The Center for Resilient Communities focuses attention on cultivating the capacities of an ever-growing circle of collaborators by engaging in collective inquiry, developing participatory action research and strategies for social transformation. Therefore, we view our Center as a growing collective of thoughtful, committed collaborators working in the field of social action. Our programming is focused on gathering and distributing insights from the application of learning by its participants. Our aim is to harness the shared learning of the collective efforts of our participants and partners in a way that is immersive, experiential and long-term. Shared learning is the motivating purpose of the Center, the basis for participation in the Center’s activities, and also expresses the fundamental character of its mission.
Equity, Justice and Inclusion
To develop a diverse network of participants who can share learning together, a central principle of the Center for Resilient Communities is to promote a model of inclusivity, equity and social justice. Our goal is for our collaborators to represent the manifold experiences of social and community life. We therefore make explicit our principle of coalescing the efforts of various groups to challenge oppression, heal the pernicious wounds of racism, advance the leadership of people of color, promote women’s leadership, support LGBTQIA+ communities and sow bonds of love, fellow-ship and mutual aid into the heart of our work. The Center will actively seek equity in the recruitment of collaborators representing different lived experiences of race, ethnicity, gender, class, sexual orientation, religion, age and ability. The Center will also specifically develop programming in support of shared understanding of the value of social justice and the vital need for universal participation, particularly from oppressed and marginalized groups. The Center will only thrive on the basis of equitable participation in shared learning and an explicit commitment to social justice and inclusion.
Action and Reflection
The kind of learning we prioritize in the Center emerges from the field of social action for community well-being. The kind of social action to which we refer are efforts to promote the well-being of people of all walks of life, whatever their beliefs or background, through various means from movement advocacy to social enterprise, public policy to social work. Such efforts in the field of social action are motivated by the desire to serve others and contribute to constructive social, economic and environmental change. The Center will be a welcoming home to community advocates and scholars who often lack spaces for retreat, reflection and systematic inquiry. We believe that both action and reflection are vital. Without a diverse group of participants engaged in social action the learning of the Center would diminish in scope. Inversely, without reflection, our efforts in the field of social action may not benefit from essential insights, knowledge and experiences that are necessary to ensure its effectiveness.
Central to our approach in the Center for Resilient Communities is the practice of accompaniment. Like in a musical arrangement, those who practice accompaniment provide support to others in ways that enhance, elevate or lift them up. Accompaniment, as a practice of solidarity, calls on us to learn how to best contribute to the advancement of others through time. It acknowledges the gifts and abilities of each person, recognizes that each individual and community challenge is distinctive, and that transformative change requires us to commit to walking new paths by learning together. Accompaniment is often under-appreciated in the process of social transformation. As Paul Farmer has said, “It's easy to be dismissive of accompaniment in a world in which arcane expertise is advanced as the answer to every problem. But expertise alone will not solve the difficult problems. […] True accompaniment does not privilege technical expertise above solidarity or compassion or a willingness to tackle what may seem to be insuperable challenges. It requires cooperation, openness, and teamwork…” Accompaniment is a posture and process of lifting the capacity of others. It takes sacrifice. This principle of sacrificial service permeates the life of Center.
Forces, Systems, Thinking, Planning
A vital insight from our years of action and reflection is that systems thinking is an essential element of problem solving, planning and community building. To develop the capacities for systems thinking is it necessary to understand the various forces shaping our society and environment as well as how those forces crystalize into institutions and systems that appear natural, fixed, unchangeable. Systems thinkers see beyond this façade of permanence. Systems thinkers learn how to create social change by denaturalizing institutions and organizations, exploring social relationships, seeking to understand the underlying forces shaping them and then thoughtfully guiding actors and institutions in planning for a different kind of system. Building upon the principle of equity and inclusion, we will learn how to facilitate participatory planning processes on the basis of a shared understanding of underlying forces and root causes. The Center will support our participants as they continue to develop capacities in systems thinking and participatory action.