Spring Forward – Resilience Revisited

By Davie Philip – Published in Positive Life www.positivelife.ie/  Summer Issue 2014

“Our greatest glory is not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall.”  Confucius

In this column I have been exploring how, in the face of adversity, we might flourish as individuals and communities. Over the years I have introduced a number of emerging initiatives and cooperative approaches that might counter the widespread loss of connection between ourselves and our environment, while at the same time creating livelihoods and developing more sustainable communities.

Underpinning the different initiatives I have covered here is the concept of resilience. This is a common word, and many of us have a sense that being resilient is a good thing, but what does it actually mean? How might developing our resiliency enhance our own effectiveness and wellbeing as well as being of benefit to the health of our communities?

The word resilience comes from the Latin word ‘resalire’, which means springing back, or rebounding. This captures the essence of resilience from an individual’s perspective, our ability to recover quickly from illness or misfortune. But being resilient is more than just bouncing back to where we were before. If we are resilient we stretch ourselves, we spring forward and, because of the challenges we face, we emerge stronger.

This transformational view of resilience emphasises renewal, regeneration and re-organisation, it is not just about recovering or preparing for shock, it is about human agency and the power to learn to navigate effectively through life. I recommend watching a short animation we made on YouTube called ‘Surfing the Waves of Change’. It explores how we can nurture our personal and community resilience to surf the most powerful waves of change with confidence and optimism. I like the metaphor of surfing.

Healthy communities naturally build resilience as a part of their ongoing development. An objective of the Cloughjordan Ecovillage where I live is the building of better relationships with our neighbours and working with them on projects of common interest. Building resilience can help communities develop the ability to face challenges in ways that strengthen their social bonds, better steward resources, enhance our capacity to cope with change and allow us to spring forward from adversity strengthened and more resourceful.

Luckily, resilience is not simply an ability we are born with, it is a skill anyone can learn and improve. At Cultivate Living and Learning we offer workshops and training on developing this important attribute. We have just begun a three-year project with a number of European partners to develop a learning resource called ‘Schools for Resilience’. This programme, which is aimed at teenagers, will use a place based learning methodology to build the competences of resilience and transform communities.

Cultivate also host Permaculture courses teaching people to live more sustainably and strengthen the resilience of their communities. Keep a look out for ‘Summer of Resilience’, a dynamic series of events in August and September at the new WeCreate Workspace at Cloughjordan Ecovillage. These will explore the role of community organisations and social enterprise as catalysts for resilience and enhanced cooperation.

When resilience is framed as transformation challenges don’t define us, they refine us. The healthier, bouyent and more flexible we are as citizens the more resilient our communities will be.  So stretch, bounce back and spring forward.

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