The Social Economy of Resilience Based Organizing

In a Solidarity Economy 101 planning session, the model of “Resilience Based Organizing” arose as part of general group discussion which presented an opportunity to offer some background on the meaning of the phrase.

Resilience based organizing is rooted in the idea that organizing strategy and practice evolves very differently in front line communities where social position and an absence of public service infrastructure necessitates that people within those communities employ resourcefulness on a daily basis.

Members of the Black Panther Party have noted in the past the highly experimental nature of their programming. We have this idea of a grand design for community engagement, but that assessment is a quality of hindsight. They addressed the unmet needs of their community because it was easier to digest political education on a full stomach.

Behavioral economists and social psychologists have noted a high prevalence of social capital in poor communities to greater or worse effect. Programs such as the healthcare initiative and Free Breakfast Program engage this readily available form of capital to cement deeper bonds between those providing services and those being served while also emphasizing the coproductive capacity of those being served to design and implement future services.

In “Six Foundations for Building Community Resilience”, the first element mentioned by Post Carbon Institute is “People”. A core ethic of the permaculture design processe is “People Care”. Resilience is the ability of an organism or system to absorb disturbance while maintaining its essential function, structure, and identity. On the level of community, no element of resilience will ever rise above the people who are part of that community.

Their resolve to confront and overcome challenges to their structure is rooted in the type of social capital they are able to evoke within and amongst themselves. Absent this bonding factor, they will be easily taken apart by the first strong storm whether natural, economic, or political.

This is an economic discussion as much as an organizing one. We should understand these survival initiatives as basic trust building exercises in cultivating solidarity economies which are ecosystems of supportive infrastructure upon which other work can be built.

Acknowledgement is rendered to Movement Generation and their resource library (particularly this zine) for advancing our understanding of both Just Transition and resilience based organizing models.


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