What does community resilience mean to you?
We constantly hear in the media and Government announcements, building a stronger, more resilient community or increasing community resilience is our strategic plan point 5; but we rarely actually see anything that tangibly measures or provides solutions for actually, meaningfully strengthening this in the real world.
For us, community resilience means the ability for the community, as a collective of people with different skill sets and capacities, to respond to changes to their natural “environment” and not just in the ecosystem sense, but economic, social, biophysical, mental and natural environment; and changes being anything that shift the base or status quo, which can either be positive or negative, expansionist or retracting. We haven’t used the term “shock” or detrimental shift, because even positive change has its challenges.
Take for example the growth of a small down, which implemented sustainable community building strategies, by looking at ways the town could increase business reach and therefore economic strengthen and jobs. inevitably what happens is that the town gets more prosperous and families start to move back into the area, however if the right checks and balances aren’t in place, growth can outstrip employment rate or understanding the environmental impact of more development.
So we define community resilience to be the ability for the collective of people to respond to changes in their environment.
Of course however, our focus in not primarily on the positive impact end of the “changes” spectrum, but we are more fixedly focused on strengthening resilience to economic shocks; halting of supply of a food to the area, or suddenly the market for your product has swung so dramatically, the business can no longer be supported, or a new drug creeps horribly into the community and suddenly half the town is in some way affected by the impact, or a natural disaster our of proportion to what we currently see hits the community.
And were not talking about action plans or strategies to implement if X happens, but we believe in the foundation of community resilience comes from the interconnectedness and relationships between community members. Where everyone has a role and voice in the community, the ties are strong and thus the ability to respond to changes are done in a quick, equitable, collective and strategic way.
We also define community resilience at the ability to provide for the complete set community needs within a small radius of the area; thus food and power are locally produced, businesses are local and are supplying to the town or those just surrounding, thus jobs are local and kept in the community, entertainment and social times are found in the area, and the leadership is a true representation of the community’s needs, visions and co-created strategies.
What we are describing amazingly enough, is the features of how communities and country towns used to be. Where everyone knew each other and there was a feeling of camaraderie and connection between everyone. Businesses supported and enhanced community wellbeing, development stayed in the community, there was propensity enough for everyone to meet their needs and for the most part everything was locally produced; not forgetting that almost every family had basic, essential life-skills – making bread, working the land, producing food, animal husbandry, and local energy systems.
Let’s not for a second think that we are going back to the 19th century, there is never a need to devolve, but what we can do, is learn from the community resilience features that were present in those times and combine that with modern technology, that means living in community is not a struggle and you have a workable model that sees families supported, businesses thriving, local economic multiplication and sustainability.
Thus to attain community resilience we need only to seek the features from our forbears, combined with a few simple techniques and powerful technology to seriously achieve what governments are merely talking about. This the responsibility of every community to work out for themselves, there certainly isn’t a formula or pre prescribed set of strategies, however it is critical that we learn from each other and work together to start this conversation and share success stories across the country.