As our infrastructure transforms, what social structures and superstructures will we cultivate in order to can maintain buoyancy and resilience in the midst of intersecting crises? Social infrastructure. That invisible connective tissue between residents of a community is certain to be tested. How do we practice the necessary techniques of trust, vulnerability, and authenticity which strengthen bonds within a community while being realistic and aware of what risks lay near the edge and run along the margin?
In an episode of NPR Fresh Air, Commander Chris Hadfield was interviewed by Terry Gross about NASA’s training program which teaches astronauts how to neutralize the natural human fear response evoked by unanticipated emergency situations during a space mission. Hadfield noted that astronauts undergo a rigorous training regimen of meticulous, procedural repetition which allows them to “visualize disaster”. This phrase made a deep impact on me and remains one that I often reflect upon while developing new approaches and practices that reinforce the relationship building at the center of community resilience.
During a panel discussion I recently attended, panelist Nubian Malik stated that you will not become who you are not during a crisis. He further elaborated that you cannot practice the techniques you need to endure once a crisis occurs, but must already have some engagement with the knowledge required to respond quickly to conditions on the ground. In her 2017 text, “Emergent Strategy”, adrienne maree brown offers the principle of Intentional Adaptation as our ability to transform ourselves under conditions of adversity, success, fear, or other emotional intensity paired with deep and abiding sense of our ultimate purpose. In other words, do not change merely to survive the present moment if you severely damage your integrity in the process.
When launching the Kola Nut Collaborative, my initial vision of social infrastructure was the basic framework of relationships that enabled a community to maximize the use of its social capital. Further engagement with the work of Nicholas Christakis shows that the superorganism which is human social networks is far more capable of moving resources than I had considered and therefore the scope of this project needed to adapt to the new information. Currency exists everywhere in our society from care taking to basic conversation. We are perpetually opening and closing transactions with other human beings and realizing losses or gains from the process.
The Kola Nut Collaborative is one place where we can commit to an intentional practice of building the future we hope to inhabit. This social economy allows us to do some practical things that may directly improve the quality of life for residents of Chicago, but I hope to see this social infrastructure transform our superstructures (societal belief). Our commitment in this space is to develop the more beautiful world our hearts know is possible as expressed by Charles Eisenstein. Timebanking is but one practice towards that end.
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