What are we doing now? What are we recovering from? Where do we start? Is the reason for this blog. Is the answer to COVID community recovery buried in community development? 🧐
It has been a while since I wrote a blog or an article, I think the absence from writing reflects the mental blockage faced when trying to define community recovery and the direction of the group.
Back in March 2020 myself and others in the team threw some ideas around the room regarding the name of our newly formed COVD-19 community response group. Resilience was the obvious noun to drop into the title along with Blackwood and Kirkmuirhill. The word may be overly used in corporate buzz-word bingo, but the term resilience in its truest sense is to spring back from adversity, it captured the essence of everything we set out to do, respond to and recover from COVID-19.
In the world of emergency planning, the cheesy strapline ‘recovery starts with a good response’ is often thrown around by instructors, facilitators, and consultants and now, adopted by us and applied to everything we do... we do cheese very well!
What Are We Recovering From?
As with any crisis or disaster, when the typical emotions of anxiety and the sense of “togetherness in adversity” subside, when the blue light agencies have been forgotten, when the hero badges and facebook likes have all been overtaken and replaced with the next wave of sensationalist news, what remains is the often unseen and unspoken silent sister, recovery. When the adrenaline levels have returned to normal, when people are facing emotional and empathy fatigue and the masses are crying out for the old ways to return, the long slog of recovery can often be under-estimated and less supported. Combined with a lack of appetite for the subject matter, the mases will dust themselves down, pick up where they left off and proceed with getting on with life, meanwhile others most affected by the event continue to crawl, limp and feel there way along trying to navigate this new sense of normality.
As a team we have tried to define what recovery is to our community, and how does a constituted community group influence and promote community recovery?
Defining the Question:
COVID recovery is a tangled mess of mental health, physical health, social wellbeing, and economic insecurity. Our National Health Service staff continue to battle on through exhaustion trying to fire fight the endless back-logs of patient appointments, treatment and operations. Many have joined the herd and took flight with the ‘mass resignation’ after a lockdown epiphany moment woke them up to a new purpose in life.
On top of the COVID-19 recovery cake, smear a think layer of BREXIT “cream” [replace cream with an adjective of your own choosing] and then sprinkle a fine dusting of COP26 climate change. The question is no longer about how a constituted group springs back and recovers from COVID, but more so, how does a community group navigate the complexities of the above ensuring that when the recovery cake is baked, our community comes out the other end, healthier, better and stronger.
Pondering the question further, before COVID-19 raised its head, what was the good, the bad and the ugly in our village(s)? And do we want to go back to that, or do we want something better, is now the time for change, even radical change?
Finding The Starting Point
Over the last 30 years the village suspension has been rumbled by the shock of de-industrialization, the closing down of the Atlas factory, Hy-Scott factory, Delta factory and Birkwood hospital, who were all big local employers. Social pubs and clubs have declined, and local sports teams have frizzled out as the village transitioned from an old mining community to a commuting village.
Some of the areas have absorbed the shock and sprung back, but other areas of the village have been left behind, falling into deprivation, and experiencing the hardships of inequalities. Like the COVID cake analogy above, we are also faced with another layer of tasty goodness – the rural issue. Access to services, transport links and so forth can bring with it further limitations, hindering and adding more weight to the challenges people face.
Its no longer about recovery from COVID, its now about a journey that requires the navigation of the pot-hole riddled roads of BREXIT and the pathway to Net-Zero post COP26 🌍. If we don’t get this right, the community suspension will feel the shock and rumbles of what lays ahead, and while many parts of the village will absorb the shocks and spring back as they have shown to do in the past, other areas of the village could fall behind again.
Even simple questions such as:
How will people in four-in-a-block flats be able to charge their electric cars when we move away from fossil fuel?
With the new world of home working, how will people with poor IT skills / broadband connection be able to keep-up with O365, windows 10 and soon to be windows 11? Remember the drama when you switched from windows 7 to 10?
How can we raise more awareness about single use plastics and switching to sustainability? Can people afford the switch from plastic bottled milk to glass bottled milk?
How do you prepare people for a future of digital tech, AI and algorithms, innovation, and a pace of change much faster than what we have ever experienced?
How do communities keep up with change?
Community Planting ;-) 🌻🌼🌷
Over the weekend we will be out and about planting daffodil bulbs, in the world of emergency management one could be forgiven for being rather cynical about the connection between planting bulbs and community recovery. But, planting bulbs today brings people together, creates a sense of ownership and promotes community engagement, and in 3 – 4 months, that delayed gratification will be felt as we come out the winter months to a sea of brightness.
For a community still limping along in a state of social decline, small positive interactions applied consistently over time is the social physiotherapy rehab prescription. Little by a little, building up confidence, building up community ownership, building up a sense of pride, building a sense of belonging and purpose as we move from a reactive state to a pro-active state and build back better.
To quote the Chinese social philosopher ‘Confucius’:
“The man who moves a mountain begins by carrying away small stones.”
Over the coming weeks and months, you can expect to see more from the resilience group, we are looking forward to partnering with other groups and organisations to help bring lasting change to our wee villages.