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 Nirgals’ 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.)