'Not all kinds of resilience are equally useful'

Sinking & Swimming: Understanding Britain’s Unmet Needs is a report by the Young Foundation, which looks at the 'new needs' of those who are drowning not waving in our country. It argues the welfare state and others need to place a much greater emphasis on the psychological needs of people, alongside the material needs, to enable people to cope with shocks and setbacks. (Put simply, you might say you need both financial and psychological 'resources' to bounce back from or cope with sudden illness or unemployment, for instance.)

This paragraph struck me, as having some application to the cultural sector, echoing points I've made a lot this last year:

'Not all kinds of resilience are equally useful. Some communities are proving very resilient to economic shocks – particularly the old working class communities that have now experienced several decades of high unemployment. They are good at providing mutual support, and good at absorbing setbacks. But this kind of passive or survival resilience does not necessarily help people to adapt and prosper – people survive the fall but fail to get up and maximise their potential. Passive resilience can stifle innovation and cut people off from opportunities. In these communities, what is most needed is a more active or adaptive resilience, that is less comfortable with getting by and more willing to seek out help and build stronger networks outside the community as well as within it.'

Passive is perhaps not the best word here: it actually takes a lot of effort to provide that mutual support, to survive. But this is something that artists and many arts organisations have become very good at, in the ways some communities have. The challenge is though to resist simply getting by and keeping building - it may take a different sort of energy, it certainly needs a different kind of support and encouragement.


  1. No Mark.

    This insight is as old as the century and beyond and there's virtue in it.

    The challenge is to get rid of parasites and entryists who have embedded themselves in the process.

    Sir David Henshaw is on the NESTA board



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