An A-Z of the International Resilience Revolution Conference: “I really can change the world”
On the 30 and 31 March 2022, Blackpool was put well and truly on the map. From Australia to Zimbabwe, everyone was welcomed. An amazing A-Z of fellow Resilience Revolutionaries joined the party.
The goal of learning and sharing stories of resilience linked people from around the world… from Australia, Bangladesh, Canada, Denmark, England, France, Greece, Hong Kong, India, Japan, Karrinyup, Lisbon, Malaysia, Norway, Odense, Poland, Qatar, Romania, South Africa, Turkey, Uganda, Verona, Wales, York and Zimbabwe – to name but a few. All four corners of the UK and 39 different countries across the globe came to Blackpool (even if, for some, it was virtually), for two days of a truly exceptional international conference.
The International Resilience Revolution Conference 2022 was no ordinary academic conference. It had been over three years in the making, and straddled a global pandemic. It was a long journey. The first formal Planning Meeting took place in October 2018 with the original conference scheduled for September 2020. Blackpool HeadStart, the Centre of Resilience for Social Justice, led by Professor Angie Hart at the University of Brighton, and Boingboing’s Community Interest Company collaborated to make this unique event take shape. None of us knew that it would take 36 more monthly Planning Meetings, and a countless amount of resilience and determination, to make this a reality. There were a couple of inevitable postponements along the way. Some ambitious and innovative changes were needed to make what was originally a face-to-face event into a high-tech, hybrid conference, which opened up the Resilience Revolution to the whole world.
Delegates were given their first inkling that this was going to be a different type of conference when the stage was shared by Hannah Eaglestone and Neil Jack for the opening speeches. Hannah is the Blackpool Beating Bullying Lead and Co-Leader of the Resilience Revolution. Neil Jack is the Chief Executive of Blackpool Council and Co-Leader of the Resilience Revolution. Sharing the stage with local teenagers may be unusual for most Chief Executives, but this has become uncharacteristically common in Blackpool. The demand for ‘Nothing about us without us’ has been heard.
The first day of the conference was not only in-person at the brand new Winter Gardens Conference Centre in Blackpool, but was also live-streamed for everyone to take part and enjoy. This was the first community event to take place at this iconic site and was only preceded by the opening of the venue two weeks earlier by the Prime Minister, Boris Johnson. It was therefore only fitting that Blackpool’s young people, parents and carers were at the forefront of keynote speeches and presentations throughout the day, calling for systems change, challenging social inequalities, and raising awareness of the Resilience Revolution. Amongst the hundreds of people watching the live stream were representatives from the UK Parliamentary Select Committee reviewing the Children and Families Act 2014. The opportunity to influence government policy was not one to be missed.
Keynote speeches for the day inspired and informed in equal measures. Co-leaders of the Resilience Revolution set the scene and the Friend for Life team rounded things off with ‘You’ve got a friend in me’. Not a dry eye in the house!
It was heart-warming to see so many young people taking a day out of school to share the conference experience. The voices of young people across fourteen Blackpool schools and two Further Education Colleges were heard.
Blackpool’s Highfurlong Special School raised the bar by telling their story through a wonderfully received creative performance. Schools from around the country, along with thirteen national and thirty-four international universities joined in the experience. Presentations including ‘COVID to co-production, changing the odds in education’, and ‘How the Resilience Revolution opens doors for young people’ really hit the mark. It should come as no surprise, therefore, that some of the most articulate and thoughtful questions during the Q&A sessions came from young people in the audience.
Delegates from organisations ranging from the Arts, Academia, Health, Local Authorities, Faith Groups, Private and Voluntary Sectors, to name but a few, also served to enrich the experience. Workshops and presentations throughout the day continued to engage, educate and entertain. Activism and systems change was advocated for by ‘Parents of the Revolution’, and ‘Power to the Young’ challenged others to embrace coproduction. ‘Transformational journeys of resilience’ were brought to life, an indigenous leader from Canada’s Katzie First Nation challenged history and emotions, and three autistic artists rocked perceptions. With such culturally diverse aspects of resilience on show it can be difficult not to mention them all.
The first day began with ‘Shaking up the system with Shakespeare’ and ended with ‘Open up the Mic’. Young people were brave, funny, inspiring and talented, and most importantly on a level footing with academics, leaders, policy makers and more. So, how do you follow that?
The world came to hear about the world’s first Resilience Revolution. With a huge amount of excitement and, it must be admitted, more than a little trepidation, the second fully on-line day of the conference began. With four keynote speeches and no less than fifty-four parallel sessions to cram into the programme, how to fit a quart into a pint pot did spring to mind.
Rosie Gordon was the Chair for the day and faced all of the logistical and technological challenges with a little humour and a broad, welcoming smile. At this stage gratitude must be given for all of the people in the background who take the wonders of a digital age for granted and made it all possible.
‘Moving from Non Racism to Anti-Racism’ kicked off the day, and judging by the ‘chat’, encouraged many of us to face up to some uncomfortable feelings. It may have been a 9:00 am start, but the Resilience Revolution doesn’t allow you to drag your feet!
The only difficulty of the day was deciding which sessions to jump into. With presenters beaming in from over 18 different countries to provide reflections and learning from all walks of life, learning, lived and work experience, the choice was mind-blowing. With sessions ranging from ‘Gig buddies – serious fun’, to ‘Resilience in ex-offenders in the workplace’, and from ‘Resilience in an unfair world’, to ‘It’s about us all understanding why’, everyone was spoiled for choice. Linking social justice to resilience was an inspirational theme. Hearing other presenters talk about changing their future research methods, as a result of listening to people with lived experience talk about co-production, was a bonus.
If anyone thought viewing keynote speeches on-line might test their concentration after a lunch break, along came ‘The value of Social Learning: Youth Resilience in Blackpool’. The conversational style was delivered expertly and felt remarkably inclusive. The academic content and inspirational work was woven into a chat show format that was easy to listen to and engaged with everyone.
It’s impossible to mention every highlight, but it goes without saying that, ‘you really had to be there’. The conference delivered robust learning and research. Co-production was modelled at its best. Young people, parents and carers co-presented and co-delivered, showing the world how a co-produced conference should be done.
The final words of this A-Z should go to one of the young people, who was overheard saying on their way out of a long conference day at Blackpool Winter Gardens: “I really can change the world”.
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