Professor Allen Hyde Awarded NSF Grant

Allen Hyde

Posted February 8, 2021

Professor Allen Hyde and a team of researchers from Georgia Tech and Savannah State University were recently awarded a National Science Foundation Civic Innovation Challenge planning grant titled "Co-creating Data for Disaster Resilience with Historically Marginalized Communities in Savannah."

As the title suggests, this project is focused on studying the social and physical vulnerabilities of coastal communities and how environmental disasters affect those communities' ability to rebound and be resilient.

This ability is impacted by local policies and practices, which may exacerbate the effects of disasters in historically marginalized communnities, such as Savannah's Hudson Hill area -- a working class, predominantly Black neighborhood adjacent to the Savannah ports. Hudson Hill faces several challenges that impact the community's ability to respond and recover from natural disasters, such as environmental concerns from port activity, public infrastructure and healthcare challenges, and a lack of job opportunities. 

Hyde said that while discussions of resiliency are often framed as returning to a pre-disaster state, some of these communities may want to use recovery as a way to "bounce forward into a more thriving, instead of surviving, status," rather than returning to the way things were before.

“When we think about resilience, whether it’s after a disaster or another event, a lot of the discussion is framed around telling people to just be more resilient,” Hyde said. “But when we think about historically marginalized communities, we’re not often considering what it is that they feel that they need to be resilient to, what does resilience look like for them in their terms, and do they want to return to the way things were?”

To understand what resilience and vulnerability mean for residents in historically marginalized communities, Hyde and his team are working jointly with researchers at Savannah State University as well as with the Harambee House, a non-profit environmental justice organization, and the city of Savannah's Office of Sustainability. The researchers intend to use a community-based participatory research model to engage residents as local knowledge experts and co-producers of data and solutions to answer some of these questions.

“Here on the Georgia coast, people do care about hurricanes and about flooding,” Hyde said. “But you can’t just think about disasters in isolation without the context. From a community standpoint, you have to think about the historical challenges that these communities face. You really have to think about the bigger picture.” 

They also aim to understand how social networks can be further developed in these communities to enhance resilience that is already present. This research model and work to develop tailored solutions for this community may also have applications for other communities that have their own unique set of challenges, such as towns on the U.S.-Mexico border and Native American communities.

 

Excerpts used for this article were taken from this story, originally published by Péralte Paul on January 28, 2021.