Webinar Recording - Is the Future Survivor the survivor of today?

Is the Future Survivor the survivor of today?

In 2020, Desi Matel-Anderson published the book Future Survivor, using her own problem-solving experience in the role of Chief Innovation Advisor at FEMA to advocate crises resolution. But is the Future Survivor the survivor of today?

Desi is joined by a panel of local experts from Australia and New Zealand to discuss what survival looks like in a changed world.


Lorraine Churchill, EMPA Board Advisor, USA, Facilitator

Desi Matel-Anderson, Founder and Chief Wrangler, The Field Innovation Team, fmr Chief Innovation Officer, FEMA
Laura Liz Calo Woolcott,
Community Recovery Officer, Ballina Shire Council
Dr Anne Lane, Associate Professor, researcher, Queensland University of Technology

DATE: Wednesday 26 July 2023

About the presenters

Desi mattel

Desi Matel-Anderson, Founder and Chief Wrangler, The Field Innovation Team, fmr Chief Innovation Officer, FEMA

Desi Matel-Anderson

Founder and Chief Wrangler, The Field Innovation Team

Desiree (Desi) Matel-Anderson is the disaster world’s equivalent of MacGyver! Armed with a team of design-thinking volunteers, Desi empowers survivors to think beyond their current predicament and disrupt the status-quo to build resilience. Desi also runs “do-tanks” around the world, where participants “solve” for future disasters, including earthquakes, floods, tornadoes, and windstorms. Desi shares her learnings as an expert lecturer on innovation at Harvard, Yale, and Berkeley, to name a few.

As the Chief Wrangler of the Field Innovation Team (FIT), Desi has worked with communities from Vancouver to Oklahoma and from New York to Nepal. When things go wrong, Desi is often first on-site and understands that each disaster is unique and will require an adaptive response. Projects have included assisting at the scene with social media analysis during the Boston Marathon Bombings; deploying drones and 3D print topography maps for Incident Command after the Oso Washington Mudslides; using AI robots for psychosocial services in Syrian Refugee Camps; survivor-to-survivor guides after the Fort McMurray Wildfires in Alberta, Canada; and public health gaming to educate the Miami-Dade Public School System on the Zika virus outbreak.

A lawyer by training, Desi doesn’t allow process and procedure to get in the way of saving lives and helping people. She serves as a consultant on innovation for agencies and governments, nationally and internationally, including an advisor role to the European Emergency Management Consortium in UNESCO’s I-REACT team and was recently appointed to United States National Academy of Science, Engineering, and Medicine. Desi was also the first (and now former) Chief Innovation Advisor at Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Her black leather coat and boots have become synonymous with real-time problem solving in disaster response and recovery. When Desi is not deployed, she enjoys the fresh mountain air in Utah with her dogs and family and is occasionally spotted in jeans!
Laura Calo Woolcott Bio Pic - small

Laura Liz Calo Woolcott, Community Recovery Officer, Ballina Shire Council

Laura Liz Calo Woolcott

Community Recovery Officer, Ballina Shire Council

Fueled by a passion for connection, resilience, and engagement, Laura is on a mission to empower individuals and communities. Laura wears several hats, but her focus is always on fostering innovation and redefining possibilities. Her work spans over 20 countries collaborating with various sectors including local government, non-profit organizations, educational institutions, media studios, Fortune 100 companies and small businesses. From consulting to volunteering, she applies her skillsets to various activities.

Currently, Laura has two roles for Ballina Shire Council. As the IT Learning Development Officer for almost five years, Laura designs online courses and in person workshops and delivers dynamic programming to simplify complex topics and propel individuals towards efficiency and effectiveness in work and life. In December 2022, after months of volunteering in local recovery efforts, she began a secondment role as a Community Recovery Officer funded through the NSW Reconstruction Authority in response to the 2022 flood events. Her work involves collaborating with local government agencies, non-profits and recovery support serves to provide opportunities for community members to reconnect, recover and build resilience.

Laura’s emergency management exposure began in 2014 through supporting the Field Innovation Team’s mission to empower humans to create cutting-edge disaster solutions. This work created opportunities for field work where she could blend background and experience on several projects. These include developing communication strategies for the High River Flood future planning project in Canada, coordinating logistics for the Rockport Harvey donations center management, and supporting creative programing response to the San Antonio undocumented minors crisis relief. Through FIT she has also assisted in the facilitation of “Do Tank” workshops and bootcamps focused on gaming in disasters, relief for extreme disaster events, support for Syrian refugees and a Robotics Petting Zoo Exhibit at SXSW Interactive in 2015.

Laura’s first love is education demonstrated by over 10 years as an adjunct and lead faculty member at several universities where she taught humanities and communication courses including public speaking, interpersonal communications, critical thinking, problem solving, and leadership development. In 2015, she won faculty of the year for her dedication to training and student-centered learning. This award, bestowed by the student body, is one of her top career highlights.

With a Bachelors in Business Administration in International Business and Marketing from Baylor University in Waco, TX, USA and a Masters of Arts in International Communications from Macquarie University in Sydney, Australia, Laura applies a global strategy and focus to her work. Through the years, she has also participated in several leadership programs and hosted two jazz radio shows for over seven years with KRTU 91.7FM San Antonio.

As a Puerto Rican, raised in Texas and now residing in Australia, Laura loves sharing her culture, language, food and customs with her new Northern Rivers community. She serves as the Secretary and a Bush Firefighter with the Lennox Head RFS and is the Drone Shark Mitigation Officer for the All Girls Surf Club. Keep an eye out when travelling the coastal highway as you might spot Laura catching a wave or on a standup paddle board with her dog, Lola. Laura currently resides with her family in Ballina, NSW, Australia and often returns her US base in San Antonio, Texas.
anne lane

Dr Anne Lane, Associate Professor, researcher, Queensland University of Technology

Dr Anne Lane

Associate Professor, researcher at Queensland University of Technology

Dr Anne Lane is an Associate Professor and researcher at Queensland University of Technology (QUT). Her areas of interest and research specialisations are stakeholder engagement, social impact, dialogue, and storytelling. She is widely published internationally in these areas and has been invited to present on related topics to academic and practitioner audiences.

Dr Lane’s work involves providing quality data that help organisations identify, understand, and respond to community sentiment. She aims to find – or create – ways in which organisations and their stakeholders can co-create a shared understanding of, and mutually acceptable solutions to, intractable issues.

Most recently, Dr Lane has worked as part of the NHRA-funded team that researched community experiences of the 2022 east coast floods. Together with her colleague, Professor Kim Johnston (also from QUT) she interviewed over 50 community members in the Brisbane and Gympie areas. The findings of this research provided empirical evidence of the impacts these floods have had on communities and therefore have implications for community flood preparation and recovery.

Session recording

Additional Resources

Future Survivor : Resolve Crises, Calamities, and Catastrophes Large and Small Using the 3 Step Prep Process of Problem-Solving

10 years of case studies from future survivors around the world