Reflections on Community Resilience and Social Justice 

In the aftermath of the murder of George Perry Floyd, Jr., and the ensuing renewed public outcries and attention to the dynamics of systemic racism in our society, our team of faculty, staff and students at the Knowledge Exchange for Resilience (KER) embarked on a concerted internal reflection about how our work with community resilience intersects with social justice. Throughout June and July of 2020, we held group discussions, a brainstorming session, a collaborative writing effort, a poll of assets, and follow-up reflections on the topic over several weeks. This document seeks to summarize the key take-aways from this internal reflection process. It also aims to lay the groundwork for initiating deeper conversations with collaborators to make our contributions more explicit and impactful towards a more just and resilient community. Our mission is to partner with communities throughout Maricopa County to exchange local knowledge, data, and collaboratively develop responses that lead to solving challenges. Our work seeks to transform the systemic drivers of shocks and stressors in social, economic and environmental domains – disruptions that too frequently impact racial and ethnic minorities disproportionately. KER themes cut across vulnerabilities to lack of food access, income insecurity, wellbeing and health, and adequate shelter and the built environment for a city chronically shocked by heat. In these domains, our attention to system drivers implicitly and explicitly produce knowledge and data that supports efforts towards greater racial and ethnic equity. We aim to ensure that our team and our collaborators give greater visibility to these drivers and dynamics in ways that promote social justice. As a university-based and community-engaged research group, we are committed to sharing and discovering insights that derive from insights of actors outside of academia. This often entails highlighting and adopting the powerful lessons that black, indigenous, and communities of color in Maricopa County can teach us. Collectively, diverse experiences with building resilience are critical to recognize and center in our work. We aim to continuously improve our approaches to ensure inclusion of voices that reflect our racially and ethnically diverse community. Through exchanging and producing knowledge to build community resilience, we strive to advance social cohesion, promote economic prosperity, and enhance environmental security. Our vision to not just “bounce back” but “bounce forward” resonates with the ambition for transformative change within discourse on social justice. We aim to spark and participate in profound, enduring change that brings resilience dividends for everyone.

Some Knowledge Assets for Building a Resilient and Just Community

Our team assessed the body of work that we have collectively pursued since KER was launched at ASU in 2018. We work with many public, private and especially local nonprofit organizations to understand the factors that contribute to vulnerabilities and inequity in Maricopa County as noted above. To better understand these issues, we have partnered with nonprofit organizations such as Phoenix Rescue Mission, the Valley of the Sun United Way, Poder Latinx, Chicanos por la Causa, and the Inter-Tribal Council of Arizona, Arizona 211, and many others. Through these collaborative efforts, KER has gathered, analyzed, shared, visualized, and presented information about missing gaps, opportunities to optimize solutions, and revealed hidden needs to enact change with organizations including the Salt River Project, Arizona Power Services, City of Mesa, Arizona Department of Economic Security, and local governments. We have built dashboards, story maps and interactive tools to support entities that are concerned with evictions, foreclosures, heat-related deaths, homelessness, response rate to the US Census, mobility, and unemployment.

Areas in which KER may consider how to broaden our efforts to counteract systemic racial and ethnic oppression include the possibility of working with our current community partners and other new organizations that seek to explore specific social justice issues present in our current portfolio. New areas of data support, analysis, visualization, and insights exchange may be possible with organizations who are interested in divesting in for-profit prisons, militarized and racially biased police forces, and efforts to end incarceration of people experiencing homelessness in Maricopa County. Some expertise, skills and resources we could bring to such partnerships include:

● Qualitative and quantitative data analysis of unstructured datasets

● Data mapping and visualization, story maps

● Facilitated discussions to identify key problems and solutions through our partnership with ASU’s Decision Theater

● Grant and proposal writing collaborations

● Translation for Spanish, Hindi, Tamil, Marathi, Chinese, Belarusian, and Russian speakers, Nepali, among others

● Hosting of Insights features on our website for broader dissemination

● “Hunch Lunches” where speakers share emerging information about profound change, disruption, or unanticipated phenomena and give some reflection and thought about what ideas they may have based on their knowledge and experiences

● Shared data in our open repository on food pantries, unemployment rates, neighborhood mapping and demographics, evictions and foreclosure data, in-door heat-related death and illnesses, cooling centers, and municipal-level interventions

● Academic publications and presentations using organizational data, including mentoring for co-authorship in peer-reviewed outlets

● The KER Resilience Fellowships, a year-long cohort of academic and community leaders pursuing individual projects in a group learning environment

With thanks to the whole team at ASU’s Knowledge Exchange for Resilience for their participation in this reflection and shared ethic of inclusion. Special appreciation to Lilly Villa for spearheading the discussions, leading the brainstorming, and organizing capture of ideas in writing for this document. Questions and recommendations may be directed to Dr. Patricia Solís,