There is something about local people who have been in a place for a long time. And by long, I mean 20 years or more. Local people know much more than they ever let on.
Ask our builder if he knows a certain type of tradesperson and he’ll rattle off ten people. He’ll also tell us about their personality and what types of jobs they excel at. Just down the road, one of locals has 4 acres of garden that’s open to the public a few times of the year. Talking with them, they help us know what flower, tree, and veg varieties thrive in this area. The same is true of the farmers with animal breeds. Locals are rooted in the context. They can tell stories of what has been tried before, who is angry with whom about what and why. Long time locals are part of the fabric holding communities together.
And sometimes, on their good days, digital technologies can help enhance this. Technologies can be a platform to help us and others ‘see’ the local network of people. We can buy locally more easily. We can even create our own local currency.
What is true here in my little hamlet is true globally. Networks and social fabric exist everywhere. And when disasters occur part of the social fabric is broken, but a lot of it remains. Helping others living through the disaster is often challenging, however when we see the social fabric we can support it, not overlook it. We can ‘buy’ local to keep businesses and organisations operating. In some contexts this can involve AirBnb, Upwork, and so on even if you are not wanting the product or service. In other contexts it might involve ordering meals from local restuarants and using a local delivery service to deliver it to an affected family. Or buying bicycles that the local repair shop can actually repair.
But we also know that money makes the local economy hum. So we can also give affected families cash to spend locally – it can be digital, vouchers, or physical cash. They can choose and support the people they know locally while also providing for their families. And yes, there are always those who are extra vulnerable or need specialist support, which may not be available locally. But perhaps this is where we can also support, just in a different way. Perhaps this is where local and global or national come together.
We don’t have to start from scratch.