Leading the way to resilience?

After the Living On The Edge (LOTE) conference last week, I used a long train journey back to the UK to think about how to contextualise the stories that emerged from the event alongside those contained in the Edgeryders platform.   More than anything else, a question that I had been asked after my presentation had stuck with me.  A participant suggested that the synopsis I provided hadn’t really engaged with the theme of resilience.  My immediate response – which I believe, in one sense, is still true – was that, for me, the idea of resilience is fundamental to the whole Edgeryders project.  I’m simply not sure it is possible to separate a discussion of resilience from the precariousness Edgeryders are faced with on a daily basis.    So, on the one hand, issues of resilience are a fundamental facet of young people’s transition to a meaningful and active life simply because of the nature of our current socio-economic predicament.

However, I think there is a second sense in which resilience permeates the Edgeryders project – and not simply because there is a campaign on the subject.  In fact, while the mission reports encapsulated with the Resilience campaign are certainly interesting and speak directly to the theme, they don’t (as yet) produce a particularly coherent picture of Edgeryders’ views on this subject.  (My sense is that this is simply a reflection of the fact that Resilience was the last thematic campaign to be launched, and it is my hope that there will be a new flurry of mission reports in the wake of LOTE and the Unconference.)  This second resilience ‘thread’ as I will call it is, instead, constituted by Edgeryders’ activities as expressed across the project as a whole – across all the campaigns.

In this post, my intention is to draw out some of the ways in which Edgeryders suggest, through their mission reports, that they already possess the knowledge and skills required for a resilient future, as well as the means to propagate that knowledge and those skills amongst their communities.

The first, and perhaps most important, skill required for a resilient future is the ability to share.  Attempting to ensure equality of opportunity in a resilient future requires generosity with time, skills, knowledge and many other resources – and Edgeryders are demonstrably keen to play their part.  Of greatest significance, I think, is the extent to which Edgeryders’ activities place at their centre shared basic human needs - shared food (see Darren’s post on community agriculture or John G’s on a shared garden), shared places (read here about Augusto’s CriticalCity Upload game or Felix’s description of the housing estate as a nexus of commons), shared art, music or other cultural expressions (see Jeremie’s report on his music event, Le Molodoï) – and use these to bring communities closer.  For me, closeness means greater resilience – a greater inclination to offer support and think creatively together – and at the heart of this is effective communication.  In particular, if the successes of small ventures can be communicated outside of local communities, they can be copied and potentially act as propagators of countless other independent initiatives.  Here, Stefania’s mission report on the Manifetso2020 project is a shining example: this project uses radio to allow locals to promote their own projects.

The focus on engaging local communities marks the second facet of Edgeryders’ activities that suggests, to me, that they are already working to build a resilient future.  There is a conspicuous place embeddedness in many mission reports, which not only reflects Edgeryders’ own place attachments but reflects a commitment to invigorating those communities in order to encourage participation and collaboration.  A significant part of community resilience is about ensuring those who live there want to keep living there and are able to do so – it’s about giving people a reason to stay part of communities through the provision of services, resources and a sense that they, too, can contribute.  Edgeryders have written about various community projects from community supported agriculture to Transition Towns, where locals are involved in all levels of work – physical, organisational and governance – as well as reaping the rewards: food, community, skills, knowledge, trust and, above all, better resilience.  I can’t help but think that having the opportunity to experience – or just get close to – an alternative living scenario might help bring the possibility of a better, more resilient future to life for those who sense the magnitude of our current socio-economic difficulties but feel ill-equipped to respond productively.  Edgeryders and their projects may have much to offer here as the success stories that inspire others within communities to act.

And this is the third sense in which I think that Edgeryders are already demonstrating their skills for resilience – by acting as role models, hubs of knowledge, or co-ordinators of local efforts.  By communicating their own experiences and showing that someone has trod a similar path before, Edgeryders are well-positioned to contribute to the safety-nets that are essential to encourage others to follow their lead.  Importantly, this need not take the form of time- or energy-intensive community support.  Thejaymo asks in a recent mission report, “Why isn’t there an app for that?” – and suggests that smartphone technology, specifically apps, could have a vital role to play in using the experiences of resilience trailblazers (like Edgeryders) to support those who wish to follow.

To wrap up, I want to return to my intention for this post – to consider how Edgeryders’ actions might be taken forward in support of a more resilient future for everyone.  The mission reports in the platform are abundant with evidence of Edgeryders’ capacity to share, communicate, engage and empower communities, and facilitate the transfer of knowledge and skills.  This, to me, seems like a firm foundation on which to build a resilient future.  In closing, I want to make reference to Nirgal’s mission report, “Fear comes from the unknown” in which he makes an important point about the extent to which our current socio-economic structures leave most of us massively dependent on complex networks for essential things like food.  If there’s one point that Edgeryders have been extremely good at making, it’s that it is possible for us to take back some control and form our own networks that better meet our needs – and those of our communities – in ways that build resilience rather than dependency.  For me, this is really what Edgeryders is all about.

(In addition to the mission reports posted under the Resilience campaign, I would also like to acknowledge the input of several mission reports from Caring For Commons in this post.)

Loaded word

Resilience is a loaded word, and one that I feel different people - even in the Edgeryders community - interpret in different ways. At one extreme you have Lucyanna wondering how your family life can be resilient to you getting a job in this economic climate; at the other one you have hexayurt wondering how you can keep people alive if the State fails and doctors walk out of the hospitals because no one is paying their salary anymore; or if gas and oil to heat up homes stops coming into, say, Finland in mid-winter. Your report is closer to the Lucyanna-position than to the hexayurt-position, it seems.

This is important because Lucyanna-type resilience is solved well by embedding oneself into a (generally local) community. hexayurt-type resilience - not always well, because at some level there is a potential for communities to break down as the competition for primary resources kicks in (think American survivalist in bunkers protecting their canned food with shotguns). Thinking of extreme problems might seem science-fictional, but as we speak there are ugly ethnic rifts appearing in previously peaceful communities in my native Emilia Romagna - simply because there has been an earthquake, those communities are now living in Red Cross camps and everybody is worse off and stretched quite thin.

Don’t get me wrong: community is a great resilience tool. So are personal networks, and it is great that young trailblazers are learning to master them. And by the way personal network are NOT local communities, because you can turn off the former at will, but not the latter. And where humans are unfree to walk away at will, anthropologists tell us, you get ugly stuff like violence and dominance orders.

We are unprepared

Most of the “resilience” issues for citizens, they have already been analyzed extensively by the Flubies community, back in 2005. Pandemic preparedness does not limit itself to buying ten N-95 masks and a couple of bottles of anti-microbial liquid.

The Flubies community took actions to become resilient. They thought about what to do at an individual level, family level, and community level.

For instance, I live in a cold country. It is not unusual to see -30oC in winter. Canada has the same cold weather and long winters as in Finland. I estimated that with an auxiliary heating system (other than electricity), a tank filled with oil at all times, I can strech it for half a winter, or a full winter if I mix it with other measures, such as living in a sealed off room of the house - in the same room as the auxiliary heating system - (I have several rolls of heavy plastic sheeting and several rolls of tape), with a camping tent for 6 people installed in the middle of the room, and sleeping bags which can withstand temperatures of-30oC. On my auxilary heating system, there is a surface for cooking. With my camping equipment, I can prepare hot meals on the auxilary system. I ordered boxes of dehydrated vegetables on the Internet from a US business producing food for astronauts. Etc.

We are unprepared to face cataclysms.
We are probably also unprepared to face anything that stands out of the ordinary, (?)
Financial meltdown is not a natural cataclysm. But it could have a devastating impact on dependant non-resilient populations.
There was much talk about Edgeryders participants' resilience, but we should extend the concept to the whole population, across the globe, to the size of humanity.

Large-scale negative effect of natural disasters in recent years has shown that humanity is not prepared to enter the era of global natural cataclysms, either technologically, economically, legally, socially or psychologically. A joint effort by scientists, international organizations and governments of different countries under the aegis of the UN is needed in order to take effective measures to counter natural disasters and to minimize the casualties and damage they cause to humanity. (WORLD FORUM – INTERNATIONAL CONGRESS “NATURAL CATACLYSMS AND GLOBAL PROBLEMS OF THE MODERN CIVILIZATION” - GEOCATACLYSM-201)

This world forum, they recommended in September 2011: (I mentioned it in the Italian eartquake mission report, and I repeat it here, because I think that it's an appropriate recommandation.)
  • Creation of a unified international EDUCATIONAL system for preparing the world’s population to act BEFORE, DURING and AFTER natural disasters, with extensive use of the Internet and other information technologies.
(We could add financial meltdown or collapse of systems to the list)

Firstly I’d like to thank Beckery for pulling together a number of strands into something thats somewhat coherant.


I’m not sure that the bouneries between, and properties of, personal networks and communities are always as you suggest - it certainly doesn’t fell this way for me at present.

Being semi-nomadic I can pretty much turn off a local community at will - I just move somewhere else.  I guess for many people their ‘investment’ (house, job, kids in school, friends, family) in a locality will stop them rapidly moving - but if things start to turn nasty in an area I guess many people, particularly those with minimal ‘investments’, would quickly consider moving.

I also think that building friendships previous to ‘disaster’ would be useful in hexayurt type situations.  I know that in such circumstances I would be inclined to gather together with my friends to see the hard times through.  These friends may of just been people I’d met if I hadn’t spent the time to build friendships within my community.  I havent always spent the time to get to know my neighbours, but when I have I’ve almost always been glad I did.  I’ve got many dear friends from doing so.  I’ve also got friends I trust that I’ve met though working at community gardens.

I also think that community productive ventures, like the food projects I was talking about in my mission Beckery links to, have the potential to provide great resilience.   If people are working together and growing their food then they are not so dependant on supply chains and through engagement in these ventures they will have built social networks which can be leveraged for all kinds of mutual support.

We can see this mutual support dynamic sometimes in times of crisis - eg - In Argentina during their financial crisis at the begining of the last decade many people came together to form peoples kitchens, community gardens, communitiy bakeries.  Push came to shove, people could not get their money from the banks and many of them started talking to their neighbours (often for the first time) and helping one another rather than bunkering (is that a word??) up and defending their food stash from all comers with shotguns (maybe they were hedging their bets and had their shotguns ready in the cellar so they could hide if things had started to get nasty - but as far as I’m aware things didn’t get nasty)

Point (half) taken

Point taken, Darren. Or, rather, half a point: I have only began to think about resilience very recently (and I have to thank you all for this), so I may be wrong, but it seems to me the hexayurt-style resilience involves some kind of hebbesian default stance. So, if the blow is bad but not disastrous you weather it with your friends: if the blow is disastrous you start competing for resources with your ex-friends. It’s WOOO (We’re On Our Own) vs. YOYO (You’re On Your Own) and all that. Did I miss anything?

I guess people are all different.

For some reason I’m thinking about stories of people being stranded by air crashes, or at sea.  They didn’t always fight over the last tin of food - although sometimes they did.  I think that facing adversity can strengthen the ties between people.

Of course it is a fact that some people really don’t feel much empathy for their fellow human beings and I guess that such people would be more inclined to get nasty if things get difficult?

Is there someway to forsee probable reactions…

in your environment. E.g in the environment you are in whether people are more likely to support one another and you, or whether they are more likely to turn on each other dog eat dog. An indication of  resilience of the  social infrastructure towards stress.

Probable reactions

I guess that the amount of social interaction existing within the environment is a reasonable indicator.  How to gauge this I am not sure.  I think the trend, certainly in the UK and I expect other ‘developed’ nations has been for less interaction.  Longer working hours (to pay the bills), television and the increase in costs of socialising (in the UK pubs/bars used to be hubs of much social interaction - the increasing costs of drinks have seen people leave the pubs and many pubs shutting across the country.) all have added to keeping people at home rather than out socialising.

Also the resilience of other infrastructure.  In rural food producing areas, particularly where subsistence farming is practiced (increasingly rare in Europe), communities are more likely to be resilient to supply chain shocks that would rip other communities apart.

I’ve heard Vinay state that social cohesion is greatest in cold countries where people have to help each other to get through the harsh weather during winter.  Standing against adversity pulls people together.

The other side of the coin is that in warm countries you don’t have to find all that fuel to keep you warm during winter.  You also get a longer growing season, which as long as water is available = more food.

virtuale e reale

< collettivo* - > fattore* < bene comune*

citta > < collettivo - > fattore < bene comune

< collettivo - > fattore < bene comune

< collettivo - > fattore < bene comune

Collettivo libera comunità rurale

Fattore responsabile del’ bene comune

Bene comune condivisione degi ambienti e culture naturali comuni, terra, acqua, vegetali, ossigeno, animALI, strade, mezzi di trasporto, abitazioni, sovranità dello stato,

Resilience campaign sviluppo sostenibile e accettabile per il nostro abitat.

Sopravissuti alle crisi grazie alle armonie condivise.

Simone Muffolini

corretta alimentazione e corretto stile di vità riducono la dipendenza da strutture sanitariè.

Da questa vertà!

la revisione della spesa pubblica statale ne trarrebbe un beneficio

risparmiando sul calo di degenze,

investendo per il mantenimento della struttura sanità

perchè non e vero che i farmaci migliorano la vita delle persone sane! quando si e sani si e sani e basta!


cibo e cultura che proviene da ambienti naturali vissuti, stagionale

vità condizzionata dagli ambienti naturali sani


just some reflections of a post-2008/post-edgeryders NYC


i think its interesting to try and answer this question from NYC, a city that has long carried and interacted with a massive underclass which has been permanently under financial stress. New York is still the big apple, where political narrratives notwithstanding, it's a place where you can go to hustle up some cash at a moment's notice. It's the cash doesn't flow, it trickles down from much larger arenas of high finance, etc. The last time I was in NYC it was around 2007. I have now returned 5 years later. The institutions of the elite are still here. Thousands of starbucks are packed from corner to corner. Despite all the bad things I heard was happening all those years from television sets in Dubai and Beirut (making me thankful that I was working as an expat in emerging economies), it seems like nothing much has changed.

 some subtle clues though. I’m seeing lots of new faces homeless on the streets. Not the “usual suspects” if you know what I mean. And of course its more difficult than ever to get a job. People in the middle and upper, by definition, might tend to have deeper access to resources that allow them to float aimlessly around for a while…

or they leave to another city. I would love to see some statistics on the number of professionals and midde/upper class residents that fled New York City during the post-2008 turbulence. No matter what that number is... I suspect that if anything that rich have just gotten richer and further entrenched in their own philosophies (see image below of wall streeters mocking the Occupy Movement from a balcony)
some possible hypotheses to derive from these basic observations: we are a nation at the teat of an ultra rich class. the portion of wealth that is to be distributed to the masses, will arrive, but it will be more scaled out and thinly distributed as possible.

I think its still very early. We need to see what all the institutions of grassroots econ dev will do for the masses via the use of tighter community fabric, technology and real-life transformative experiences that force us all to be a lot more creative and thoughtful about how we are to make a living. All I know is one thing: America is one of the world’s breadbaskets. People should not have to starve to death. Everything else , however, will be very negotiable and subject to our own willpower.