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Original research: Applying the "resilience-informed leadership approach"

The case study is about the 501(c)3 nonprofit, the Make It Right Foundation (MIR), as it responded to Hurricane Katrina with Help and Harm between 2007-2022. The case focuses on the devastation of the Lower Ninth Ward of New Orleans, Louisiana, which impacted a disproportionate number of Black citizens already living below the poverty line before the hurricane destroyed their homes and community (i.e., Hurricane). Celebrity actor Brad Pitt led the foundation and promised to bring in renowned architects to build environmentally sustainable houses for the displaced residents (i.e., Help). The project garnered great media attention as Pitt provided his own donation and raised millions of dollars from fans and A-list celebrities. Unfortunately, the residents needed more than houses, but even those were not delivered. MIR’s board neglected to consider the likely racial inequity and other complex traumas already experienced by residents. Moreover, MIR’s inadequate aid, such as becoming completely unresponsive to requests for help, further compounded residents’ complex trauma (i.e., Harm). We apply the Trauma-Informed Approach (SAMHSA, 2014) to governance and examine the racial equity challenges of nonprofit board governance across time: before beginning work with constituents, during the execution of the nonprofit’s mission, and after problems arise. Furthermore, we introduce the “Resilience-Informed Leadership Approach” (RILA), which expands on the trauma-informed approach by recognizing the trauma of all those involved in the help process, recognizing survivors’ resilience, and including the possibility for posttraumatic growth. A multimedia instructor and trainer guide is provided with links to videos, statistics, and popular press articles to illustrate the case.

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