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What makes a resilient community?

Examining community
responses following unplanned events
Rationale/Background
On January 7th, there was unprecedented rainfall onto already saturated lands. This
led to localised, but unexpected, flooding that affected much of the North East of
Scotland. Numerous settlements within my work area were affected. I have been
amazed by the response of the affected communities, and how they mobilised to
react, and also how the Community Planning Partnership reacted. In modern
parlance these communities were resilient. What does this actually mean, and what
lessons can we learn for the future? I plan to examine the reactions across 3 areas
that I work in Inverurie, Kemnay and Kintore.
As we see more and more evidence of climate change and unpredictable weather, it
is likely that floods like this will become more common place
(https://www.gov.uk/guidance/climate-change-explained ), and the effect this has on
communities will need to be considered.
Climate change-related events, including rapid onset ones (floods,
disease outbreaks, food price increases) and slow onset shocks
(drought, food price volatility, environmental degradation), are now
expected to have increasing impacts, both in terms of intensity and
frequency, on the livelihoods of populations, with potentially
dramatic effects on the vulnerability of levels of these populations.
In this context a relevant question is to identify to what extent a
resilience approach would be useful - beyond the discourse that is
emerging in policy arenas. (Bn et al, 2012, pg25)
There are issues to be examined within this, how do we define a community?
Community is often seen as a wonderful, homogeneous group, and does not
address the underlying tensions.
The danger is that if we accept analyses of communities as
homogenous, not only is this nave and obscures the reality of life
in community, but it provides a smokescreen for the forces of
structural inequality (Ledwith, 2005, pg25)
Community is a term of contention there are often tensions and different views
within a community, and different definitions be they geographical, communities of
interest or communities of belonging, and that even within each of these categories
they may not be seen the same way. They may be thought of, rather, as existing in
the minds of the beholders (Cohen 19850 pg12). Community is very rarely one large
group there are always different views and using Cohens rationale, there are
similarities and differences within community that are the very core of the way people
define their belonging. This can be a challenge working within communities as often
the sides within a community can be entrenched and not wish to work with anyone
Dawn Cara Brown,
student ID 51554139

Enquiring Professionalism, Task 3

22nd August 2016

else locally. A large part of our capacity building working is often about breaking
down these assumptions and getting people to realise what they have in common,
and building on that.
What do we mean by resilience? It is after all a term from psychology initially aimed
at individuals, not groups, defined as Psychological resilience has been
characterized by the ability to bounce back from negative emotional experiences and
by flexible adaptation to the changing demands of stressful experiences (J.H. Block
& J. Block, 1980)
How does this scale-up to cover groups, or are we using it in a different manner?
There is also unease that expecting communities to be resilient takes some of the
duty and pressure away from statutory agencies to support and protect communities.
The profile of resilience is often raised when individuals and
communities face adversity, and adversity often brings communities
together and provides a focus for collective action. Places which
have been hit by relatively routine emergencies such as severe
weather or flooding are likely to be easy to involve in community
resilience work, although clearly sensitivity is required when working
in these areas. (Scottish Government, 2013)
In a community setting It is defined by the Scottish Government as: Communities
and individuals harnessing resources and expertise to help themselves prepare for,
respond to and recover from emergencies, in a way that complements the work of
the emergency responders (Scottish Government, 2013) In the same document,
they also acknowledge that communities in rural areas, or that are more affluent,
have the advantage of starting from a stronger position in terms of resilience and
social capital. I certainly feel this is the case in the Garioch area, which was evident
from the speed of community mobilisation.
Ungar has a wider and more encompassing definition, that I feel embodies more of
the entirety of a community, not just about people, but about the infrastructure as
well as shared identity and aims.
A communities resilience is its social capital, physical
infrastructure,
and
culturally
embedded
patterns
of
interdependence that give it the potential to recover from dramatic
change, sustain its adaptability, and support new growth that
integrates the lessons learned during a time of crisis. By
community, I am referring to any group of individuals that share
common interests, identify with one another, have a common
culture and participate in shared activities. (Ungar, 2011, pg1742)
This wider approach to the concept of resilience will ensure that
we make use of all talents and resources at our disposal and will
Dawn Cara Brown,
student ID 51554139

Enquiring Professionalism, Task 3

22nd August 2016

play a central role in working towards the national outcome of


having strong, resilient and supportive communities. (Scottish
Government, 2012)
Duit et al. talk of the tensions of resilience that are not able to be addressed fully.
resilience is [still] a cumbersome concept for social science, at
least when trying to speak of the resilience of social systems. It is
difficult to avoid clashes with cornerstone concepts in social science
such as power, democracy, and the right to self-determination when
attempting to apply the concept of resilience to questions of politics
and governance. The reason for this is quite straightforward: even
though some similarities can be identified, societies and
ecosystems are also fundamentally different in many ways. Duit et
al. (2010: 365)
As part of the community planning partnership, there needs to be awareness that
communities are not sitting waiting to co-produce plans. There are positives in coproduction The fact is that we can achieve more by working together than we can
apart, says Fiona Garven of SCDC. Co-production comes down to pooling the
knowledge and myriad experiences of the people who use services, deliver and
commission them, and working together on an equal basis to make the changes we
want to see. Fiona does caution however, we need to be careful not to impose
external agendas but instead work with the public to decide what those outcomes
are and what we need to do to achieve them, (Interview with Centre for Public
Impact, July 2016)
Co-producing plans ensures community ownership, and should be a participative
process as encouraged by Oliver Escobar in Deliberation and Dialogue (Escobar,
2011). Although not talking directly about community and co-production, Escobar
identifies the role of a facilitator in a dialogical setting.
Since communication works best when it creates certain kinds of
social worlds, the facilitators role is to shape emerging patterns of
communication so that multiple voices and perspectives are
honoured and the tensions among them are explored. (Escobar,
2011, pg9)
The idea of social capital is another that does not go uncontested. As Ungar explains
Putnam and Feldstein (2003) characterise social capital as social
networks, norms of reciprocity, mutual assistance, and
trustworthiness (p2) These factors have value for both those inside
and outside the networks, though all social capital is not positive.
Social relationships that bond people together can be used as
easily to exclude as to entwine. Bridging activities can lead to open
Dawn Cara Brown,
student ID 51554139

Enquiring Professionalism, Task 3

22nd August 2016

conflict between social groups. Nevertheless, social capital is


generally thought to be necessary for community sustainability.
(Ungar, 2011, pg1745)
This idea of multiple voices and perspectives is a reflection of the diverse nature of
our communities, and the tensions in co-production which, by its nature, needs some
form of agreement, collaboration and cooperation. A robust engagement process for
the development and design of plans that allows adequate time for this to be worked
through is therefore an essential component to be kept in mind for the timescales of
co-producing community plans.
Social & political landscape
Garioch is part of Aberdeenshire, covering the electoral wards of East Garioch, West
Garioch, Weshill & District, and Inverurie & District with a population of around
50,000 people.
It is a fairly affluent area, having benefited from oil and gas revenues, as well as
farming, and the associated support industries for both. The quality of life in Garioch
is high, with limited unemployment, although the recent downturn in oil & gas is
having an impact on that, with the Westhill based South West Aberdeenshire
Citizens Advice Bureau dealing with the highest level of personal debt across the
Scottish CAB network. There is a low level of disability benefit claimants, with 2.8%
of the population claiming DLA, only 146 of the population claiming Jobseekers
Allowance (Monthly average claimant rate), and set against a relatively high average
property price of 253,631 against the lower Aberdeenshire average price of
218,663.
(https://www.aberdeenshire.gov.uk/media/4699/20150311gariochadminprofile2015.p
df )
Policy
Preparing Scotland, Scottish Guidance on Resilience (2012) states
that all responders should support the development of community
resilience and should apply and encourage an innovative approach.
Building community resilience should not be seen as an add-on, but
should be carried out as part of responders day-to-day activities.
The potential return on investment for responders in promoting
community resilience is high, as they can unlock skills, knowledge
and resources held by the entire community. (Scottish
Government, 2013)
Preparing Scotland (2012) is underpinned by the principal legislation involved, the
Civil Contingencies Act 2004 (the Act) and the Civil Contingencies Act 2004
(Contingency Planning) (Scotland) Regulations 2005 (the Regulations).

Dawn Cara Brown,


student ID 51554139

Enquiring Professionalism, Task 3

22nd August 2016

Under the legislation, agencies are split into categories of responders, and have a
duty to create an Integrated Emergency Management plan (IEM) It is based on a
multi-agency approach and the effective co-ordination of those agencies. It involves
Category 1 and Category 2 responders (as defined in the Act) and also the voluntary
sector, commerce and a wide range of communities (Scottish Government, 2012,
pg11)
The local community planning partnership also have made a commitment to support
communities to develop their own local Community Action Plans, which is part of our
service level agreement to deliver on.

Practice
We support the development of Community Action Plans, which are collaborative
work with local communities to identify and begin to address their own needs. In the
last 3 years, we have developed 6 plans. The addition of resilience planning will
have an impact on the plans we support from now on.
In my work setting, I use an asset based approach to community development and in
agreement with Garven, McLean and Pattoni Community development seeks to untap and mobilise the human capital, the skills, knowledge, experience and social and
personal attributes possessed by individuals, which exist within every community, to
create strong social and community networks. It supports people to organise around
the issues that affect them, their families and communities, and helps them
implement locally led solutions using the whole range of assets they may have
available to them (human, social, physical, cultural, political). (Garven et al, 2016,
pg31)

Aims and Objectives


The aim of my research is to interpret what really helped the affected communities to
work together in the aftermath of the flooding, and to be able to share that
information so that community groups, the community planning partnership, and my
own role can be more effective at supporting strong communities.
My objectives are

To compare and contrast the reactions across the 3 communities


To consider the inputs from the community planning partnership, and assess
their efficacy
To examine what makes resilient communities, and how we can support
communities to instigate and develop this internally with support and input
from relevant third sector and statutory agency partners.

Dawn Cara Brown,


student ID 51554139

Enquiring Professionalism, Task 3

22nd August 2016

To identify what support we can put in place to support communities and to


enable a more effective response in future.

Research Questions and Method


My method of research will be one to one interviews, or the use of small, locally
based focus group interviews and discussions. These will be with people who were
affected by the flooding, the community planning partners, locally elected members,
community councillors and other knowledgeable external people who have
supported the communities such as the Scottish Flood Forum.
The core questions will be...

Tell me what happened during the flooding


What has happened since?
How did your community react?
How did the agencies like Police, Fire and the local authority react?
What worked best?
What didnt help?

I will be testing my questions with a small core of colleagues to see if they work in
practice before using them with any of the participants. These trials will not be used
in the final reporting.
I will arrange with each participant or group where suits them to meet, and be as
flexible as possible with regards to times and venues to suit them. I want to ensure
that people feel as comfortable as possible to talk about something that is still
emotionally raw, and of a very personal nature, but will be sensitive. I will also ensure
that each participant is aware of the wide range of support networks available locally.
I intend to meet with all participants within a few weeks, so that everyone is at the
same time point from the flooding to make comparison fair and equitable.

Methodology
My methodology will be interpretivist. Scott and Usher (2011, pg29) describe
In interpretivism, research takes everyday experience and ordinary life as subject
matter and asks how meaning is constructed and social interaction negotiated in
social practices. Human action is inseparable from meaning, experiences are
classified and ordered through interpretive frames, through pre-understandings
mediated by tradition.
With an interpretivist stance, as Bryman explains (2008, pg17)

Dawn Cara Brown,


student ID 51554139

Enquiring Professionalism, Task 3

22nd August 2016

...when the social scientist adopts an interpretivist stance, he or she is not simply
laying bare how members of a social group interpret the world around them. The
social scientist will almost certainly be aiming to place the interpretations that have
been elicited into a social scientific frame. There is a double interpretation going on:
the researcher is providing an interpretation of others interpretations. Indeed, there
is a third level of interpretation going on, because the researchers interpretations
have to be further interpreted in terms of concepts, theories and literature of a
discipline.
My interest is in how communities react in this kind of event, and how they navigate
the world around them in the light of difficult events. I will be observing and
interpreting what people say, and comparing the views across the different
communities and sectors who are interviewed and then collating to see if there is a
commonality that can be supported in any resilience plan.
The process I will be using is participatory research where people will be involved in
designing a solution and identifying possible solutions and ways to address the
community needs in light of these types of events.
Literature Review
There is a wealth of information on resilience, climate change and co-production.
As my focus is more on resilience and reaction within communities than climate
change, I have limited my reading on this area, taking my information from
government guidance, and making the assumption that we will continue to see
unexpected events, whether they are climate related, or due to the changing nature
of our world with regards to terrorism.
The number of journal articles is almost overwhelming for resilience, so my task was
narrowing down what was useful rather than casting a wide net.
The Bn et al paper was very helpful in identifying the weaknesses of resilience
planning that some of the others glossed over, and opened my eyes to many other
papers as well that was very helpful. Manyena says resilience and work on
disasters has increasingly focused on the capacity of affected communities to
recover with little or no external assistance (Manyena, 2006, pg433)
Although my focus for this research is climate resilience after flooding, the Harrison
paper on recession really reinforced how resilience discourse can reinforce
stereotypes, and have a moral aspect to judging the less resilient with normative
judgements which perpetuate the view that those who do not succeed (less resilient)
are therefore less moral (Harrison, 2012, pg104) Harrison also argues that we
should perhaps consider the idea of vulnerability over resilience...
vulnerability suggests moral responsibilities for those in positions
of power towards those who are less powerful. Vulnerability can be
Dawn Cara Brown,
student ID 51554139

Enquiring Professionalism, Task 3

22nd August 2016

reduced by intervening in the political and economic allocation of


resources (and redistribution). This is not so much the case for
resilience, which tends to characterize as individual that which
should be understood to be a result of collective effort. For example
the Cabinet Office framework mentioned in the introduction and its
supporting documents draw strongly on a DEMOS publication by
Edwards (2009) entitled Resilient Nation. The title page of this
document states: Next generation resilience relies on citizens and
communities, not the institutions of state (Edwards, 2009: front
cover). (Quotes from original, Harrison, 2012, pg110)
There have been a number of books that have helped focus my thinking as well,
some helping me get to grips with the terms used in research, like Bryman and the
McNiff book which helped me unpick the methodologies and choose the one that
suited my world view.
As social capital is a strong theme within resilience, Bowling Alone has been a
useful piece of reading, even bearing in mind the difference between American and
British society. Arneils Diverse Communities: The Problem with Social Capital
(2006) has been an opposing view on social capital, and cautions us to think about
the tensions and contests within the idea of social capital.
Thompsons People Skills has a useful section on dealing with feelings and
emotions. As this is a possibly emotive issue, talking to people about being displaced
from their homes and livelihoods, and I will think of the caution that Thompson offers
If we try to turn our back on the emotional issues involved in people work, we not
only reduce our chances of being effective, we also run the risk of doing more harm
than good, to ourselves and to the people we are trying to help (Thompson, 2002
pg147)
I have also used Community & Sustainable Development Edited by Diane
Warburton. In the chapter by Etzioni, he states
...vulnerable communities should be able to draw on the more
endowed communities when they are truly unable to deal, on their
own, with the social duties thrust upon them. Many social groups,
moreover, require partnership between public and private groups.
Though government should not seek to replace local communities,
it may need to empower them by strategies of support, including
revenue-sharing and technical assistance (Ed. Warburton, 1998,
pg49)
The statement here involving technical support and revenue sharing is a central
issue for me in empowering communities as all too often resilience comes at a real
cost to communities, with them being expected to be resilient with little or no
financial input from the statutory agencies.
Dawn Cara Brown,
student ID 51554139

Enquiring Professionalism, Task 3

22nd August 2016

Ledwiths Community Development talks of the tensions inherent within


partnerships, sustainability and community participation blurring lines between the
role of the state in relation to civil society.
I have also found Tracys Qualitative Quality has helped with the contextualisation
of my thinking for this process, guiding through the stages and processes of
research to ensure a valid and credible end product.
Ethics
I am using the Economic and Social Research Council core principles as a
framework for my ethical statement.
The six key principles for ethical research are:

Research should aim to maximise benefit for individuals and society and
minimise risk and harm

The rights and dignity of individuals and groups should be respected

Wherever possible, participation should be voluntary and appropriately


informed

Research should be conducted with integrity and transparency

Lines of responsibility and accountability should be clearly defined

Independence of research should be maintained and where conflicts of


interest cannot be avoided they should be made explicit.

(From
http://www.esrc.ac.uk/funding/guidance-for-applicants/research-ethics/ourcore-principles/ )
I will also be guided by our own professional ethics standards for CLD by the CLD
Standards
Council.
(http://109.233.117.82/standards_council/wpcontent/uploads/2015/07/Code_of_Ethics.pdf )
Participation in this research shall be voluntary, and all responses shall be
anonymised into categories (community, agency and external) All respondents will
be made aware of the purpose of this research, and how it will be disseminated after
completion.
Participants will be given full information on why I am collecting this information and
what I shall do with it, and will have the right to withdraw at any time, and I shall have

Dawn Cara Brown,


student ID 51554139

Enquiring Professionalism, Task 3

22nd August 2016

their consent to keep their data. The information gathered will only be used for the
stated purpose, and will be adequate, accurate and up-to-date.
In accordance with data protection, any written information will be kept in a locked
cabinet, and any online storage will be password protected. All recordings will be
transcribed and stored electronically. Before using any information, I shall share it
with the participant and verify that it reflects what they were saying and allow them to
freedom to alter any emphasis.
I will do all I can to ensure that all parties are equitable, and that I do all I can to
ensure that my participants do not feel disempowered. I will endeavour to empower
my participants to be an active and full part of any solutions that come out of the
research, as I think it may well be the start of some communities looking at resilience
planning, which we are in a position to support and facilitate if required. Foucault
sees power being present in all social relationships, the link between knowledge and
power become established as dominant discourses. And that the power of
knowledge can establish and encourage the belief that there is a scientific and
therefore correct base. For me, it is important to go into these interviews as an
observer, not from a position of knowledge, and I will make this clear to my
participants.
I will be sharing my findings with the groups and people who participate and also
with the Garioch Community Planning group, the board of the Garioch Partnership
as my employers, as well as with my Post Grad university cohort and lecturers. All
participants will be aware of this, and all responses anonymised.

Conclusion
There are the tensions as mentioned above, but I will enter this project with an open
mind and a feeling of optimism that we can support our communities to become
more resilient, and that identifying what has worked recently can be built in for future
events, and addressing the barriers can also facilitate that process to be easier.

Dawn Cara Brown,


student ID 51554139

Enquiring Professionalism, Task 3

22nd August 2016

Appendix 1

Application for Ethical Approval for a Masters


Dissertations or Work Based Project in the School of
Education (2015-16)
Name: Dawn Brown
Programme: Post Graduate Community Learning and Development
Title of Project: What makes a resilient community? Examining community
responses following unplanned events
Supervisor(s): Aileen Ackland
Application date: 22/08/16
Appropriate consideration of ethical issues will help you fulfil your responsibilities
to your field of research and the community of educational researchers.
Section 1: Responsibilities to participants
Please include a statement on how you will address any ethical issues relevant to
your participants. This should make reference to the appropriate paragraph(s) in
your adopted ethical guidelines and should cover:

The recruitment of participants,


Procedures to be adopted for gaining voluntary and informed consent
Steps to be taken to avoid harm or conflicts of interest
Any procedures for collection, storage and use of personal or sensitive
data
Issues of confidentiality and anonymity
Use and presentation of findings
Any other relevant issues

Participation shall be voluntary, and I will discuss my role and aspirations, and
ask all participants to sign a sheet explaining my research, and what will happen
with the data, explaining that they can withdraw at any stage if they so desire,
ensuring we both keep copies.

Dawn Cara Brown,


student ID 51554139

Enquiring Professionalism, Task 3

22nd August 2016

As these are emotive issues, I will have lists of local support agencies to offer
participants if they require it, and will also be aware of ensuring people are not
leaving any session upset.
All statements will be anonymised in the report within categories (individuals,
community groups, community planning, statutory agency). All information
gathered shall be stored securely, online with passwords and any written
material in a locked cabinet.
Presentation of the final report shall be shared to the University for my course,
with my class cohort, with the Garioch Community Planning Partnership, and with
the board of The Garioch Partnership, as they co-funded the course (50% work,
50% personal funding)

Section 2: Responsibilities to yourself, your colleagues, sponsors and/or


employer, and your field of research
Please include a statement on your role and responsibilities as researcher, any
conflicts of interest that may arise in your role as practitioner-researcher, and
how you will deal with these. Include issues relating to presentation and
dissemination of findings if appropriate. Make reference to the appropriate
paragraph(s) in your adopted ethical guidelines.
My role as a researcher is as an observer, but with a responsibility to do no harm,
so all participants shall be voluntary and can withdraw at any point. I was not
personally affected by the flooding, so remain impartial and have no personal
input on what worked and what happened in the communities after the floods.
I will use the Economic and Social Research Council ethical guidelines, as well as
the CLD Standards council ethical statement.
There may be a tension presenting some of the issues to the community
planning partnership, but as I am third sector staff, I do have a level of autonomy
from the Partnership, and have the ability to respectfully challenge. The Garioch
Community Planning Partnership have been approached and are aware of the
possibility of my research and are supportive. The Garioch Partnership (my
employers) are supportive of the research and aware that the feelings from
communities may be critical of the statutory partners. As we did not have a
direct role in the community after the flooding, we have a level of impartiality in
examining what was implemented in communities.

Dawn Cara Brown,


student ID 51554139

Enquiring Professionalism, Task 3

22nd August 2016

References
Aberdeenshire Council (2015), Garioch Area Profile,
https://www.aberdeenshire.gov.uk/media/4699/20150311gariochadminprofile2015.pd
f
Bn, C. Godfrey Wood, R. Newsham, A. and Davies, M. Resilience: New Utopia or
New Tyranny? Reflection about the Potentials and Limits of the Concept of
Resilience in Relation to Vulnerability Reduction Programmes. IDS WORKING
PAPER Volume 2012 Number 405. CSP WORKING PAPER Number 006
Block JH, Block J. (1980) The role of ego-control and ego-resiliency in the
origination of behavior. The Minnesota Symposia on Child Psychology. Vol. 13.
Hillsdale, New Jersey: Erlbaum. pp. 39101.
Bryman, A. (2008) Social Research Methods, third edition, Oxford University Press,
Oxford, UK
Duit, A. Galaz, V. Eckerberg, K. and Ebbesoon J. (2010) Governance, Complexity,
and Resilience, Global Environmental Change 20.3: 363-368
Escobar, O (2011) Public Dialogue and Deliberation A communication perspective
for public engagement practitioners, Edinburgh Beltane Beacon for Public
Engagement, Edinburgh
Faubion, J. (Ed) (1994) Michel Foucault: Power, Essential Works of Foucault 1954
1984. Penguin, London
Garven, F. McLean, J. Pattoni, L. (2016) Asset-Based Approaches: Their Rise, Role
and Reality, Dunedin, Edinburgh
Harrison, E. (2012) Bouncing Back? Recession, resilience and everyday lives.
Critical Social Policy. University of Sussex, UK. Downloaded from cap.sagepub.com
at Library periodicals in June 16 2016.

Dawn Cara Brown,


student ID 51554139

Enquiring Professionalism, Task 3

22nd August 2016

Ledwith, M. (2005) Community Development: A Critical Approach. BASW/Policy


Press, Bristol
Manyena, S B (2006) The Concept of Resilience Revisited, Disasters Volume 30,
Issue 4, Version of Record online: 13 NOV 2006
McNiff, J. (2013) Action Research: Principles and Practice Routledge, London
Putnam, R. (2000) Bowling Alone, Touchstone, New York
Smith, M. K. (2001) Community in the encyclopedia of informal education,
http://www.infed.org/community/community.htm.
Scottish Government (2012) Preparing Scotland, Scottish Guidance on Reslience,
Scottish Government, Edinburgh
Scottish Government (2013), Building Community Resilience Scottish Guidance On
Community Resilience, Scottish Government, Edinburgh
Thompson, N. (2002) People Skills, Second Edition
Basingstoke

Palgrave MacMillan,

Tracy, S. (2010) Qualitative Quality: Eight Big-Tent Criteria for Excellent Qualitative
Research. Qualitative Inquiry 16(10) 837-851, Sage
Ungar, M (2011) Community Resilience for Youth and Families: Facilitative Physical
and Social Capital in Contexts of Adversity, Children and Youth Services Review 33,
pp1742 1748
Warburton, D. (Ed) (1998) Community & Sustainable Development, Earthscan,
London

Other sources
Centre for Public Impact, 2016. Rethinking Public Services, Building public services
around people, Interview with Fiona Garven, SCDC.

Dawn Cara Brown,


student ID 51554139

Enquiring Professionalism, Task 3

22nd August 2016