Gloria Chang

MArch II & MDes RR, 2019

Organization: U.S. Naval War College, Newport, RI

Sponsor: Joint Center for Housing Studies Community Service Fellowship


“What is the coin of your realm? As the summer draws to a close, our long-awaited Civilian-Military Humanitarian Response Workshop finally arrived. Invitees flew in from prominent organizations with an abundance of acronyms, and our service members showed up in uniform. The expertise available in each room was intimidating, but we quickly set to work. Each discussion was run in turns by certain disciplines: The academics, for research and data sharing; The military, for actionable protocol and applied knowledge: The NGOs, for continued impartiality and independence, but also collaboration.

As the process got going, some slight confusion arose in language and framing, until one of the industry participants asked each of us, “What is the coin of your realm?” With this question, our working group began negotiations. One of the most commonly mentioned currencies revolved around research – who has topics, the bandwidth to mentor, the grad students to put to work? In the cross-cutting sessions, I had heard the common division between response and resilience, with many seeing resilience as outside their scope. Perhaps it was the strong academic (including the military colleges) presence in the room that drove us towards research, but it seemed appropriate. Resilience is not only infrastructure and development, but it is research.

In my project work this summer, the characteristic that required the most investment in resilience was frequency. There is no reason to learn how to absorb or bounce back from shock if the event will not occur again. In the company of so many disaster respondents, I found myself speaking up for resilience, but perhaps there was already another word for it. Whether the cause of the disaster is hotly contested, preventable or non-preventable, human-produced or simply the same as always, disasters that require cooperative efforts continue to occur with high frequency. Perhaps shared research between governments, civilians, militaries, agencies and humanitarians is the way to whittle down our share of the unknown and a way to distinguish signal from noise.

Optimistic, I know. In the end, we arrived back at the negotiation table. It’s not a bad place to be if we all remember what we came here for. The talk of sharing resources went well– there are many grad students to go around. The talk of information became increasingly detailed and little spots of opacity appeared. In negotiation, value creation can be possible between parties, so long as there is trust and open communication. The risk of being undercut, however, frequently leads to prudence. Cautiously, we exchanged values to build network resilience.”