Resilient Communities are the Foundations of a Resilient America.

Resilience: the Game Changer

There is a stream of liberal western thought that is turning modern life into a game of “Nobody Can Lose.” The rules of this game dictate that no matter what happens no one has to suffer adverse consequences. In its more modest forms, the game is a well-intentioned attempt to provide a social buffer to suffering. In its more virulent forms, it leads to excesses such as “Too Big to Fail” and bailouts for non-competitive companies. It has created a stultifying mindset of stagnation, as if we didn’t have to dig ourselves out of the muck but could wait [but not too long!] for a beneficent government to pull us out.

We often see this mindset in communities in crisis: “Christchurch winners and losers,” “Sandy – a Tale of Two Recoveries,” and the disparate fates of Broadmoor and the Ninth Ward in New Orleans. Christchurch is rebuilding into something that will be greater than it was. And yet there are those who refuse to see the opportunities and whine because they are being left behind. The same is true in the recovery from Sandy – some towns evidently expect that they will be rocked in the moneyed arms of Mother State and have no responsibility for building back better. And for every Ninth Ward with its still-abandoned houses and boarded up windows, there is a vibrant Broadmoor that has played a different game – one informed by resilience.

The name of that game is “We’ll Help You Win.” In this game, you can lose. But if you lose, you are encouraged to try another path – to innovate – so that the next time you win. Thus, communities are encouraged to realize that they can actually control their destiny. The rules of the game require that communities imagine a future better than their past. To win, the community must connect with each other to forge a unity of purpose to make their imagined future a reality.

Two games. In one, the aim is not to lose: to take timid steps and depend on someone else to make good things happen. In the other, the impetus is to innovate – to dare greatly, to dare to be different, to dare to be resilient.