Bernard's picture
Freeflow Creativity

The Challenge: 

The Question: 

How can we improve community resilience?

The Problem: 

We're not very well prepared for shocks to systems.

The Solution: 

Add buffers and contingency while we plan, hatch and implement.


I’m a designer, nurse, yoga teacher, food grower and performer, currently studying Business Enterprise and Community Development with Equal Ireland. I’m lucky to have had many learning opportunities, and the freedom to let that knowledge merge.

I volunteer at a community/school garden (Soil Chroí Íosa) with Transition Galway and was a writer/editor and designer for our “A Vision for Galway 2030” document.

I’m also Resilience Coordinator with An Áit Eile (The Other Place), a cultural organisation in Galway, with an amazing network of collaborators. In 2015 I was invited to open meetings by An Áit Eile (AÁE), mapping potential groups who could potentially fill a community led cultural hub in Galway. Some of the groups I’m active with matched perfectly, so they were an easy fit. I developed the idea as part of my college work, with input from AÁE.

Next was “Pilgrim”, again collaborating with AÁE, entered for the European Capital of Culture 2020 bidbook for Galway. Working around 3 thematics, Monastery (inspired by unMonastery), Meitheal (Irish term for a work party) and Pilgrimage.

In October we done this...

Keeping momentum, we tested unMonastery/Monastery in early December, 2017. 4 days at Cregg Castle, PreMonastery; a Rural Reconnaissance. A range of skilled individuals involved with a range community groups and initiatives, and collaboration with @Nadia (EdgeRyders LBG). We’ve just submitted our report to Galway 2020. Many outcomes during and after the event including the adding of stories to Opencare.

We’re hoping to roll out Pilgrim: Year One this year. The provisional plan feels epic. Joining the med-hack revolution and design/build small spaces looks like a promising direction. Sharpening existing knowledge/skills, then application and outcomes.


The frontier between culture and care

Alberto's picture

Welcome back, @Bernard :-)

This is impressive work. As I looked up AÁE and what they do, I noticed they seem to be focused on culture (David Boland's statement here). So I'm curious: where do you see the interface between culture, community and care? 

Working with the seasons:)

Bernard's picture

Thanks @Alberto,

Through collaboration, listening to local caring initatives/groups and providing what we can. I see community and care as part of culture alongside the arts. Examples;

at "Our Place" event we brought yoga by Green Lotus Galway (GLG) and circus workshops for kids by Hoopla Troupla  (social inclusion in a socio-economically disadvantaged area).

at What Now? A Cultural Weekender, there was Yoga by GLG (50% of donations went to, mandala making by Cosáin (community wellness group) and teen open-mike by Foróige, tribal dancing, reclaimed pallet furniture as part of design exhibition and much more. We'll be revamping our website in time and a fuller picture of that will appear.

at preMonastery (report on website soon), which itself was semi-retreat in nature, yoga and mental wellbeing featured. A preliminary looks at the feedback forms suggests positive effects wellness of participants. Outcomes from preMon include a collaboration between Cosáin and Paisúin Fáisuin, where they ran an event and raised €1440.  And Cosáin doing an art therapy retreat in 2 weeks with Alan, our host at the castle. Hopefully a yoga workshop with David Jones. It got myself and Pat out chopping through a community walking trail and talking about building med/health/builing. Developing designs/concept at present. And food, communal eating = learning about nutrition and food/water sources.

AÁE originated as an arts group but has been looking at culture in the broader sense, integrating health and physical environment/ecological sustainability. AÁE's arts reviews and events are key to engagement, facillitating connection of groups and situations of care at local level.  And celebration:) David's statement is from June 2015, it starts with arts, then evolution:)

Great answer!

Alberto's picture

I think I get it. So, you see health and sustainability as an essential component of cultural activity. This goes back to the issue of activist burnout, which keeps recurring in the Edgeryders community. To ensure health and sustainability, you bake prevention/wellness activities into cultural programmes. So, a side effect of doing culture is (over time) a reduction in treatment of acute health conditions. 

I am starting to think that this is where most of the impact of communities on care comes from. Communities can "corral" us into avoiding destructive choices (heavy drinking, overeating...). They provide support in wellness/preventative activities, and that reduces human and financial costs of havingn to treat acute afflictions down the line. 

Yes and more.

Bernard's picture

Yes, that's it. Taking it further though, would be to create rural/nature situations where healthcare professionals can rejuvinate and connect with people from different professions. And yoga, nature based activity and arts for teens in rural settings. There is already a will for this to happen from Foróige, as a means to curtail troubeld behaviours. ..and the elderly, we especially need alternative services as our elderly population grows.

Being a collective

Noemi's picture

I think that's the point of being a collective, right? It's relevant to have a shell like AAE which enables its different members and people connected to it to do things based on what interests them - it means that when you do an arts event there are people who run workshops on the side and activities that have a wellbeing component. It is community care at its core, because they are social activities where people inevitably learn from each other. Does care need a clearly spelled out mission? I don't know. I've always liked how AAE feels very free, but at the same time I'm wondering if working together with Galway 2020, consumer panels in Cosain etc and needing to projectify in a more structural way is useful, and the more strategic level taken since your early days helps your work or not? Obviously, doers will always be doers no matter what :-) I'm just wondering though. 

Fluidity in structure.

Bernard's picture

Aye/yes, a big diverse melting pot of stuff. Not pigeonholing, but allowing each group to have their own identity. It could be more clearly spelled out in our mission, and might do so in time, but also being aware that the arts can draw people in, but health and enironmental issues can sometimes scare people off. More structure and over longer timeframe feature in our recent proposal, but not too ridgid. Care can be tough work. Rest, play and time to breathe hopfully will lead to stronger, healthier, more productive outcomes.

Speaking of outcomes... :) Cosáin are doing an overnight art therapy session with Alan at Cregg Castle tomorrow and Sunday. Also, when promoting "What Now?" I spoke with Claddagh Arts Centre, so when I went looking for help to build an outdoor classroom at the Transition Galway school/community garden, Michael from the centre gave his time, machinery and a very genorous price on stonework. Busy week = very happy school princial:)

Quote of the day

Noemi's picture

"the arts can draw people in, but health and environmental issues can sometimes scare people off"

I feel this is an important insight.

Impressive stamina

Alberto's picture

@Bernard I am looking at the Transition Galway website:

Since October 2012 we have been working on the Transition Galway community garden [...]  It’s a nice wee plot, kindly offered by the school to our group. Together with the pupils, parents, teachers and members of the community we have been growing food and improving biodiversity.

A TG-school collaboration around gardening, biodiversity and community building that's been going onto five years. That's impressive. This is how you build a culture of teamwork and societal resilience. If you guys can start a community garden and keep at it for five years, you can probably get ambitious. Where do you think the stamina come from?

Watching things grow feeds the soul:)

Bernard's picture

Thanks, we've had some struggles such as low volunteer numbers and consistancy of volunteers. Still haven't cracked that. I think there's potential for job creation as we outlined here and here in our visioning document, and submitted to Galway City Council, as they invited submissions from community groups for policy suggestions (particularly Policy 5.). Gaining employment doing something I enjoy, that also benefits my community was a driving force for at the start. There doesn't appear to be real jobs materialising in this area in Galway, so I'm staring to shift my gaze a little.

Plenty of successes there though; learning, eating, conversation, connections and engagement with school activities. This year the focus is on getting more involvement from parents of the school kids and people in the neighbouring houses.

Stamina comes from following a common sense approach to resilience. Food is a base need, and the process of growing it benefits health, community, physical environment and financially it helps a little to get veg every now and again for our efforts. I can't imagine not growing some food every year. It feels like the most rational thing I do with my time.

a session as part of enabling factors theme for OpenCare?

Gehan's picture

Hi @Bernard

Inspirational work... and impressive stamina as others have already commented!

It'd be good to get your thoughts/contributions to the theme as it firms up. This will help to shape your session in a way that will contribute to collective insights on this topic. 

Theme: better understanding policy in context of a top-down system. Even good policies may be limited in their effectiveness - that is by the time they cascade down to the level of effect/impact they are often either diluted or do not produce the effects desired by the original intentions of the policy no matter how well meaning these might be. Another way to look at it would be this: living systems theory has turned on its head the Victorian world-view that imagined that unless mankind were imposing order from top down then chaos would ensue. The new sciences - nano biology, quantum theory - have revealed the extent to which order is a natural impulse (fractals being a beautify example) and that many of mankind’s efforts to date have disrupted this impulse.

So what does this say about policy? How do we understand more effective ways to enable our natural impulse as human beings to be caring and compassionate? How do we re-conceive of policies in the light of this - to support and not disrupt the collective impulse to help our fellow human beings? 

From this understanding - how do we understand the instruments and tools of the collective, of citizens - what do they look like in relation to health and social care? Equally, how do we understand the instruments and tools of the state (such as policy) - how can these be designed to enable the collective response that is the basis of welfare in traditional societies?

The next question would then be how this might inform the nature of the session you’d offer. It seems there's so much you could contribute for joint exploration. 

There seems to me to be a common thread in what I’ve encountered of what you’ve sent through. Its something about the format of the various happenings. e.g. Monastery, Galway Soup - that genuinely reflect values of welcome, bringing people in, shifting power, playing with stereotypical roles to create new experiences that have greater meaning - that get under the superficial. Does that make sense? And something about new recipes - the way you put together interesting elements to create new experiences/outcomes. Perhaps you’d want to focus on one of the three thematics? Sharing what’s really worked and using peer review (I’m gathering that this is something ER are particularly keen on) to solve some things that aren’t yet clear/sorted? Which of the three thematics connects most strongly to the health and social care? There’s also the tiny houses & homeless folks work you mentioned. Might this also be a possible session? 

You’ve so much good work to choose from - would a way forward be for you to suggest 2-4 possible sessions and we work up the one that has the best connection to the theme?



Bernard's picture

Thanks @Gehan. One potential session springs to mind: "Creating situations for healthy experiences that faciltate collaborations and drive outcomes."

Key situations: Galway Monastery, SOUP, An Áit EIle's "What Now?", Transition Galway Garden.

Collaborations that have formed, and outcomes that have occured would be presented as digrams using the various logos of groups, on a timeline. Branding can be an effective language, shows diversity of collaborating groups through symbols/colour, and is also easy for the business sector and authoritive bodies to understand. It's also how I organise stuff in my head every few months, so I guess that could be a good next step for me.

Maybe another potential session or two might spring to mind. How long might a session be? Are there anymore guidelines on what a session is? Workshop, presetation or maybe a mixture of both? The session could start with a 5min gentle seated yoga asana stretch, and a 5min circussy catch wordgame.

Peer review is something I must give more thought to.

"The iot assisted garden" - might be a good fit for Open Science and Citizen Science for more inclusive healthcare. I think Ken will talk to @Winnie about this soon.

Small distinction

Noemi's picture

Forgive me for stepping in unasked for, 
Just a heads up to say that there is a dedicated (3rd) big theme around working and living well together which will encompass I believe physical community spaces and some aspects of mental health and collective wellbeing ensured by tight communities. I would keep your work on that, Bernard, outside of the impact/ policy discussions. This seems natural already, as the key situations you listed above seem like a good fit with Gehan's focus.

No guidelines as to what a session could be, or format - it just needs a clear description on a session page so that attendants know what to expect, and perhaps a little flexibility wont hurt - adjusting later to the constrains of the space, sequencing of sessions, other incoming demands etc.


Thanks Noemi

Bernard's picture

Useful distinction. I'm now leaning more towards identifting hurdles, bridges, bonding oppertunities, what's best to share?, what's not shared?, social currency, open value networks?

@Gehan, just a thought.. Meditation in policing? Success of Vipassana in prisons in India vs Vipasana used as punishment for prostesting teachers - this happened on the course I done after the death of Mr Goenka, bad vibe. Meditaion used as replacement for detention for kids.

inner spaces as enabling factors?

Gehan's picture

@Bernard, your thoughts, have made me think. I really didn't intend for my session to be so closely linked to policy. I'm going to re-write a clearer description somewhere. For me it's more about exploring how we create the enabling factors rather than be overly reliant on top-down policy. And what kind of policy supports citizen impulses around collective care rather disrupts? It sounds like you have built up quite a bit of experience of how practices such as meditation create inner space. This would be a good example of an enabling factor for citizen led care and self care. 

I'm just noticing that the Afternow Project website is down. It was a great resource. But the main point of this research project by the Dept of Public Health at Glasgow Uni was to highlight that all the great public health challenges of the past had been solved mainly by structural changes like sanitation and clean water and some behavioural change. The public health challenges of modernity will no longer be addressed in the same way. They are things like addiction, violence, suicide. Their research concluded that it was inner and cultural change that would be called for.

You could reference the work in Indian prisons but really draw on the first hand experience you've built up through your work in Galway.

Wondering how that lands?