A bold initiative to transform America’s response to disasters by strengthening and securing the Resilience Workforce
Resilience Force is a national initiative to transform America’s response to disasters by strengthening and securing America’s Resilience Workforce—the millions of people whose work, heart, and expertise make sustainable recovery from disasters possible. Resilience workers help communities prepare for, respond to, and rebuild after disasters, and includes those who during the COVID-19 pandemic have been rightly identified as essential workers. They are the engine that powers recovery, and who, when treated as the vital workforce they are, will also make the recovery equitable.
Resilience Force works with community advocates and forward-thinking leaders across government, non profit, labor and private sectors to rewrite the rules of disaster recovery. By advancing new solutions through research, organizing, legal action, community-based experiments and storytelling across the media landscape, Resilience Force works toward ensuring a more effective, equitable and sustainable approach to response and recovery for all people affected by the rapidly increasing “new normal” of disasters across the United States.
Resilience Force is working to create a federally funded, New Deal-style public corps jobs program for essential, frontline industries to improve our country’s response to disasters. The idea is modeled on the Works Progress Administration, which employed 8.5 million people during the Great Depression.
In the face of the public health disaster of COVID-19, Resilience Force’s bold ideas for a federal jobs program to scale disaster response has gained traction. Their ideas have been included in several piece of federal legislation in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, including the UNITE Act in the US House and Senate, which would create nearly 500,000 new positions to undertake COVID-19 related work.
In addition to proposing national-level policies, Resilience Force is developing on-the-ground pilots of their big ideas. In the Fall of 2020, they launched a pilot program in New Orleans where there are deep racial disparities in COVID related infections and death rates. In partnership with the Mayor’s Office of New Orleans they launched the New Orleans Resilience Corps. The project is training unemployed Black and Latinx residents to become Community Health Workers.
The New Orleans Resilience Corps represents the nation’s first model of a public jobs program that puts unemployed workers on career paths in the expanding health care industry while addressing the racial and health inequities exacerbated by COVID-19. Their goal is to expand this model to the climate context, to scale to other municipalities, and to inspire federal action to truly match the scale of the challenges we face.
As our normal systems fail, we learn we are free to act in new ways and imagine a new way of life that is just.
Saket Soni, Executive Director of the Resilience Force
Influencing policy as well as the narrative about the people who help us rebuild after disasters.
In the context of increasingly frequent and intense climate disasters, Resilience Force is building a movement of resilience workers who are on the frontlines of climate change, helping to rebuild after hurricanes, floods and fires. As they design and advocate for transformative solutions like the national jobs program, they also work to defend the rights of workers in disasters today and to hold governments and companies accountable to protect the essential resilience workforce. This work was featured in the recent Netflix docuseries, Immigration Nation (Episode 4: The New Normal).
Resilience Force also seeks to strengthen bonds between resilience workers, who often include people who are immigrants, refugees, and asylum-seekers, and the communities they help rebuild, and to highlight the contributions of workers whose labor and humanity often go unrecognized. At a high level, it seeks to create a new narrative that addresses the intersection of immigration, climate change, and poverty. Their narrative work seeds the identity and value of resilience workers in our culture to create momentum for protecting and expanding the Resilience Workforce.
In partnership with the National Immigration Law Center, Resilience Force has also launched #Immigrants Are Essential, a campaign to ensure that immigrants are placed at the center of the essential worker narrative. The campaign has commissioned artists who can bring the stories of immigrant essential workers to life and is driving conversation online so that thousands more people demand action in support of efforts to ensure that (1) undocumented immigrants and their families are not left out of future relief and stimulus bills, and (2) undocumented immigrants doing essential work are given secure status (i.e., deferred action or a pathway to citizenship). They are tapping into the cultural power of the essential worker identity to build recognition for the immigrants in that workforce, so that immigration is no longer a wedge issue in our coming jobs debate.
Unbound has supported Resilience Force, a project of the National Guestworker Alliance, fiscally sponsored by NEO Philanthropy, since 2018; its work advances our Public strategy.