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Askew School Surveys Resilience and Volunteerism After Hurricane

March 4, 2019

David Berlan, assistant professor in the Askew School of Public Administration and Policy, is leading a research project aimed aimed at capturing volunteer response following 2018's Hurricane Michael.

After Michael ravaged Florida’s panhandle and parts of Georgia in October, a wide range of actors mobilized to respond. Traditional organizations with specific disaster response mandates such as the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the State of Florida, county and city governments and the Red Cross took on critical roles, but so too did a wide range of nonprofits, religious congregations, schools and universities, businesses and community groups.

"Knowing how affected and neighboring communities have addressed disaster response and recovery through voluntary efforts is crucial to help with continued recovery efforts and identify lessons for disaster planning and responding to future disasters," Berlan said. "Through an extensive community-wide survey, the project will fill a critical knowledge gap by mapping out how volunteerism, in-kind donations and financial support are mobilized in regions impacted by disasters."

As part of this effort, Berlan is teaching an applied-research and service-learning course, in which graduate and undergraduate students are supporting and leading field visits to Gadsden, Jackson, Liberty and Orange Counties to engage with the affected communities.

The first visits have been scheduled in Jackson County in early March. Students are interviewing community organizations, civic groups, churches and businesses that have taken part of resilience efforts after Hurricane Michael.

Master of Public Administration student Nadine Long, one of the team leaders for Jackson and Calhoun counties, took the lead on much of the planning for these first two field visits. Long is from Marianna, and many of her friends and neighbors were significantly impacted by the storm.

Long shared her experience in one of Berlan's classes in the fall 2018 semester, and it became a significant part of the project's inspiration and planning. Hearing about how non-coastal communities were affected and how they responded led Berlan to make sure the project's scope included the inland counties and captured the full range of organizations responding to the storm and the diverse ways they did so.

In addition to the field visits, the research team has developed an online survey for organizations throughout North Florida.

Two focus groups provided extensive feedback on the survey. One was composed of Askew School alumni, students and faculty. The second group included representatives of such local organizations as Career Source Capital Region, Domi Station, Florida Prosperity Partnership, 2-1-1 Big Bend, the office of Florida District 9 House Representative Loranne Ausley and the Institute for Nonprofit Innovation and Excellence (INIE), which initially approached Berlan about partnering in the project.

The research team has also held several meetings with governmental and public organizations, who have expressed interest in the promising practical implications of the project.

Along with INIE, the project partners and funders include the FSU College of Social Sciences and Public Policy and the FSU Office of Research.

The team is seeking external funding to reach a broader swath of counties in summer 2019.