Risk Insider: Marilyn Rivers

Volunteerism in the Public Sector

By: | April 19, 2017 • 3 min read
Marilyn Rivers is director of risk and safety for the City of Saratoga Springs. She chairs the PRIMA Institute for the Public Risk Management Association and was named Public Risk Manager of the Year by PRIMA in 2007. The views expressed in this article are those of the author, and not necessarily of the employer. She can be reached at [email protected]

Our public entity dollars are short with no relief in sight, as tax caps remain stagnant and public officials promise to slash the tax base further.

Yet governance costs continue to escalate with mandatory contractual and retirement increases. In order to fulfill our public mandates, public entities across the nation are accomplishing municipal goals by engaging in Public Private Partnerships and beginning creative relationships with community organizations.

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It’s helpful that baby boomers are aging gracefully. As young activists, we insisted on change in society, championed the environment, helped advance technology and introduced the foundations of global social media — just to name a few.

We’re shredding the image of the couch potato by abandoning simplistic leisure sports and actively seeking to give back to the world by saving wildlife, vacation volunteering and participating in community programs to fill the void left by shrinking tax dollars.

Generational community activism and public need have the beginnings of a beautiful partnership if appropriately crafted for all parties involved.

Once you identify your public entity’s needs, it’s time to wrap some program parameters around what you hope to accomplish.

The first step in developing a robust community volunteer program is to identify public need. Work with folks within your organization to identify projects that have been sitting on the shelf for lack of funding, staffing or interest.

Identifying programs that volunteers can work on in your community — which are not protected by collective bargaining agreements or contractual agreement with other agencies — may mean that the only thing you have to purchase is the materials themselves.

More often than not, however, many community organizations are more than willing to donate their own supplies to accomplish a public program. That leaves you with the paperwork of accepting a donation instead of trying to find a shrinking budget line.

Some examples of community projects that offer potential are: Adopt a highway and by-way, water sampling, fish population studies, park plantings, spring cleanup, and trail upkeep.

Volunteer ADA sidewalk and intersection studies might also be on the top of your to-do list as you plan your upcoming budget. Check out Scouts looking for a signature project, or a school or church group looking to give back to the community.

Once you identify your public entity’s needs, it’s time to wrap some program parameters around what you hope to accomplish.

Developing volunteer job descriptions with appropriate duties and responsibilities set the stage for ensuring your expectations and help outline the qualifications needed to accomplish your goals and those of the individual(s) or organization willing to assist you. Determining the physical and educational task criteria assist in promoting the success of your project’s outcome and your volunteers’ satisfaction with giving back to their community.

There may be special criteria needed for a particular volunteer project you are contemplating. Do you need to record a particular fish population, obtain daily water samples, identify a particular species of butterfly or bat? If special criteria are needed for any given task, consult a local educational institution to inquire whether or not they are interested in helping to set the criteria for your data collection.

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Remember, each successful relationship with your community member in any volunteer program promotes good citizenship, a give back to the community, and moves along a project that has the capacity to positively benefit your financial bottom line.

More from Risk & Insurance

More from Risk & Insurance

2017 RIMS

Cyber Threat Will Get More Difficult

Companies should focus on response, resiliency and recovery when it comes to cyber risks.
By: | April 19, 2017 • 2 min read
Topics: Cyber Risks | RIMS

“The sky is not falling” when it comes to cyber security, but the threat is a growing challenge for companies.

“I am not a cyber apocalyptic kind of guy,” said Gen. Michael Hayden, former head of the Central Intelligence Agency and National Security Agency, who currently is a principal at the Chertoff Group, a security consultancy.

Gen. Michael Hayden, former head of the CIA and NSA, and principal, The Chertoff Group

“There are lots of things to worry about in the cyber domain and you don’t have to be apocalyptic to be concerned,” said Hayden prior to his presentation at a Global Risk Forum sponsored by Lockton on Sunday afternoon on the geopolitical threats facing the United States.

“We have only begun to consider the threat as it currently exists in the cyber domain.”

Hayden said cyber risk is equal to the threat times your vulnerability to the threat, times the consequences of a successful attack.

At present, companies are focusing on the vulnerability aspect, and responding by building “high walls and deep moats” to keep attackers out, he said. If you do that successfully, it will prevent 80 percent of the attackers.

“It’s all about making yourself a tougher target than the next like target,” he said.

But that still leaves 20 percent vulnerability, so companies need to focus on the consequences: It’s about response, resiliency and recovery, he said.

The range of attackers is vast, including nations that have used cyber attacks to disrupt Sony (the North Koreans angry about a movie), the Sands Casino (Iranians angry about the owner’s comments about their country), and U.S. banks (Iranians seeking to disrupt iconic U.S. institutions after the Stuxnet attack on their nuclear program), he said.

“You don’t have to offend anybody to be a target,” he said. “It may be enough to be iconic.”

The world order that has existed for the past 75 years “is melting away” and the world is less stable.

And no matter how much private companies do, it may not be enough.

“The big questions in cyber now are law and policy,” Hayden said. “We have not yet decided as a people what we want or will allow our government to do to keep us safe in the cyber domain.”

The U.S. government defends the country’s land, sea and air, but when it comes to cyber, defenses have been mostly left to private enterprises, he said.

“I don’t know that we have quite decided the balance between the government’s role and the private sector’s role,” he said.

As for the government’s role in the geopolitical challenges facing it, Hayden said he has seen times that were more dangerous, but never more complicated.

The world order that has existed for the past 75 years “is melting away” and the world is less stable, he said.

Nations such as North Korea, Iran, Russia and Pakistan are “ambitious, brittle and nuclear.” The Islamic world is in a clash between secular and religious governance, and China, which he said is “competitive and occasionally confrontational” is facing its own demographic and economic challenges.

“It’s going to be a tough century,” Hayden said.

Anne Freedman is managing editor of Risk & Insurance. She can be reached at [email protected]