The Boingboing Approach to Resilience

At Boingboing we research and practice resilience. You can find out more about how we do this on our about us pages. Here we want to tell you about our approach to resilience and why we are so passionate about it.

When people think about resilience, they usually think about overcoming difficulties, despite the odds stacked against them. They might describe resilience as beating the odds, doing better than expected given the circumstances or bouncing back when things get tough. While overcoming adversity is an important aspect of resilience, we think resilience is more than that.

Image of a flower managing to beat the odds

For us in the Boingboing and the Resilience Revolution community it’s about also changing the odds, so that the world we live in becomes a fairer place for everyone. This is why we describe resilience as:

“Beating the odds whilst also changing the odds”

Often the odds are stacked against people due to the disadvantages they face, disadvantages that a lot of the time are the result of unfair systems in our society. Like those of us who have experienced prejudice and discrimination due to poverty, having a disability, experiencing racism, being from our LGBTQ+ community or having experience of the criminal justice system (as just some examples). Changing these systems to make the world a fairer place is called social justice. 

Boingboing definition of resilience adopted by the British Psychological Society

This means that we don’t think resilience is just about an individual finding ways to bounce forward when things are tough (beating the odds), but that we also recognise inequality plays a big part in making things tougher in the first place, and so resilience is also about challenging inequalities too (changing the odds). When definitions of resilience focus too heavily on finding ways that people can beat the odds, it not only makes us more likely to think of resilience as a personal characteristic, but it also discourages people from challenging the sort of difficulties that result from unfair systems in our society.

Here in the Boingboing and Resilience Revolution community we take what is called a ‘systems view’ and adopt a socio-ecological approach looking beyond what can be done to help individuals (which is still an important thing to do), and identifying ways in which the environment people live in can better support them, as well as finding ways to reduce difficulties in the first place.

A drawing of the crying world by a young activist taking part in co-productive research with Boingboing
A socio-ecological model of resilience

As a result our work has a strong focus on thinking about and addressing mental health and wellbeing from an inequalities perspective. We suggest ways in which researchers and practitioners might join with people facing particularly difficult challenges to try to disrupt, ‘nudge’ or even radically transform some of the larger social systems, so that they better support their needs (Hart & Aumann, 2017).

This is why much of our work centres co-production and activism. Co-productive research and practice is when you work as, with and alongside people facing disadvantages. This approach is perhaps best summed up in this quote by the British Psychological Society who have recently adopted our definition of resilience:

‘We need to change how we work in formal services and be ‘brave enough to work with and through others, dropping ‘done to’ models and swapping for ‘done with’… This might mean we need to find meaningful ways to work with people facing adversity on overcoming that adversity, through co-production, alliances and partnerships. So, this is not just about switching location from the clinic, classroom or workplace to community spaces, it is about changing the ways we work. It is fundamental that as [researchers and practitioners] we work to recognize our own membership and responsibility in our communities. This may involve relinquishing expert ideologies and ‘us’ and ‘them’ narratives. Reconnecting with ourselves and others with humility and open-heartedness, may help to rebuild trust with communities we may have intentionally or unintentionally harmed.’

It is also why so many of us in the Boingboing and Resilience Revolution community have faced different forms of adversity throughout our lives and why our quirky community is made up of such a mix of identities. This helps keep everything we do at Boingboing focused on working in a way that upholds the principle of ‘nothing about us without us’. This quirky, collective identity gives us the passion to continuously challenge real-world inequality through our social justice approach, all the while trying to maintain academic rigour. It’s a tricky tightrope to walk but we feel it’s worth it, to bring our research and practice approach to life.

A variety of people taking part in an event hosted by Boingboing at the University of Brighton
Boingboing definition of resilience adopted by the British Psychological Society

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