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Bootstrapping disaster: The challenge of growing and maintaining a cross-sector collaborative network

Aaron Wachhaus, PhD


This article examines the interaction of nonprofit and private actors with the traditional bureaucratic structures of government in central Pennsylvania's recovery from hurricane Irene and tropical storm Lee. That effort relied heavily on private and nonprofit organizations as drivers of the response and recovery. The author maps the organizations involved in the recovery effort and explores the impact of the recovery effort on those organizations. A social network analysis was conducted and complemented with follow-up interviews with key actors. The network analysis reveals weak communication between sectors and a reliance on nonprofits to deliver services; interviews uncover the challenges of intersectoral collaboration. The author addresses the successes and limitations of the means by which a network of nonprofit efforts were coordinated with federal and state relief efforts and draw lessons for improving future practices. The author finds that this case deviates from theory in several ways that complicated community response and recovery. In particular, the challenges of developing and maintaining a recovery network while simultaneously delivering services placed great strain on several organizations, as well as on the fledgling network as a whole.


disaster, social network analysis, collaboration

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