The art of recovery with Art Agnos – former Mayor of San Francisco

Before meeting with Art I did the usual Wikipedia scan which turned into a ‘Wikigasp’ when I looked at all he has achieved.  I had come prepared with my ‘meeting tax’ a loaf of Vogel’s bread – Art’s favourite!  Well, I can tell you by the end of the meeting I wished I had brought him a half dozen.

Art has been to Christchurch so knows first had the challenges we are facing, he commented that in terms of scale we should be looking at London after the blitz as a model.  Interestingly, I have heard people in Christchurch who lived through the blitz who say that in some ways the earthquakes are more difficult to manage – that feeling of living constantly on edge.  This comment also reminded me some posters from the blitz that I had seen on Kate Brady’s (Australian Red Cross Recovery Guru) blog.

I like the way the above poster works to manage people’s expectations – we too face a monumental recovery effort, we are all part of something that is big, a historic moment in New Zealand’s history. Art commented on the way we could use our Red Cross brand to remind New Zealanders and the world of the scale of what we are trying to achieve in Canterbury through what has been a ‘two year earthquake’.  He challenged us to be flexible and transparent to take a ‘no limits’ approach, to be willing to expand our mission and demonstrate success, noting that psychologically this makes a difference to people.

A key question Art posed for all of us working in recovery is “what did I do when I was there? Did I make a difference? Did I leave the city better that than when I found it? And if the answer is yes, we can be satisfied, if the answer is no that is a terrible thing to live with”.

One thought on “The art of recovery with Art Agnos – former Mayor of San Francisco

  1. It’s interesting the blitz mentality comments, during the bushfires in 2003, which went for 60days or so, the towns in the hills were under constant threat (which is why we produced the document the stress of being under threat),a nd only thirty percent of people remained in bright, one of the most vibrant towns in victoria, a number of people who had experience of the blitz said it was like that. The town certainly had a siege mentality about it, low hanging thick clouds of smoke, fire appliances with lights and sirens going the whole time. It does also feed into this notion of disaster as war (which in my view is not really helpful,as we need to move it beyond this simplistic notion of something to be overcome with might, and heroes)

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