Organizing a Response

Something happens. A natural disaster strikes. A community experiences tragedy or loss. A controversial law is proposed or enacted. A leader decides to act, or not. And now you want to do something. But what? And how? With who? And importantly, why?

There is no single way to organize a response. Each event or action at the local, national or even international level brings with it unique circumstances, pressures and opportunities and impacts communities and individuals in different ways. Despite such disimilarities, there are some common guiding questions that can help you to organize and respond in a timely and responsible way. 

Why do you want to respond?
Before responding, it’s important to identify what’s calling you to act. Understanding your motivations gives you a foundation for making decisions and communicating your intentions to others.

  • What’s driving you to respond?
  • What do you value? Why?

What are you responding to? What does the community need?
Taking the time to understand the issue you plan to address and how it manifests in real time for those you hope to help or support is crucial. 

  • Where are you getting your information? How reputable is the source?
  • How can you stay on top of updates or changes in the situation?
  • What are the needs of the community?
  • What issues matter to the community?
  • What is the community concerned about?
  • Not sure, who can you connect with in the community to find out?

What can you do? If you can’t do it, who can help you?
Whether you are starting something new or joining existing efforts, taking stock of your strengths, as well as the areas where you might need some help, will give you a baseline for what you can contribute and what you need to learn.

  • What skills or assets do you have?
  • What do you need to understand or learn?
  • What are your limitations?
  • What other individuals or groups are already responding? How?
  • Who do you need to reach out to?

How will you respond?
Setting realistic goals for your effort will keep you focused and on track, and allow you to manage your expectations as you engage. 

  • What is your goal for organizing a response? What do you want to achieve?
  • What efforts will help you achieve your goal? (protest, demonstration, march, lobbying, social media campaign, artistic expression, raising funds ….)
  • What will your role be in this response?

Want to talk through your ideas with someone? We’re here to help. The Pace Center staff are available to brainstorm, advise and connect. Email Elsie Sheidler, Senior Associate Director, and we’ll connect you with the right person on our team.

Learn more about organizing a response in the immediate aftermath of a natural disaster.