- Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard Kennedy School Belfer Center Newsletter

From New Orleans to Chile: Broadmoor Model Aids Community Recovery

| Summer 2013

When Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans in 2005, then-Belfer Center Senior Fellow Doug Ahlers, a former resident of New Orleans, immediately realized that he and the Kennedy School could help. The result was Belfer Center’s Broadmoor Project, a collaboration with the Broadmoor neighborhood, which the city initially planned to raze. Broadmoor is now a model of recovery, almost 90 percent rebuilt, with a new charter school, library, and community center. (For more about the Broadmoor Project, based in the Belfer Center’s Environment and Natural Resources Program headed by Henry Lee, see http://belfercenter.ksg.harvard.edu/project/54/broadmoor_project.html.)

With Ahlers vision and leadership, the Broadmoor Project has also helped other disaster-struck communities. Below, Ahlers describes how the Broadmoor model is currently assisting in the recovery of three Chilean communities nearly destroyed by the earthquake and tsunami of 2010.

The success of the Broadmoor Project gave us cause to believe that the Broadmoor model could be applied to other post-disaster or post-conflict situations. If it could work in a different cultural, economic, political, and social system, then the Broadmoor Project model might truly serve as a wider solution to recovering and rebuilding communities. Chile’s disastrous 2010 earthquake and tsunami provided a test case for applying the Broadmoor model in another setting.

The opportunity presented itself at a meeting in Santiago, Chile in March of 2011 organized by Harvard’s David Rockefeller Center for Latin American Studies (DRCLAS) and attended by heads of ministries within the Chilean government and Harvard faculty and staff, including President Drew Faust and Harvard Kennedy School Dean David Ellwood. I presented our Broadmoor experience and recommended that the Chilean government adopt the community-based recovery model developed in the Broadmoor Project. It turned out that the government of President Piñera was looking for ways to decentralize government functions and build local capacity and capabilities. As a result, the Recupera Chile initiative was born.

The plan for Recupera Chile was to work closely with three hard-hit communities in Southern Chile. Like Broadmoor, we would focus our attention on only these communities and we would commit to a multi-year project so that energy and resources would be concentrated geographically, and projects, programs, interventions, training, and resources could be cumulative over time. While we have the approval and cooperation of the national, regional, and local governments, the communities themselves are our “clients.”

Much of the coordination activity of the initiative is done through DRCLAS, as they have the in-country staff and knowledge to manage the project. I direct the project, and Harvard students work on projects in Chile through semester-long “client-based” class projects.

The three communities we are working with are Cobquecura, Dichato and Perales. Cobquecura was at the epicenter of the 8.8 magnitude earthquake. Perales and Dichato were almost completely destroyed by the tsunami that followed.

Perales is a small rural village based on subsistence living—algae and shellfish gathering. The tsunami waves damaged the marine ecosystem and left the land with high-salinity and eroded top soil. Plants and seed stock were lost, clam and oyster beds were destroyed, and family milk cows, chickens, pigs, and work oxen were swept out to sea.

Dichato is a summer beach resort (regional tourism), and the site of the largest earthquake displaced persons camp in the country. Child and adult mental health, the restoration of tourist amenities and jobs, and the rebuilding of housing in areas protected from future tsunamis have been the primary needs for Dichato’s recovery.

Cobquecura is a more isolated farming and fishing village with tourism focused on surfing and the community’s historic appearance. The challenge is to rebuild or repair historic buildings in a seismically safe way. Livelihood restoration through tourism is an important part of Cobquecura’s recovery.

We work with the communities to solve their disaster recovery problems in the areas of physical recovery, cultural and heritage recovery, economic and social recovery. And like the Broadmoor Project, our goal is not to come in and do things for the community, but rather to build the capabilities and capacity of the community itself—to empower them to effect their own recoveries.

The projects we work on are varied, from early childhood education and environmental damage remediation to mental-health interventions and livelihood restoration grants—plus many more.

While recovery of these three Chilean communities is far from complete, progress in these areas is highly visible.

Credit for the recovery of Broadmoor and these Chilean communities goes to the residents themselves, but the imprint of the Broadmoor Project is clear. It is gratifying to see from the Recupera Chile experience that the Broadmoor model can continue to have an impact far beyond the neighborhoods of New Orleans.

(For additional information on the genesis of the Recupera Chile initiative, click here. For more details about the Recupera Chile project, see http://www.recuperachile.org)

For more information on this publication: Belfer Communications Office
For Academic Citation: Ahlers, Doug. From New Orleans to Chile: Broadmoor Model Aids Community Recovery.” Belfer Center Newsletter (Summer 2013).