Using proven success stories from other fire-affected communities, members of Remake Talent and its partner organizations gathered with a stack of printed maps and colored pens to start laying out a plan for truly representational community engagement during the recovery. We created a
map of the various fire-affected communities that will help emergent leadership in those communities band together to make their needs known, share resources, and start advocating for their communities during the recovery. This is known as the Zone Captains approach.
A few quick facts about Zone Captains:
• Zone Captains are emergent leaders in their own communities, organized primarily through a geographic lens (but also taking into account demographics), who are willing to poll their neighbors and communicate their needs from the bottom up, while advocating for top-down
resources through empowered communication and information-sharing.
• Effective community organizing in the wake of a natural disaster inevitably happens on a block-by-block, house-by-house basis.
• Past experience has shown that using Zone Captains can speed up recovery and reduce costs to the community in the long term, while increasing equity. In one instance, a fire-affected community using the Zone Captains approach was 97% rebuilt after only 3 years, compared to other communities that were less than halfway rebuilt over the same period.
• The Zone Captains approach can save money and time in the long term, create accountability, reduce redundancies, and help resist disaster capitalism if communities take the time to set it up initially.
• Government leaders are much more likely to welcome community input and share information and resources with a well-organized representative constituency. We have already seen that happening first-hand as city, county, and state officials have reached out to emergent leaders in our community for involvement.
• We continue to grow our partners in this program’s creation (currently involving representatives from Phoenix/Talent School District, the Latinx community, elderly, low income residents, business owners, agricultural communities, and mobile home owners), and will soon start to assign Zone Captains.