Communities around the world are subject to increasing shocks. These shocks range from the environmental, such as extreme weather events, to the fiscal, where public services are cut. In some cases, these shocks are predictable. In the UK, for example, it’s possible to figure out which communities will be hardest hit by cuts to public services, such as health care, well in advance of the cuts occurring. Where climate change is concerned, we are starting to see patterns—repeated flooding and heat waves causing extreme damage to property and, in the worse cases, loss of life.
Early in 2012, Reos was approached by Alan Heeks—a social entrepreneur, writer, and consultant with a passion for sustainability in the fullest sense. Alan was concerned about how communities across the UK would cope with a number of shocks, including social, environmental, and economic. He wanted to know if we could help come up with a response that would increase the resilience of communities to these shocks. In our first conversation, I asked Alan, “Which communities?” He looked at me, surprised, and said, “All of them.”
It took a year of work to figure out an approach. We did extensive research, which included interviews with thinkers and actors within the broad field of resilience, examination of a range of existing initiatives (we created an “atlas of resilience strategies” to map them), and a number of consultations. The Community Resilience Lab was born out of this approach.
The core idea behind the lab is to bring together stakeholders in particular geographical areas in order to come up with proactive responses to the resilience challenges they face. Instead of waiting for a shock to hit the community and then mobilizing a post-event response, the goal is to tackle challenges before they hit.
Resilience is of course a very big word. In the course of our work, we discovered that there was a bewildering array of definitions. The first question we were generally asked by stakeholders was, “what do you mean by resilience?” The second question was often whether we knew about this or that resilience initiative in the area.
These questions led us to conduct a broad survey of both the resilience literature and the many initiatives on resilience around the country. The definition of resilience that we like best focuses on when systems bounce back from shocks but end up in a better state from where they started. Our findings are summarized in a paper we authored called “The State of Resilience in the UK.” You can download it here.
As a result of early discussions with local governments, national NGOs, and key stakeholders, we decided to launch the Community Resilience Lab in London, focusing on six key boroughs: Camden, Haringey, Lambeth, Lewisham, Southwark, and Tower Hamlets.
The idea behind the London Resilience Lab is to demonstrate that it’s possible to proactively organize to increase the resilience of communities—and that such actions make much more sense than simply waiting for a crisis. Our hope is that the Community Resilience Lab can be used as a platform by many communities, both in the UK and around the world, to self-organize in the face of systemic shocks.
The London Resilience Lab will be kicking off April 28, 2014. It will consist of 3 workshops over 6 months plus a 3 month “agile” coaching phase. As an outcome of the workshops, the participants will create a portfolio of initiatives to respond to resilience challenges.
For three months after the final workshop, we will provide group and one-to-one coaching, allowing each team to rapidly test and prototype their initiatives. Funding will be in place to support these initiatives.
Visit the Community Resilience Lab website to find out more: www.theresiliencelab.org
Here’s a link to a short video about the Lab: http://youtu.be/09CspM6vWcY
Click here to download “The State of Resilience UK”.
For those of you interested in joining the Lab, email Zaid Hassan at firstname.lastname@example.org