Research into the meaning of resilience and what it means to be resilient leads our academics and community researchers on an investigation to understand what takes place for those people - children, families, vulnerable adults and workers - who positively adapt to hardship.
The researchers in the University of Brighton’s Centre of Resilience for Social Justice work with multiple and changing ideas as to what resilience means and what resilience can mean. Our work, in Britain and across different parts of the globe, brings communities together that can answer the question together: what is our resilience, and how can we help diverse communities find and build their resilience to shared and individual challenges?
For the research Centre of Resilience for Social Justice and its social network Boingboing, resilience in the face of adversity is not just about an individual’s inner psychological resources or innate characteristics; it involves a combination of ‘nature’ (what a child is born with) and ‘nurture’ (what they learn and are offered along the way). Our researchers - academics and the wider community - seek to make resilience and resilient therapy an embedded treatment, one which works across whole communities to improve futures through resilient practices. ( Hart, A., & Blincow, D., with Thomas, H. (2007). Resilient Therapy: Working with children and families. London: Brunner Routledge.)
Professor Michael Ungar gives a definition of resilience as: ‘Adequate provision of health resources necessary to achieve good outcomes in spite of serious threats to adaptation or development.’ (Ungar, 2005, p. 429). Professor Ungar has given a now familiar definition of the dynamic nature of the construct of resilience; that is, that it is the ability of the child or young person to navigate to, and negotiate for, support systems that are available.
Anne Rathbone from the University of Brighton’s Centre of Resilience for Social Justice reflects on this: “children and young people can’t navigate their way to support and negotiate it if they can’t see who, what and where these support systems are. Services need to be not just available, but known about, visible, timely, welcoming, and confidence-inspiring.” (See Anne Rathbone's, post for Boingboing, Report from the European European Conference on Resilience in Education, July 2018.)
For researchers in the Centre of Resilience for Social Justice, trying to influence the conditions that shape the circumstances of children and families’ daily lives is a core part of direct practice. Ideas for resilience-working with an inequalities imagination include:
- Resilience through consciousness-raising by working with individuals or groups in relation to the various inequalities they might face.
- Resilience through emancipatory learning, adult education and legal rights education.
- Resilience through mobilising communities, neighbourhood organisation and community development.
- Resilience through advocacy work, civic activism or advocating for others can inspire transformation.
- Resilience through negotiating, developing and using persuasion skills.
- Resilience through lobbying, campaigning and understanding the stages of policy and law-making and, thus, where to focus your effort.
- Resilience through co-production, distributing leadership, participatory action research.
This research has co-production at its core, working towards understanding Ungar’s sense of resilience as resistance. His Nine Things All Children Need, are reflective of aspects of the Resilience Framework: Structure, Consequences, Parent-child connections, lots of strong relationships, a powerful identity, a sense of control, a sense of belonging/spirituality/life purpose, rights and responsibilities, safety and support. When he talks about challenging inequalities and focusing on the most marginalised children he is talking about - and in believing in, and striving for - social change and co-production. Working with those most affected is key to this.
Done well, co-production offers, in one way or another, opportunities for all these to be developed in individuals and groups. Co-production can be viewed as embedded therapeutic practice with the iterative links between individual and community development and the power to ‘change the odds’.
Definitions of resilience have now merged, thanks in part to successful resilience research, so that they are starting to emphasise what people can actually do to improve the odds for those having a particularly tough time of it. For the Centre of Resilience for Social Justice a working definition of resilience is, as stated above:
"Overcoming adversity, whilst also potentially changing, or even dramatically transforming, (aspects of) that adversity." ( Uniting Resilience Research and Practice With an Inequalities Approach, Hart et al., 2016, p.3)
Many organisations are using academic research to develop ways of working with others to help make resilient moves in their lives. Our resilience research work is part of this. In other words, "Beating the odds, whilst also changing the odds".