Reply To: Resilience is more complicated than a checklist of steps


    Hello, thank you for this discussion! I have a few thoughts about the narrative of “resilience” as it relates to the nonprofit sector. In general, it seems worth complicating the term resilience in the context of the nonprofit sector in general but perhaps most importantly when considering equity. Resilience is often an expectation put on communities/organizations that do not have equitable access to resources and is used as a laudatory compliment that obfuscates the problem of expecting communities to be resilient in the first place in response to a lack of resources. In other words, those in power creating a narrative that communities of color are resilient, for example, is a way of covering the fact that capitalism has created systems that require them to be resilient in the first place. It’s an escape hatch for inequitable systems..The thinking sometimes seems to be along the lines of: if we have resilient communities/orgs, we can celebrate them, feel good about this resilience, and avoid the hard questions as to why that is demanded of them. Anytime I hear the word resilience used (and I tell this to my students), I need to remind myself to think critically about how the word is being used and if/how it may be reinforcing inequitable power structures. While it may be necessary to build resilient communities and organizations given the current systems (clearly marginalized communities have been tremendously resilient historically), there should be a simultaneous calling out of the power structures that are reinforced by the need to be so.

    In terms of the definition and the idea of a return to normal, I think of that in an ecological way. So, less as going back to the way it was (so-called, “normal”), and, rather, as returning to equilibrium in its new context. I am personally very unsure about the use of the word normal in general. The level of subjectivity it generally includes is something that feels worth unpacking, again, including using an equity frame. I do think resilience and sustainability in the context of nonprofit arts (where I work) are related to relevance or “mattering” first, with the right org and financial model in support. But of course, using the equity lens again, that definition has not historically meant equitable funding.

    Ruth, your experience sounds so incredibly difficult. It’s so good to hear that the resource is still available. I don’t have experience as perilous as yours.

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