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What we invest in today will directly influence how our world looks tomorrow. This concept is the basis behind the phrase building back better. It suggests that during recovery activities, whether that be from a pandemic, an earthquake, or some other disruptive event, we have an opportunity to more closely align with our vision of what better looks like. But how can we really use this as an opportunity to develop a better society?

I will propose a few simple ways that we can take this big idea of building back better and translate it into concrete ways that communities, organizations, and individuals can invest in a way that moves closer to the ideal of a better tomorrow.

What does a better tomorrow look like? We can look to the Canadian speech from the Throne which describes building a stronger middle class and a smart restart program, or the Sendai Framework which articulates the urgency regarding disaster risk reduction efforts. But perhaps there are simpler, localized tools that can help guide us.

Firstly, our exposure to threats must be understood so that we can clarify our tolerances and decide if we are going to mitigate the risks. To achieve this, we must have a current threat assessment. For communities, this is a hazard and risk vulnerability assessment (HRVA) or a hazard identification and risk assessment (HIRA). For businesses this is a risk assessment and a business impact assessment, and for individuals, this is a personal risk assessment and review of how you are managing the risks (home insurance, as well as FireSmart activities, preparedness activities, cleaning drains/gutters).

Secondly, we need to understand what ‘better’ looks like. I would suggest that many communities and organizations have already documented what this constitutes. For a community, this is a current official community plan, and for business this is a visions, values, and mission statement. If, as we are moving through the COVID-19 pandemic we consider these statements of organization or community vision for the future, we can ensure that our investments align with this vision.

If our recovery investments are going to shape our community or organization, it is imperative that we carefully align our recovery efforts with priorities that have been carefully considered from all perspectives. A community plan or a vision, values, and mission statement is designed to be a thoughtful document that articulates the long-term vision for the community or organization. While it would be overly simplistic to assume that other considerations should not influence recovery investments, if we consider these to be foundational documents, we can be assured that our decisions are guided by an intentional plan for the future.

During a crisis there are many uncertainties. Ensuring our recovery investment decisions are influenced by an accurate understanding of our threats and their impacts, and align with our stated vision for the future, we can leverage recovery investments to move closer to our stated desire to build back better.