Facilitating a just recovery

Sign in front of a house with a white fence that says Sonoma Strong

About just recovery 

The Climate Justice Alliance (CJA) in the Our Power Puerto Rico report demonstrates how the "just recovery" model helped Puerto Rico recover from Hurricane Maria. CJA describes a just recovery as:  

Response, recovery, and rebuild efforts centering systematically oppressed communities during climate accelerated disasters. When there is a climate disruption or disaster, the Just Recovery model supports climate-vulnerable communities to rebuild around the dreams, visions, and needs of the most severely impacted while increasing our power, agency, and self-determination so that we are better off than we were before the disaster. When the needs of those most impacted are resolved, everyone benefits.


This description highlights how each community’s version of a just recovery may be different. Further, what it will take to achieve a just recovery will be different in each community. But the measure of success is similar: making sure frontline communities are better off than before the disaster.  

Given that each community’s just recovery is different, frontline communities create and share their own needs and vision. To achieve that, government and philanthropy must listen, support, and ensure frontline communities have agency, resources, and decision-making in determining their recovery. Here are some examples of just recovery requests:  

Impact on frontline communities 

Typical recovery from disasters is a long, challenging process that is especially difficult for frontline communities. It doesn’t have to be this way, and just recovery is an alternative model for what is possible. The just recovery model relies heavily on meeting people’s basic needs before and after a disaster, building on community assets, and ensuring that the community will be safe for years to come.  

Actions to take 

For community-based organizations and affordable housing providers 

For local government 

  • Partner with community-based organizations and affordable housing providers to learn how to work together to achieve a just recovery.  

  • Incorporate just recovery into all disaster and climate action plans. 

  • Investigate just recovery asks coming from community members and see how to incorporate them into practice now.  

  • Hold other organizations accountable for achieving a just recovery in the wake of a disaster. For example, ensure that any contracts for recovery efforts incorporate the just recovery model into their scope of work.  

For philanthropy  

  • Support community-based organizations and affordable housing providers in creating and sharing their just recovery ideas.  

  • Ensure that your disaster-related grantmaking is supporting organizations and groups that have a just recovery philosophy. 

  • Share about just recovery with your networks.  

  • Fund ideas in just recovery proposals from community-based organizations.