2012 Round Table

Resilient Communities: A Form of Creative Resistance

The 2012 Roundtable Conversation featured leaders Gordon Blue, Phil Burdick, Terry Chapin, Nancy Douglas, Robin Kimmerer, Kathleen Dean Moore, Trista Patterson, Libby Roderick, Lauret Savoy, Sam Skaggs, Joe Solomon, and Molly Sturges. The theme was, “Resilient Communities: A Form of Creative Resistance.”

Thank you to everyone who participated in and contributed to the Roundtable. We hope you’ll take a look our report which captures key ideas and themes from the discussions. It also outlines next steps that we are undertaking in Sitka.

The Island Institute’s Roundtable conversation, Resilient Communities: A Form of Creative Resistance, was part of the ten-week Sitka Fest! 2012 on the historic Sheldon Jackson Campus.

The Roundtable queried and celebrated resilience: we learned about it from scientific examples and identifed, honed, and pursued questions that helped us understand its application in human contexts. We imagined and described—in story and document—ways to nurture resilience in our communities.

**Want a quick audio introduction to the Roundtable? Listen to Carolyn and Gordon Blue’s Morning Interview on KCAW.

WHO: Twelve creative thinkers—scientists, artists, writers, teachers, economists, spiritual leaders from around the U.S. and Alaska— served as the Core of the Roundtable. They began our Roundtable with engaged conversations that open us to key aspects of resilience and its place in a community context.

These Core discussions sparked further conversation with thirty Participants—a parallel group of creative thinkers who listened and then responded, reflecting back what they’ve heard and expanding the conversation.Tthe Core and Participants traded places during the Roundtable as a means of deepening our understanding and helping us imagine how to put our new understanding into practice.

WHAT: Here are some questions we pursued: What defines a resilient community? What examples can we celebrate and learn from? What factors increase resilience? If biodiversity increases the resilience of ecosystems, how can a diversity of ideas and lifeways, creative communities, artistic and literary imagining strengthen our capacity to cope with catastrophic change? How can we discern and encourage the roles and relationships that shape a resilient community? How might innovation help us refine or redefine existing systems—of commerce and finance, governance, education—to promote resilience? What are the stories that can help us come to terms with uncertainty, crisis, new realities?

We see answers to these questions as a form of creative resistance. As our colleague Ted Chamberlin notes, “…the world has a way of insisting on itself, of compelling us to accept the terms of its sometimes vicious and always temporary social, economic, and political categories…It is only through the pressure of the imagination that we can resist this overwhelming pressure of reality.” Resilience is a creative form of this resistant pressure.

We celebrated resilience with forest and beach walks, stories and song, and hands-on volunteer work in our host community. Near the conclusion of the Roundtable, we shared what we’d learned and created with the public.

WHY: Concern for the future of our planet, our communities, our children and grandchildren is widespread. Individuals feel an increasing sense of vulnerability and helplessness in the face of mounting pressures. They are looking for pragmatic ways to initiate local change. The goal of our Roundtable was to cultivate the human ingenuity necessary to nurture resilience and to describe ways to put those values into practice.

We’re not talking about resistance to change; unyielding communities will not be assets. We’re not talking about sustainability; unpredictability and continual adaptation are going to be constants instead. Our aim is not temporary resilience triggered only by emergency. Rather, our question is, what can we do now to increase the creative power of the community to recognize and adapt to change in ways that serve enduring values?

There are lessons to be learned about resilient communities from models developed by a variety of organizations. It is also beneficial, we believe, to work through the core questions and ideas ourselves, using the lenses of creative resistance and celebration. This helped us deeply understand the key concepts and issues in our own context and experience, and come to trust the knowledge and resources that exist within our communities. We can then use that knowledge, along with the experience of others, to move our communities toward durable resilience.