Virginia G. Piper Trust Awards $15 Million to Arizona State University

Virginia G. Piper Trust Awards $15 Million to Arizona State University

Arizona State University has announced a $15 million grant from the Virginia G. Piper Trust to launch an initiative focused on building the resilience of communities in Maricopa County. 

The Knowledge Exchange for Resilience (KER) initiative will work with communities in the county to strengthen their ability to recover from sudden shocks such as floods or earthquakes and ongoing, long-term stresses like those caused by the 2008 housing collapse and the Great Recession through proactive planning, nimble action, and an openness to change. To that end, the initiative will study communities up close to identify gaps in needed services and, with the help of researchers, community members, and partner organizations, address their pressing issues and needs, build resilience, and foster positive change. To ensure that diverse viewpoints enhance a community's ability to make informed decisions and plan for its future, community members will be involved at every stage of the process, from identifying issues to data collection to decision making to implementation. 

In a KER pilot project in the summer of 2018, ASU researchers sampled the heat exposure of nearly seventy Maricopa County residents, who were each given a data collection kit to obtain detailed information on their daily heat exposure and coping habits. In addition to mapping heat exposure, the project will analyze participants' social networks and the role they play in heat-relief strategies.

"There really has never been anything like this for social systems," said Elizabeth Wentz, the principal investigator of KER and dean of social sciences in ASU's College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. "It is geared toward learning about people and their lives and turning that information into something that can be used by municipalities, NGOs, and other agencies to improve the lives of the people who are living here."

"What makes us passionate about the KER Initiative is its long-term impact on our community," said Piper Trust president and CEO Mary Jane Rynd. "A resilient community leverages its assets to mitigate economic, social, and environmental vulnerabilities. That's what we're doing by bringing cross-sector expertise together through KER. Through planning ahead and using the collective knowledge of the university and the community, we can solve complex issues, build resilience, and improve lives."

(Photo credit: Arizona State University)

"New Initiative Focuses on Building Resilience in Maricopa County Communities." Arizona State University Press Release 12/10/2018.