Humanities For Resilience

Lead Research Organisation: University of Birmingham
Department Name: School of Philosophy Theology & Religion

Abstract

Development and sustainability, if they are to mean anything, must include an understanding of how communities endure, abide, and even flourish in times of adversity. Resilience is at the heart of these activities. The World Humanitarian Summit (2016) echoes these calls, insisting upon collective endeavour to "leverage the strengths and abilities of affected people and communities affected by crises". Resilience is more than developing capacities to absorb shocks to communities, or systems, but is also about embedding resilience practices and dynamics in everyday activities. Currently the first approach remains the priority of international development aid and policies on resilience and so focus on preserving the status quo and biological life. However NGOs and researchers view this limited framework as a lost opportunity to "restore humanity by protecting and enabling people as the primary agents of their own responses to crisis" (World Humanitarian Summit). This network responds to their concerns and aims to address how resilience can be fostered by better understanding what makes 'ways of living' resilient. Focusing on a 'ways of living' approach to resilience, the network is an exploration of the shared human experience of resilience. A 'ways of living' perspective additionally prioritises 'bottom-up' formations of resilience, operating as a network of practice. The purpose of the network is to understand which resilient experiences, interactions, moves, and actions 'create value' in diverse and complex social worlds.

The network is global in its reach and activities, operating in the UK, Zambia, Pakistan and Lebanon, with participants from Europe, North and South America, Africa, the Indian Subcontinent, and the Middle East. Shared leadership, the co-production of knowledge, and joint creation of outputs between participants are built into the structure and practices of the network. The 1st workshop (Birmingham) examines the conceptual basis for resilience by examining where and how resilience has been utilised in policy and practices from a variety of disciplinary and practitioner perspectives, including from engineering, environmental sciences and the social sciences. We will explore how international development concerns have moved from sustainability towards resilience. It will highlight the positive and negative consequences this has had across cities, policies and sectors. The 2nd workshop (Zambia), examines the targets of resilience: minority and marginalised communities. In this workshop we explore who is being made resilient and why. We will report firsthand on the work of our partner - VMM. The 3rd (Lebanon) examines 'practical humanities' by focusing on resilient places - and where resilience is absent. It looks at resilience in transitory places as well as permanent, historical, and 'pop-up' communal sites. The 4th (Pakistan) examines the type of interventions in the name of resilience. This addresses the artefacts and outputs associated with resilience, such as dialogue, heritage, art, literature and dance. This workshop explores whether the properties of certain objects hold 'resilience' and how they generate resilience in others. The workshop activities will be linked and ongoing through cross-circulation of the workshops' findings, and papers and debates developed through online discussion and across our partners' existing communication channels. A closing plenary (Birmingham) will bring together all members of the network to develop and showcase how, as a field of disciplines, the humanities contribute towards understanding and building resilience in international development aid settings. Finally, the network, through incorporating a self-evaluation mechanism, will explore how networks themselves contribute towards resilience. Together the network's activities explore the human experience of resilience, and how 'ways of living' are made or become resilient, and what can be done to facilitate them.

Planned Impact

Collaboration and the co-production of research frameworks, priorities, and outputs from the outset ensures this network will impact on important conversations about the humanities' role in resilience and how they can be utilised in shaping overseas development aid agendas in LMICs. Doing so when the field of resilience in the humanities is still in its embryonic stages will allow for the crystallisation of a research agenda that allies the intellectual priorities of the academic community with the practical requirements of the international development sector. The network will have particular impact in Zambia, Pakistan & Lebanon because of the intense and substantial role of partners in those ODA countries. It achieves this via the activities of the network, its proposed outputs, and through future planning.

The network harnesses academic and stakeholder expertise in pursuit of objectives that are complementary to and expand upon policy developments in the UN with regard to development goals and specifically the World Humanitarian Summit (2016); at the national level, with governments' counter-terrorism and disaster management policies; and at the local government level, with objectives in building community cohesion and prosperity. The workshop programme (see Case for Support) is designed to see the engagement in 'through-life' policy terms - critiquing and developing the conceptual underpinnings, the desired end states, the targets, and the nature of interventions. The workshop activities (discussion, debate, shared experiences, field visits and networking) are designed to create new ways of imagining and practicing resilience, and also to foster and evaluate resilience among participants. As a result of participation members will have 1) collaborated to find new ways of conceptualising their activities so that they are empowered in international development agenda negotiations; 2) the opportunity to redesign, reimagine and develop their activities in light of the workshops' discussions and findings; and 3) the opportunity to foster new relationships, future collaborations and activities not otherwise imagined without the transnational and interdisciplinary membership of the network. LMIC partner countries therefore specifically see impact in terms of the enhanced resilience of the civic organisations through their involvement in the network and consequently for the communities and peoples they serve.

The outputs are designed to enhance impact in four key audiences: academic, public, policy-makers, and practitioners in international development. A vital resource for researchers will be the Ways Forward research agenda. This will be for publication in a major peer-reviewed inter-disciplinary research journal (such as Humanity). A special edition of a peer-reviewed journal, such as Resilience, complements the agenda-setting outputs, allowing for a refinement and detailed expansion of the core ideas presented in the workshops. These outputs co-produced by network members will enhance research and expertise within LMIC member countries. Producing a grant bid for future collaborative research is important to sustaining the network in the longer term. Public engagement in Zambia, Pakistan & Lebanon is facilitated through the online contributions that are aimed at non-specialists (guest blogging via well-established web-sites) and through in-country radio and print media engagements. The policy sphere is included by inviting core funding bodies and civil servants to the final plenary and via the briefing paper. The briefing paper and blog pieces will be further disseminated in the workshop countries via network members existing communication channels. The practitioner world is directly engaged in the workshops and through the outline review of members' humanities oriented resilience projects. Combined these outputs enhance understanding and practice among LMIC and international practitioners, researchers and policy makers.

Publications

10 25 50
 
Description This award funded a network of NGOs, academics, and activists called "Humanities for Resilience" (H4R). The network supports members in developing their activities to sustain marginalised community resilience, and to support the activist and NGO's internal resilience. The network was established in 2018 and by 2022 has members from ten different countries, including Zambia, Thailand, and Lebanon; a reach and membership that exceeded the grant objectives. The network hosts an Instagram channel that raises the profile of the NGOs and activists and promotes 'resilience' related content, and we host a closed WhatsApp channel/group for H4R Network members to discuss issues.

Value creation stories were gathered via interviews to identify how the members benefitted from the network and we have used this to shape future activities, as well as to evaluate the relationship between resilience and networks. Collecting and interpreting the "value creation stories" - a methodology more familiar to business and management research - provided new practical insights and enhanced research capability.

Our analysis revealed that participants' resilience activities created "life spaces", where the process and end state, was a form of humanities and worldliness. Focusing on the humanities allowed network participants to craft resilience beyond basic human needs, state security, or development objectives. Evaluating the "life space" activities of network participants and from participant interviews we established a praxis of resilience that is underpinned by creativity, civility, co-ownership and criticality. These underpinning norms resist extractive neoliberal resilience policies that place the burden of resilience on the most marginalised and most vulnerable in global society. The project revealed how resilience features as a way of living rooted in the experiences, interactions, and shared meaning-making of marginality. Resilience in the margins is revealed as a radical site of possibility: a subversive location from which to challenge and reshape the mainstream.

Although our overarching findings establishes a collective framework for resilience, nevertheless resilience retains highly localised knowledge and practices. Translating the term required establishing meaning in the everyday and wider cultural expressions of participants, such that we found 'traversing resilience' was a more accurate description of the network activities, and that participants sought 'resonance' rather than replicability. Consequently, resilient activities and projects might have some generalisability and applicability across sectors and countries they cannot be templated. This has policy and donor funding implications when they seek to monitor and evaluate resilience projects. With this in mind, our praxis prioritises co-creation and co-ownership. Moreover, time is a dynamic feature of resilience that is not addressed in mainstream research on resilience. As the crisis in Lebanon unfolded alongside network activities it became clear how resilience - and our participants relationship to the concept - shifted, especially as its application in that context appeared to reinforce existing inequalities.
Exploitation Route Other researchers may take forward:
1) Research to understand the relationship to personal and public health resilience and resilience praxis identified by the network.
2) Value Creation Stories as a methodology for monitoring and evalutating and generating qualitative data about resilience and other civil society projects.
3) Opportunities to further develop a dynamic understanding of resilience that integrates marginality and time.

Civil Society and Activists in the Arts and Humanities may take forward:
1) Adjustments to their strategic narratives to include resilience in light of the promotion of network participants' activities
2) Opportunities to proactively engage with resilience in their core activities
3) Participate in H4R and expand their networks and collaborating partners
4) Participate in H4R to develop their institutional and personal resilience

Government, International Donors and Funders may take forward:
1) Qualitative performance indicators for resilience that reflect the defintions and experiences of H4R
2) H4R as a network space to expand their partners in resilience projects and policies
3) H4R framework for resilience in their strategic thinking to avoid exploitative, securitizing and marginalising approaches.
Sectors Communities and Social Services/Policy,Creative Economy,Government, Democracy and Justice,Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections,Security and Diplomacy

 
Description The findings of the project enabled the P(I) to develop for the British Council in Lebanon a brief and run a nationwide virtual workshop on establishing Social Transformation Monitoring for preventing violent extremism. The brief drew on ideas of everyday resilience to violent extremism, and data from the workshops in Lebanon and the network as a whole. This work for the British Council is part of the Lebanese National Action Plan for Preventing Violent Extremism. Creative economy and cultural and heritage, as well as civic acativist H4R Network Participants reported that through the activities of the network and the relationships they have built, that they have engaged differently with resilience as a concept, promoted resilience within their organisations, and adjusted their activities in their communities to promote a worldliness (or humanities) approach to reslience.
First Year Of Impact 2021
Sector Creative Economy,Government, Democracy and Justice,Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections,Security and Diplomacy
Impact Types Cultural,Societal,Policy & public services

 
Description Informed design of Lebanon's National Action Plan for Preventing Violent Extremism - social transformation monitoring and early warning and response systems
Geographic Reach Asia 
Policy Influence Type Contribution to a national consultation/review
 
Description MA Module designed and delivered on "Resilience in the MENA region" for the University of Bari
Geographic Reach Europe 
Policy Influence Type Influenced training of practitioners or researchers
 
Description Global Challenges PhD Studentships (a Phd student co-supervised by K.E. BROWN and S. FREGONESE on resilience)
Amount £60,000 (GBP)
Organisation University of Birmingham 
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 08/2018 
End 12/2021
 
Description Blog/Website on Humanities for Resilience 
Form Of Engagement Activity Engagement focused website, blog or social media channel
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Study participants or study members
Results and Impact The network has a blog website that is engagement focused, drawing wider attention to the ideas fo the network. Participants (academic, artists, NGOs etc) have all contributed. It also records and showcases the work of the network and network participants.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
URL https://humanitiesforresilience.wordpress.com
 
Description Established Network Instagram activities 
Form Of Engagement Activity Engagement focused website, blog or social media channel
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Study participants or study members
Results and Impact Have established an instagram account and twitter accounts, where the study participants produce content regarding the network and it is amplified worldwide through the platforms and shares/likes/retweets. This is known as 'take overs'.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2021
 
Description Expert Panel and Working Group Participation in implementing Lebanon's National Action Plan for Preventing Violent Extremism, as hosted by the British Council. 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact The P(I) participated in the working group and dialogue workshops for the British Council on Preventing Violent Extremism. The P(I) helped design the workshop, prepared material for the workshop, wrote up the pre and post-workshop reports, and this is used as a starting point for implementing part of the Lebanese National Action Place on PVE regarding an 'early warning system' and their knowledge exchange platform. The P(I) has been asked to be involved in the Lebanese Knowledge Exchange Platform which launched in March 2021.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2021
 
Description Practitioner and Academic Workshop - Beirut. 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Third sector organisations
Results and Impact The workshop drew together 15 participants from around the globe, with a majority of Lebanese groups, to discuss the nature of resilience, the urban environment and the importance of memory and place. The outcome is further collaboration between one Lebanese NGO and my GRF Phd student (on resilience), blog posts (to be posted shortly).
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description Workshop Thailand 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Study participants or study members
Results and Impact 25 participants of the network in Thailand attended the workshop, it developed thinking on resistance, resilience and art.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
 
Description Workshop in Lusaka (Zambia) 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Third sector organisations
Results and Impact This participant lead workshop brought together NGOs across South Africa and Zambia who work in related but distinct fields. The workshop developed their networks, furthering resilience in their activities and organisations. A number of participants reported increased liaison and partnerships with each other post the event.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
 
Description Workshop with African Union 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Third sector organisations
Results and Impact This workshop brought together the participants from the previous workshops and new participants from the region to discuss their activities in 2018-2020. It also included input from the African Union and the German international development agency. Participants developed new networks and partnerships as well as embedding those made in previous workshops.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020