What are you most concerned about? Wow. What a question! This could send most of us into a tailspin. Many of us are just trying to survive day-to-day, avoiding the big questions for fear of feeling completely overwhelmed.
But this was the first question posed at the OzGREEN Resilient Communities Facilitator Training Day (photo credit Jay and the Trees Photography). It was followed by moments of silence and looks of anxiety, as the fifteen volunteer facilitators allowed their minds to come to grips with not only the question, but also how they were feeling about the big picture. Amidst a barrage of insults globally, nationally and locally, how does one articulate their greatest concern?
“The age of disinformation”; “species extinction”; “the impact of climate change on our children”; “the impending economic fallout of Covid-19”; “the fracturing local community”; “the general disconnection from the natural environment”; “food security”; “social exclusion and inequalities”; “a loss of faith in our democratic process”. This was just some of the responses. And yes, as the circle responded in turn, the level of anxiety was rising.
The day was geared towards building community resilience. But is that possible when the challenges we are facing are so immense? “Many of us are currently feeling overwhelmed. This can lead to an inability to see a way forward. Our Resilient Communities Program goes to the heart of this. When community members come together, feel truly heard and are facilitated to work out what it will take to be resilient, prepared and sustainable, drawing on their own intelligence and innovation, they will be empowered to make change and create the future they want,” says OzGREEN Co-Founder Sue Lennox.
Resilient Communities is a call to action for community driven change. It is a way to become informed about the big challenges we face and to work together with the community to sustain our lives, protect our ecosystems and prepare for emergencies. The Program itself is based on the premise of strategic questioning and listening deeply to each other. “This process involves asking questions we don’t know the answers to and listening deeply for the emergence of the answers,” says Sue.
After our initial discomfort with facing our greatest concerns, the day was spent unpacking these concerns and bringing the focus back to the personal, the local. Each participant had the opportunity to express not only how their concerns impacted on their own life but their vision for the future and how they could plan for change in their own community and actually take action.
The Program aims to bring together those in the Bellingen Shire who want to be involved in creating resilient communities locally. The fifteen facilitators have completed their first of several training days, but are now looking to recruit community members to join them in becoming change-makers. The Program will run in Dorrigo, Coffs Harbour, Kalang, Thora, North Bellingen, South Bellingen, Gleniffer, Northbank Road and Byron Bay with facilitators at each location.
“We hope to work with ten to twenty community members at each of the locations, who would work with our facilitators to solve local issues and bring about significant change. This has the potential for true collaborative co-creativity with the emergence of exciting new ideas for building community cohesiveness, resilience and sustainability,” says Sue.
The program aims to build resilience in seven primary areas over the next seven months – climate, water, food, energy, infrastructure and economy, ecosystem and fire, and community health. It is a bold program based on OzGREEN’s Living Communities Program, with more than 30 years of success locally, nationally and internationally.
As the day progressed the level of deep connection between the volunteer facilitators grew, through hours of deep reflection, but even more importantly, true listening. The initial anxiety and feelings of despair had given way to hope, as each facilitator realised they actually had the answers. The process used is simple but profound and extremely powerful, leaving all present with a sense of excitement for the future.
One realises, managing issues needs to start in ones own home and community. This is our chance to be heard, work collaboratively and make a difference.
OzGREEN’s program is funded under the Resilience NSW Community Resilience Innovation Program and is a collaborative initiative involving the services of numerous local businesses including I Love Bello Shire, Jay and the Trees Photography and Cedar Bar and Kitchen. Affirmations Publishing House is also providing OzGREEN with invaluable in-kind printing support. If any other local businesses would like to become involved in Resilient Communities please call OzGREEN.