By Dan Cohen
Published June 03, 2014
It all starts with a name – Ms. Duct Tape. Think about duct tape and the many brilliant ways it can be used. All it takes is a bit of creativity to unleash its mighty power.
That’s the same creative and fear-free approach Ana-Marie takes as she seeks to build resilient communities that are prepared for disasters, but also ready to thrive for the other 364 days of the year.
When was the last time that fear motivated you to do anything for the long term? If you are like most people, fear MAY make you do something once, maybe twice. But once the fear subsides, it’s back to the status quo. It is actually hope and positivity that pulls or pushes you to do things over and over again.
That’s the magic in how Ana-Marie Jones (known online as MsDuctTape) approaches the world and especially how she works with diverse communities to prepare them to prosper in the face of emergencies and disasters.
She left New York City and a career in advertising and marketing research, and now uses the tools of communication to help people embrace preparedness through a new lens. Ana-Marie built CARD’s programs on knowledge drawn from many fields -- brain function, adult learning, optimism, past disasters, etc. -- and the real wisdom that comes from working directly in vulnerable communities since the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake. And what’s remarkable is that while she was once a lone voice fighting against fear-based communications, she has started to transform the entire field of disaster preparedness. And this can’t come soon enough for our nation and our world.
In too many communities, for far too long, people have been told to buy stuff and do stuff because disasters will happen. They are warned “You’re on your own!” for at least the first 72 hours. Research shows these doom and gloom messages have NEVER worked. Ana-Marie offers us something quite different, something that helps us all every day – with or without a disaster. She helps us set free our inner MacGyver, use the resources we have around us, and actually leverage the incredible strength found in diversity.
Ana-Marie is a tireless educator who shows us that building our everyday brilliance is the path to disaster resilience, that social cohesion and united communities are stronger and safer communities, and how – if we are willing to move beyond politics and old paradigms – preparedness and response can be an empowering, uplifting, and beneficial pursuit for every community. If you see her deliver a keynote address, it’s all there – the humor, the knowledge, the passion, the practical implementation, the “ah-ha” moments, and the shameless dose of hope and optimism we need for our future.
Enjoy this interview – but most importantly, connect with Ana-Marie on her social media properties. Hopefully, you will join her crusade to live fear-free, and challenge yourself to find even more uses for duct tape.
The 10 questions
IN JUST ONE SENTENCE, WHAT IS YOUR PURPOSE IN LIFE?
My purpose is to build a loving, humane, and effective society for all.
HOW HAS THIS WORK CHANGED YOU?
Taking on transforming readiness forced me far outside of my comfort zone. Advocating for diverse communities and the nonprofits that serve them, especially in the HIGHLY politicized field of emergency services, requires challenging the status quo in ways I had not imagined. I'm less naive, and much more committed, as a result.
WHAT DO YOU GET FROM GIVING?
I get a renewed sense of hope for the future because I meet heroes reaching deep into the “grassiest” roots of our community. They get up every day, do some remarkably non-glorious things, all while overcoming myriad obstacles, to fulfill on their commitments to their communities. They fight for a better world.
WHO IS A LIVING HERO AND WHAT WOULD YOU ASK THEM IF GIVEN THE CHANCE?
I have several heroes from many walks of life, ranging from local people working hard to make a difference, to Malala Yousafzai, Warren Buffett, and several others. To each I would like to ask: "How can we help our communities Prepare to Prosper!?"
WHAT EVERYDAY RESOURCES COULD HELP YOU ACHIEVE YOUR PHILANTHROPIC GOALS?
Venture philanthropists would make a huge difference in helping us to achieve our goals. A few progressive venture philanthropists investing in CARD's alternative approach could help our nation save many millions of dollars, help us to build real resilience, transform how our communities mobilize their assets, and so much more.
WHAT IS A BURNING QUESTION THAT YOU HAVE FOR THIS COMMUNITY?
What would make you say "No!" to all the fear- and threat-based messages you accept about emergency readiness, and say "Yes!" to building resilient and brilliant communities? We cannot scare and threaten our nation into embracing safety and readiness, but progressive funders can help us build our unity, optimism, and our capacity to effectively address the important issues of our time.
WHAT WOULD THE TITLE OF YOUR BOOK BE?
Back Away From That Brochure!
TELL US SOMETHING YOU RARELY SHARE IN PUBLIC?
I became an ordained minister several years ago. It wasn't so that I could perform wedding ceremonies, or to lead preparedness-themed religious services. I did it to feel more confident when I'm listening to people who feel the need to confess their guilt and shame related to their preparedness actions and the lack there of.
WHAT ADVICE DO YOU HAVE FOR OTHERS WHO ASPIRE TO BE CITIZEN PHILANTHROPISTS?
Do it. Do it now. Keep doing it. Encourage others to do it, and to do it now, and to keep doing it. It's the way we will change the world.
WHAT QUESTION DO YOU WISH I HAD ASKED, AND WHAT IS THE ANSWER?
QUESTION: What are the best moments of your work? ANSWER: The best moments are when the most vulnerable people we serve have their "ah-ha!" moments. Sometimes it is when they simply realize that they don't have to walk the world afraid. Or they learn that they have truly valuable skills to offer their community. Many people reading the last two sentences can often take those things for granted. But for people whose whole lives have been lived in fear, and have never had the esteem that comes from being seen as smart, talented, or skilled, it's memorable. The moment people realize that their past experiences (some of which are painful, sad and tragic) have made them stronger and more resilient than they had ever realized is quite special. Few people expect to have a joyous life-changing moment in a preparedness class and it's a privilege to see it happen.