Boingboing blogs from… the Resilience Forum!

Beating the odds, and changing the odds – an inspiring real story – Simon Duncan, Brighton Resilience Forum – Friday 24 July 2015

by David Glynne-Percy – PhD student, University of Brighton

On Friday 24th July 2015 I attended a Resilience Forum organised by Boingboing and introduced by Anne Rathbone from the Imagine Programme – an exciting and dynamic project to connect university research with local communities. The speaker was Simon Duncan, who Anne had known for ten years. Simon spoke eloquently of his life, from being born in advance – which had caused cerebral palsy and an inability to use his legs – to his own defiant route to create better than expected outcomes. In fact Simon cited my favourite definition of resilience: Beating the odds whilst at the same time changing the odds (Hart et al, 2013; 2016) – such a dynamic concept , made all the more poignant by having one of its authors sat immediately behind me at the Forum. (Forgive me Angie, but I had to put that in!)

Simon paid enormous homage to his mother and the huge effort she made in altering her son’s environment so that he had the best chance to succeed. This included fighting with the council so that they could move out of their flat and into a more adapted house as well as learning how to drive. Simon’s admiration for his mother’s resilience shone throughout the whole of his talk; “My mother taught me to value myself,” he said. “She taught me that I could be inspirational, a role model for others.” In direct relation with his mother’s battling spirit Simon offered us his favourite quote: When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change (Dr Wayne Dyer).

In his own personal role models Simon included Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson DBE for her sporting prowess and political achievements and Stephen Hawking for his intellectual power.

I was particularly interested in learning that whilst relatively happy in a special needs nursery his mother had him placed into a mainstream primary school so that her son could be taken out of his comfort zone. Simon admitted that this had contributed to building his resilience as it forced him to achieve goals and to fend for himself. Whilst not all may have thrived in such an environment, Simon (no doubt through the influence of his mother which he had absorbed), now set about showing the world what he could achieve. He built up his self-confidence by public speaking, learning to rock climb, and gaining a place at university.

Poignantly Simon ended his talk by saying “Know the impact you have on others”  and listed his six strategies to build resilience:
• Have personal role models
• Push yourself of your comfort zone
• Build self-confidence
• Know your hot buttons
• Resolve conflict healthily
• Minimise the negative impact you have on other people and the negative impact that others have on you.

Simon’s immediate goals include passing his driving test and continuing to build up his resilient links with Angie and the Boingboing team. Further academic goals for this dynamic young man, in his own words, will be to complete “an MA based around Disability Studies and Resilience.”

A great big thank you to Anne Rathbone and all the other Boingboing team for bringing us together to listen to this remarkable young man. Life stories are so compelling. They are the stuff of rich data, enlightenment and inspiration. I am indebted to such forums in fostering my own understanding of resilience – as a PhD student, with Professor Angie Hart as my senior supervisor, I am constantly developing my concepts which have developed into a more systems analytical approach to societal disadvantage. For my PhD I am researching life stories from school practitioners who have been successful in triggering and sustaining a leisure interest in Key Stage Two children (9, 10 and 11 year olds) deemed the least likely to succeed, with the aim to better understand the contexts and mechanisms than may best promote successful outcomes in order to help schools in their every day practices.

You can access Simon’s slides and watch the video from this Beating the odds Resilience Forum.


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