These KEYWORDS emerged in a seminar (the CoR Seminar of 3rd July 2014) the aim of which was to lay the foundations of a common language on resilience. That is, to highlight some terms recognized by participants as relevant and, at the same time, challenging and provocative. Out of this came possible keywords for a richer conversation on resilience.
The process through which these terms have been generated was structured in two steps: different working groups freely generated a set of words, one for each group. These words coming from the different working groups were then clustered in six groups on the basis of a commonly recognized degree of affinity. The groups are not mutually exclusive – a resilient system may share attributes across them – but suggest particular cultural and organisational qualities as a way of understanding how resilience might be achieved.
Resilience can be discussed in its technical characteristics utilizing terms that are already universally recognized: diversity, redundancy and effective feedbacks. Even though these terms and implications have to be better-understood, their technical meaning is already clear and coherent solutions have been conceived and partially implemented.
Today, in order to extend and deepen the consciousness on the role of resilience in our lives and make resilient solutions possible, another set of words must be proposed: the ones needed to build the narratives thanks to which resilience will enter in our imaginary and into our social and cultural conversations. Through this cultural dimension, resilient solutions might acquire a stronger meaning and so will have more potential to spread.
Before moving on in this discussion, one point must be clearly stated: whereas the technical words with which we can talk about resilience are basically the same world-wide, the ones needed on the cultural side are deeply rooted in the local contexts in which they are to be used and, before that, in which they may have been generated.
Therefore, the keywords we are presenting here have this local character too. Having been produced by a situated group of people (in this case academics working at UAL, in London), they are the words of a possible new local language: a language that could be used for new, deeper discussions and activities in the context in which it has been created. But not only for that: by its same nature, the narratives of resilience must be told in a multiplicity of stories and languages. In this perspective, the keywords we are presenting here can be seen as a local contribution to this broad and diversified dynamic mosaic on the basis of which, hopefully, a new meta-narrative will emerge.
Risk taking & chaos embracing
(error friendly systems)
These words refer to our condition of human being living in a risk society and, most importantly, being well aware of this risky condition.
As a whole, they tell us a story of both consciousness (of risks, complexity, cognitive limits and human tendency to make mistakes) and daring (to take risks). They suggest, against normal expectations, that failure and accident are to be embraced as conditions to learn from rather than negatives to be avoided. They also tell us of the possibility of blending consciousness and daring in error-friendly strategies: ways of doing conceived to increase the freedom of experimenting and reduce the risks of generating irreparable catastrophes.
Disrupting & regenerating
These words relate to the human specificity of being creative, reflexive, and capable to combine them in different ways.
They tell us how disruptive creativity (aiming at radical local changes in the state of things) and regenerative reflexivity (aiming to consolidate local results) are combined. They suggest that transformation arises in the feedback loops of the existing.
They also indicate that these activities are performed by individuals and communities (their authors) involved in larger social forms (their context), and that each individual authorship participates to the building of a common good: the social conversation on what to do and where to go.
Trusting & collaborating
These words deal with our being social animals, capable and willing to socialize and, if the conditions are given, to collaborate.
The story they propose tells us why and how these social interactions happen. How they depend on the interplay between individual action and social recognition. How they permit us to learn, evaluate and reflect. How, in present time, collaboration is not a given but must be consciously built thanks to a variable mix of generosity, empathy, mutual interests and moral and economic rewards. They are words that suggest that resilience is found through a care for others, and thus brings an ethic with it.
Hybrid & distributed
These words refer to physical characteristics of a resilient system. That is, how they might be made and how they are shaped in the space.
They tell the story of distributed entities, endowed by a hybrid materiality (physical and digital), by a new sense of place (local and global), and supported by an original enabling ecosystem (of technological and normative infrastructures). In parallel to that, they also tell how these distributed systems give space to local and indigenous knowledge, making possible a cosmopolitan localism in which different cultures can live and flourish. They suggest systems always in a state of emergence.
Diversified & tolerant
These words refer to the organizational characteristics of resilient systems. That is, how they work and what they permit to do.
They tell the story of tolerant systems and the way they permit and cultivate diversity. Systems that are seen as ecosystems, the richness of which is given by the abundance of ideas and social forms, by their possibility to cooperate or compete. They tell the story of agonistic spaces where new visions of the public realm can be implemented and where new forms of democracy can be experimented.
Open & reactive
These words refer to the resilient systems’ learning capability. That is, how these systems receive and elaborate signals and how they learn from them.
They tell the story of systems coping with a changing environment, adapting to the new circumstances and learning from these experiences. That is, they are systems that improve themselves. In order to do that, they are to be open, to receive signals from their environment; sensitive, to recognize these signals; intelligent, to give these signals a meaning; flexible, to transform their nature and re-orient their evolution on the basis of this new information.