The introduction to Making Adaptive Resilience Real is headed by three quotations, as I wanted to inject a bit of art into the document, and there's nothing better than an epigram for that. It's arguably a self-indulgent habit, but hey ho.
The first quote is from André Gide, and has long been one of my favourites: ‘Everything has been said before, but since nobody listens we have to keep going back and beginning all over again.’ Obviously this is part get out clause, and part serious point that much in the paper draws on previous thinking. It is also an acknowledgment that the issues the sector faces right now and in the short-medium term are not new, and the solutions will draw on wisdom that's been around, but not universally well-used.
The second quote is from the revered evolutionary Charles Darwin and is to underline that resilience is not about somehow finding a way to stay the same - in fact, I would argue that is the beginning of vulnerability, the opposite of resilience. Darwin said ‘It’s not the strongest species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the most responsive to change.’
I would suggest that in the arts sector this has an obvious application to artists and organisations that is key to the characteristics of resilience I identify, but also an application to funders and their behaviour. The surface one is that they shouldn't stay the same, but many would say there's little chance of that with constant changing of priorities and programmes. The deeper suggestion, especially to funders investing in 'core costs', is to beware of funding people to not change in the face of events.
Finally, because I like quoting from songs as if they were important texts, and it seemed appropriate, comes a quote from a song by R.E.M's Michael Stipe: ‘Change is what I believe in.’ This underlines the centrality of change to art. Ironically, this is a lesson R.E.M seemed to forget about the time Bill Berry left, thus neatly illustrating one danger of mistaking 'coping persistence' for 'adaptive resilience': you can become a boring institution living off past glories.
Adaptive resilience relies on a skilled mix of innovation and continuity, something these quotes try and hint at. There is, of course, a distinction between change and innovation, and the latter is vital to adaptive resilience, rather than simply blowing with the wind. Strangely enough, though, few songs have been written using the word innovation...
The video above is Stipe and co in their prime, a poem leading into 'I Believe'. It does make me want to go and change something.