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Saturday, June 10 • 10:00am - 10:20am
Can Preparing for Flooding be more Social? Strengthening social networks for collective action with Eastside Detroit neighborhood leaders

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What comes to mind when you think about preparing for flooding? Maybe emergency supplies, flooded basements, and overwhelm. Or maybe you don’t even know where to start. These are all factors that Eastside Detroit residents are forced to navigate constantly while preparing for increasingly frequent flooding in an aging infrastructure system, with a lack of effective city and state action. In the summer of 2019, eight inches of rain in less than a day significantly damaged thousands of homes, and further exacerbated inequities for historically disenfranchised and majority-black and low-income neighborhoods on the Eastside. The lack of an effective city response for disaster relief is an environmental injustice and a re-orientation of flooding preparedness is desperately needed.

This community-based project works with ECAC, Eastside Climate Action Coalition, to develop a community generated flooding preparedness toolkit of activities neighborhood leaders can practice with residents of community engagement methods and critical making techniques. A series of co-creative methods help residents, and local organizations understand each others’ goals and find creative ways to work together to develop hyper-local strategies for climate resilience. The activity guides are organized around long-term, medium-term, and short-term preparedness around skills of building power in making your voices heard with elected officials through a public comment writing workshop, a participatory mapping workshop that identifies cultural assets and skillsets for flooding preparedness at the block level, and a co-designed board game is developed as a decision-making tool to educate and spark dialogue, and most importantly serve as a space to unpack the power dynamics in the flooding resilience space between Eastside Detroit communities and decision-makers to organize for collective action. All workshops were co-created and tested with neighborhood leaders so that these exercises could be replicated as a toolkit in different settings by the leaders to mobilize their broader social networks of residents and neighbors. Studies have shown that in times of an emergency crisis, what is most critical for survival is knowing your neighbors (Aldrich). Organized communities with levels of information sharing, financial help, and physical assistance are better mobilized to overcome barriers to collective action and bounce back from disaster.


Joie Zhang

Masters of Integrative Design Student, University of Michigan

Saturday June 10, 2023 10:00am - 10:20am EDT
PS 308 (Design Center)