For our final presentation of our own Better Big Words, we are supposed to come up with an artistic representation of some sort. Initially I was thinking of taking pictures that somehow model resilience, but then I realized that the content dog should wag the tail — my whole theory is about the potential of the people in a community to overcome change, so what better way to model it than get my classmates to do the work for me??
Hence, the activity was born. Well, kind of. I knew that I wanted to do an activity but I wasn’t exactly sure what that would look like. Someone jokingly suggested creating a disaster by flipping all the tables and chairs over, and although I laughed, inside I thought that idea wasn’t half bad! What if I could model some kind of disaster, split the class into three “scales” and somehow have one person be able to go back and forth between the groups to spread ideas. I wanted to also include the three conditions that Holling et. al mentioned, which I talked about in my previous post.
(1) The system would need to accumulate resources rather than depleting them — this makes me think of social capital. While money is inevitably in short supply, social capital can keep growing, and more people means more networks. Each person is a resource, and as humans we always keep learning and developing new skills, and therefore more social capital. (2) Destabilizing forces to maintain diversity, and stabilizing forces to maintain productivity. I would hope that community members would continue to question the norm as individuals, but various community organizations already in place would help maintain some stability/productivity. The destabilizing aspect is interesting to me, though — something that I think is missing from many utopias. (3) Novelty, dynamism, and persistence.
I need to take a step back and make sure this game doesn’t get too complex. Maybe I’ll include social capital cards to use, and they can trade one card to a different scale per round. Promoting human agency will be tricky — one time I helped lead a bridge building game where resources were scarce, and teams got different resources but didn’t realize they were allowed to trade amongst themselves until one person asked if they could. That could be an interesting layer to resilience, since it’s so important but doesn’t always happen within a system.
Here are the qualities of having Adaptive Capacity as written by the Resilience Alliance:
- learning to live with change and uncertainty;
- nurturing diversity for resilience;
- combining different types of knowledge for learning; and
- creating opportunity for self-organization towards social-ecological sustainability.
Here’s my current idea: Split the class into three groups, two groups of 4 and one group of 3. The groups of 4 will be the large scale and small scale. They will get to see two different pictures, and will be working together as a team to draw their respective pictures. The smaller group will get more frequent, shorter views of their image while the large group will get one longer view of the image. The middle group will get an incomplete version of the images the two other groups are trying to create. Every few minutes, one “reporter” will get to convey their information to the middle team. The ultimate goal is for the middle team to have a complete picture that incorporates aspects of both of the other team’s images.
Each small group will have various forms of social capital: seeing, speaking, doing, and reporting. The Speaker will get to look at the image and then goes back to the group and describes what they saw to the Doer. The Doer’s responsibility is to draw what the Speaker describes. However, the Speaker can’t see what the Doer is drawing. The Seer gets to hear the speaker and see what the Doer is doing — the Seer can then relay questions to the Speaker, and describe what the Doer is drawing if they need clarification. The Reporter observes all this and takes notes, then after a few minutes they get to go to the middle group to give them tips.
After one round, everyone will get to debrief with each other and talk about what went well and what didn’t go well. They can talk about anything except what the image looked like. Ideally, they would talk about strategies to improve their performance next time.
As a debrief, I will talk about what this was meant to model. I’ll talk about the different scales, social capital, and human agency’s role in creating more resilient communities. Then I will explain the image they were drawing — Holling’s adaptive cycle. It’s hard to create an activity without a group of guinea pigs to try it out on! I hope it goes smoothly.