Why I care about resilience

The other morning I was lucky enough to bump into a chap I know called Alex Smith. My first post of 2016 is inspired by him and the work his organisations carry out…

Over the past year I’ve blogged quite a bit on what resilience means to me and all sort of interesting initiatives I’ve come across that I think build resilience amongst individuals and communities. I thought I’d kick off my posts this year with some reflections on why I think all of this is important.

Throughout my career in local government, I’ve defined myself as a bit of a problem solver. In fact, I’m not alone with this. You can take a trip through local council rhetoric up and down the land and you’ll find we’re constantly trying to solve stuff. How do you solve the housing crisis? How do you solve child poverty? How do you solve complex families? How do you solve ageing?

Swiftly following these questions will usually be the line “there are no easy answers” and while that sounds like a bit of a cop out, it is absolutely true, but maybe for not the reason people usually intend. We normally see these as difficult problems to solve because they are so complicated – lots of different variables on top of lots of different manifestations of the problem, on top of not enough time or resources would be the standard combo.

However I’m going to posit a simpler take – the reason we can’t solve them, is that they are not problems to solve. Most of the time we may as well be asking “how do we solve living?” (the answer to which is inevitably an unhelpful “stop”).

So what if we redefine what we’re doing – if we’re not solving problems what are we doing then? As a starter for ten, I’m going to go with “rising to challenges”. The reason I like this phrase is it takes away the implication that there is a final goal or destination. You can rise to a challenge and successfully meet it, but sooner or later another one will follow. The emphasis becomes less about how to stop that challenge occurring and more about how to best deal with it when it inevitably arrives.

Which for me is where resilience comes in and why I think we need a change of attitudes in terms of how we help people across the public sector, and for that matter in our private lives as well. For example one can’t *solve* ageing but we can create the conditions for ourselves (collectively and as individuals) to meet the challenges presented by ageing, whether that is through creating aids to help people live in their own homes longer, ensuring we all have half decent pensions(!), keeping fit and healthy or making sure that at a time in our lives when our personal networks tend to diminish, there are things around to help strengthen them.

I’m really big on that last point, whether it’s through use of things like Facebook, or the emergence of ideas like North London Cares and South London Cares, that bring together people of different ages around common interests and build friendships that they can draw strength from, rather than just arrange to visit people because they are “old”.

For those that are interested, I’m going to continue to blog my thoughts on this subject throughout the year and keep my eyes open for great initiatives that don’t treat life and other people like problems to be solved, but as challenges to be risen to, and dare I say, enjoyed.


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