden reinforced the idea that government investment in research and development can help strengthen local economies, improve health outcomes, and increase community resilience across the United States.
FEMA, for its part, collaborated with state and local governments, academia, and the private sector to develop a National Risk Index to help local leaders build resilience and plan ways to reduce the impact to their communities. The index assesses, among other factors, social vulnerability and community resilience in the potential face of 18 types of natural hazards — everything from wildfires to coastal and river flooding.
When Louisiana was hit by Hurricane Laura in the midst of the pandemic, state officials quickly worked to provide a secure, electronic system that could distribute Disaster Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits virtually. They kept innovating, even as the state was hit by two more hurricanes that same season. When Ida — one of the most devastating hurricanes in U.S. history — struck the following year, Louisiana was able to quickly help impacted families feed their children.
Despite the forces of nature and the pandemic, the U.S. economy last year grew at its fastest annual rate since 1984. That’s great news, but there are still many economic and social challenges to address.
To maintain momentum, government leaders are deepening their use of data and expanding digital technologies, like AI, to support public servants, upgrade the services they provide, and enhance decision-making. They are reimagining social care, creating more equitable digital access to services, and encouraging more inclusive engagement. And they’re doing all this while working to strengthen the labor force, restructure supply chains, and prepare for climate change, which 70 percent of Americans say is an emergency, according to a recent Deloitte survey.
That’s a lot. But these times have shown us that people can recover and make significant changes in the face of adversity.
We saw it here at home and around the world throughout the pandemic. We’re seeing it now in Eastern Europe as millions of Ukrainians courageously protect their families and their homeland in the face of incalculable suffering and loss.
Their indomitable spirit is the very definition of resilience.
And resilient is better than normal.
Mike Canning leads Deloitte’s government and public services practice, overseeing 15,000 practitioners who provide consulting, risk and financial advisory services to 47 states and cabinet-level agencies in the U.S. government, as well as at higher education and nonprofit organizations.
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