Building Drought Leadership GroupsYour guide to improving the health and resilience of your community
What are Drought Leadership Groups and why do we need them?
The idea to establish Drought Leadership Groups came from consultations with rural and remote community leaders in the North West and Central Queensland regions.
While the role of Drought Leadership Groups will vary from community to community, their broad role is to:
- Support local communities as drought impacts mental health and well-being.
- Develop partnerships which enable the responses to drought to be coordinated to best suit the needs of the community.
- Act as a liaison point for governments so local communities have input into the allocation of drought resources.
Although the context for these leadership groups has been drought, this model is easily transferable to any challenge facing a community. The preventative actions taking by these groups in good times can also have a profound positive effect on the resilience of the community during droughts and other challenges.
Below are some highlights from drought research. This information emphasizes the need for action on the part of communities.
Preparedness, prevention and planning
- Drought cannot be prevented but the negative impact on the community can be reduced. You can make a difference.
- Locality (where the community is) and supply of services are major influencing factors on rural and remote communities, and their ability to prepare for drought. Who better understands this than the people living in these communities?
- Preparedness is developed through education and understanding. Being aware of measures to prevent damage is important and highlights the need for adequate and timely information to be provided prior to and during a drought. A Drought Leadership Group (with the help of this resource) can educate their community. They can also liaise with government groups and provide key information to government and community members.
- Preventative actions are difficult as drought is unpredictable. There is no way of knowing how bad a drought will be or how long it will last. Actions must be taken early which recognise the serious long term effects that a drought can have. While most government grants and other forms of aid are short term and provided only when a community is already suffering, a Drought Leadership Group can put long term strategies in place before a community reaches crisis point.
- The planning process is extremely important. It gives a clear focus to future actions, allows roles and responsibilities to be clarified, a shared language to be developed (puts everyone on the same page in the right book), allows the planners to anticipate future issues and means that the steps taken will be community focused. A Leadership Group with a clear plan is always going to be more helpful than any community member or organisation on their own. The value of groups like this is more than the sum of their parts.
- Community responses work best when they address all or some of the social determinants of well-being. The social determinants of well-being are conditions in which people are born, grow, live and work. See the diagram below.
- Developing a response that addresses these factors locally will empower your community, bring people together socially, build on resilience, develop procedures and take actions that you and your community are proud and, maintain community integrity.
Recovery and resilience
- Drought assistance (when provided through more traditional channels) is often short lived but the impact of drought can be long term. Local Drought Leadership Groups are people living in he community and don’t go away once a 6 month contract is up.
- Resilience allows a person or community to move through a challenge, adapt to that challenge, and then return to a relatively healthy state of being.
- Building community resilience is important because communities still require support when no longer in a state of drought. Drought Leadership Groups have a place building community resilience whether a community is currently in drought or not. Community resilience depends on a number of factors including:
- trust and social cohesion
- supporting attitudes and values
- a sense of community
- good communication and information
- collective understanding and awareness
- community involvement
- resource dependency
- social capital
- existing norms
- engagement with government
Establishing a Drought Leadership Group is a relatively simple process. This resource has been designed as a toolkit to help you establish Drought Leadership Groups and provide resources which will enable you to effectively serve your community.
It should be noted that there are no hard and fast rules to setting up a Drought Leadership Group and the steps involved may vary depending on the particular circumstances of each group and community. You may choose to do things slightly differently and in a different order. Likewise, the resources supporting this guide are intended to be adapted to suit the needs of a particular group and community.
Plan your Drought Leadership Group