The vision and mission of Alliance have been designed to reflect the values and needs of the community, with the “community” defined in Overview of the Alliance and restated in Stakeholders, Partners and the Community:
The Vision of The Alliance is a society safer from and more resilient to environmental extremes through innovative partnerships, transformative interdisciplinary research, and effective knowledge mobilization.
The Mission of The Alliance is to serve as an organizing mechanism among a wide array of sectors and stakeholders in facilitating rapid and sustained progress toward mitigating the societal impacts of extreme environmental events.
To put this vision and mission into practice, the Alliance is designed to facilitate and promote diverse and dynamic interactions with existing and new networks of organizations, stakeholders and sectors of society to help a wide range of decision makers understand, communicate, and navigate many of the challenges posed by extreme environmental events. The Alliance will support innovative ideas and approaches for moving research outcomes into operational practice, including the rapid development of prototype technologies that can be tested and inserted quickly to yield maximum benefit. It will expand ongoing and emerging efforts to facilitate the co-production of knowledge by offering mechanisms for strengthening and empowering multiple communities, building interdisciplinary and multiagency collaborations, tightly integrating research and operations, creating opportunities to shape the next generation of researchers and practitioners, and bringing entrepreneurs and philanthropists together to generate bold, creative ideas that likely would not be forthcoming in traditional settings, but that require multiple, traditionally disparate sectors to interact in new and exciting ways. These goals exemplify the Alliance’s key values of collaboration and community participation.
Effectively harnessing many different sectors and organizations, and considering their motivating factors, perspectives and agendas—in order to tackle complex societal problems—creates many challenges. Among the most important in the context of the Alliance are the following: 1) building awareness of opportunities to use existing knowledge, create new knowledge, and offer practicable, rapidly testable solutions that can save lives and prevent or lessen economic and other losses; 2) growing a broad community of participants who are aware of both their complementary interests as well as potential to interact effectively across traditional lines; and 3) obtaining the resources necessary to meet these and other needs (e.g., information sharing, knowledge discovery, problem definition, opportunity assessment, rapid prototyping and insertion) and sustainably support them.
In framing the Alliance, careful consideration was given to the role of existing organizations and frameworks and their ability to meet the needs articulated heretofore. For example, professional societies, although oriented toward research, community building, and education, are understandably and invaluably prescribed in their disciplinary reach and fundamental mission. Universities encourage interdisciplinary scholarship but often are constrained by historically traditional reward systems and defined organizational structures. Non-profit organizations and for-profit private companies have broader reach and arguably greater institutional flexibility, but often have understandably narrow goals based upon stakeholder needs and profit demands.
However, some organizations, such as the not-for-profit Canadian Research and Hazards Network (CRHNet; http://www.crhnet.ca) established in 2003, directly work to build interdisciplinary partnerships. CRHNet seeks to build partnerships between disaster risk reduction and emergency management communities in Canada. Citing its web site, “CRHNet's theme of 'Reducing Risk through Partnerships' calls attention to the need for partnerships to enhance the understanding of, and provide tools for, the development of comprehensive programs to mitigate, prepare for, respond to and recover from all types of disasters—natural, technological or human-induced.”
Likewise, the Natural Hazards Center (NHC; https://hazards.colorado.edu/), which was founded 40 years ago, serves
“as a national and international clearinghouse of knowledge concerning the social science and policy aspects of disasters. The Center collects and shares research and experience related to preparedness for, response to, recovery from, and mitigation of disasters, emphasizing the link between hazards mitigation and sustainability to both producers and users of research and knowledge on extreme events. A basic goal of the Center is to strengthen communication among researchers and the individuals, organizations, and agencies concerned with reducing damages caused by disasters.”
Although the NHC does indeed share some characteristics with the Alliance and is viewed as an important partner of the Alliance (as is CRHNet), its focus is somewhat different (e.g., it maintains a library of literature, participates in research as an organization, and administers a competitive grants program for rapid response opportunities).
It was the view of the writing team that the achievement of sustainable progress on the challenges noted previously requires a new approach—a framework that spans many boundaries, builds bridges and translates across disciplines, empowers the community, and is flexible enough to both foster collaborative relationships among a variety of groups while also attending to immediate research needs and operational challenges that arise in the face of unexpected events. Through a unique community-based and service-oriented model that emphasizes strong alignment with agency priorities and societal needs, the Alliance was seen as a compelling response that will add value to and complement, rather than duplicate or supplant, existing activities and organizations.