The dictionary tells us the word resilience means:

  1. The ability of a substance or object to spring back into shape;
  2. The capacity to recover quickly from difficulties;

Some say ……it’s a word that’s ‘overused’….others say ‘they don’t know what it means’…..I used to say ‘I hate that word!’ …..

Many that have life experiences to draw upon will quickly advise: ‘it means to bounce back’; ‘to get through life’s challenges’; ‘to stand for what you believe in’; ‘to be strong and to have courage’ ……..

Resilience is now particularly spoken about in relation to entire communities and towns. How communities can get through and bounce back from emergencies, tragedy and adversity.

A lot of work has been undertaken in relation to resilience at the city-wide scale. 100 Resilient Cities (100RC) is a framework pioneered by the Rockefeller Foundation, and cities around the world are taking this approach.

100RC describes Urban Resilience as “the capacity of individuals, communities, institutions, businesses, and systems within a city to survive, adapt, and grow no matter what kinds of chronic stresses and acute shocks they experience.”

‘Chronic stress’ is described as “stresses that weaken the fabric of a city on a daily or cyclical basis” such as high unemployment and endemic violence; and ‘acute shocks’ described as “sudden, sharp events that threaten a city” such as earthquakes, floods, disease outbreaks.

Emergency Management Victoria’s (EMV) solution, is tackling resilience at a state-wide level. The Community Resilience Framework, aims to “have a modern, resilience-based emergency management system that values and understands community contribution and puts people at the centre of decision making.”

According to EMV, resilient communities are “safe and healthy; connected, inclusive and empowered; have a dynamic and diverse local economy; have a sustainable built and natural environment, community assets and infrastructure; are culturally rich and vibrant; are democratic and engaged; are reflective, aware and act”.

This is all very well, and for some may seem quite theoretical. So why is this relevant to us? Why are we talking about resilience at all and not just leaving it to government agencies to address?

EMV states: “We can expect more acute shocks, more often, as Victoria experiences higher-than-average temperatures, reduced rainfall, increased drought conditions and more extreme weather events, including more frequent bushfires and storm activity. Combined with the challenges of chronic stresses such as population growth, urbanisation, and technological advances we can expect an increase in the consequences of pandemics, disease outbreaks, security threats and telecommunication hazards.” In response to this they have created a Community Based Emergency Management approach to support communities, to respond effectively ‘before during and after’ an event.

Perhaps we can’t always rely on the emergency management sector to reach us in time or respond in all circumstances. It may be up to us? Can we play a role? Are we safer if we do?

As Paul Hawken of Blessed Unrest says: “The World seems to be looking for the big solution, which is itself part of the problem, since the most effective solutions are both local and systemic.”

On 27 April we’re having a conversation about resilience, what it means to each of us and how we can Ramp Up Resilience in our communities. This includes: looking at how we can build skills and support systems; increase our social connections; include others we may not usually include; engage with those prone to isolation; and live with greater awareness in relation to the possibility of emergency.

You can join us: for more information; as a first step; or for your next step. Our aim is to simply provide the opportunity for people to engage in the conversation, see where it’s relevant to them and how they can Ramp Up Resilience in their community (whatever shape or size that is).

Outside the Square – Ramp Up Resilience, an initiative of Make a Change Australia, is taking place Thursday 27 April, 6.30-9.30pm at The Engine Room, 58 View St, Bendigo. It’s a FREE event but places are limited. Register at https://makeachange.org.au/event/rampupresilience