Pogledaj Full Version : Training Future Innovators: Can You Teach Policy and Empathy at the Same Time?

Željko Zidarić
27th-May-2012, 11:18 PM
Kate Hoagland • May 16th, 2012 (http://socialinnovation.ash.harvard.edu/training-future-innovators-can-you-teach-policy-and-empathy-at-the-same-time)

This post was originally published in the Spring 2012 edition of the Ash Center for Democratic Governance and Innovation’s Communiqué.

At 3:34 a.m. on February 27, 2010, Chile was hit with an 8.8 magnitude earthquake, the world’s sixth largest earthquake in recorded history. From its epicenter off the Pelluhue commune coast, the quake and subsequent tsunami damage spanned 600 kilometers from coastal to mountainous regions home to 80 percent of the country’s population.

The disaster killed 562 residents and destroyed an estimated 370,000 homes, causing over $30 billion (US dollars) in widespread devastation and economic loss. Certain small villages and towns closest to the quake’s epicenter and along the coast experienced devastating losses: in Cobquecura and Dichato over 90 percent of residents lost their homes.

Two years later, the country is making impressive progress towards recovery. The government removed all disaster debris in a matter of months; by comparison New Orleans took upwards of three years to complete trash removal after Hurricane Katrina. Of the 80,000 temporary housing units known as mediaguas, 75,000 were built on residents’ actual land. Permanent housing for the homeless is well underway.

The current administration has an ambitious goal of building the remaining permanent homes for all 220,000 families by February 2014. While building homes and infrastructure requires master planning and cannot be done over night, many residents remain frustrated at the pace of reconstruction. And in smaller, rural villages like Perales destroyed by the tsunami, recovery efforts have been largely overlooked, abandoning residents to rebuild their homes and livelihoods on their own.

Community Recovery Immersion Course

Designed to give students a rare, insider’s view of the complex issues surrounding Chile’s recovery efforts, the “Community Recovery: Rebuilding Disaster Damaged Communities in Chile” course was held January 2nd through 14th, 2012. Created and taught by Doug Ahlers, adjunct lecturer in public policy at Harvard Kennedy School and a faculty affiliate of the Ash Center’s Program on Crisis Leadership, the course included a week of field work whereby teams of students lived and worked in Cobquecura, Dichato, and Perales, three quake- and tsunami-affected areas.

Because these towns mirror the damage and devastation felt in other regions throughout Chile, Ahlers hopes the economic recovery strategies and plans created by the students can be adapted around the country as models for community-based recovery.

This course is part of a larger effort of the Kennedy School to provide students immersive experiences to translate the skills they have learned in the classroom into practice. “Experiential learning courses like this one follow a ‘throw you into the deep end of the pool’ philosophy by really immersing our students in the communities they are studying to gain a better understanding of the complexity of the challenges faced,” said Ahlers. “Instead of getting a perfect problem set, they are getting a messy problem set, and from their toolbox of theories and frameworks, they must find ways to apply them in real time under real life pressures.”

Meeting with the families, community groups, foundations, and businesses hard hit by the disaster, students gained an on-the-ground understanding of each community’s day-to-day struggles. During the final week of the course, each team crafted a detailed strategic plan for improving the area’s economic growth in both the short- and long-term using the information they had learned doing field research.

A key component of the Community Recovery course was to help residents of Cobquecura, Dichato, and Perales identify promising public and private grants for individuals along with start-up and existing businesses. As the grant application process can be overwhelming for even the most seasoned professional and many residents were not familiar with the resources available to them, students offered one-on-one assistance with navigating the grant application process and facilitated with application writing so residents could best take advantage of available financial support.

Building Out of Rubble

Ruthzee Louijeune, HLS JD and HKS MPP 2014, and her fellow team members met with many of Dichato’s residents. She explained “the people of Dichato know best what their needs are—they’ve already identified them. Our primary objective was to listen to their ideas and help them strategically translate their vision to best gain access to resources and funds to start and rebuild their livelihoods.”

In one such interview, Louijeune met with 18 women all originally living in a temporary housing camp who, by hand, had built their own greenhouse of wood and plastic sheeting. Currently selling organic fruits and vegetables, the women hoped to become the town’s only flower vendor and take advantage of the built-in market promised by the nearby cemetery as well as the town’s many holiday festivals. Louijeune and her teammates aided them with crafting a business plan and applying for a start-up grant.

Because Cobquecura, a town of 5,500 residents, is relatively isolated—the nearest city is over an hour away—it has not been able to attract construction companies skilled in the adobe trade to aid in rebuilding efforts. José Ríos, MPA 2012, and his fellow HKS teammates proposed alternate building models including starting a local construction company trained in making seismic code-adobe and led by experts at the University of Peru and Harvard Graduate School of Design Lecturer Miho Mazereeuw, an expert in earthquake and tsunami-building techniques.

“This experience was very meaningful to all of us,” said Ríos, “but for me as a native Chilean, the class was very personal. It was an amazing opportunity to return to my country and try to help.”