Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Resilient Community: Duck and Cover by John Robb

It isn't possible to build resilient communities through a reprise of 20th Century Civil Defense initiatives. That approach (depicted by this classic video, "Duck and Cover"), which relied on simplistic messaging, mass drills, and government sponsorship wouldn't work in today's environment . One reason is that, at least in developed countries, communities are generally too hollow (little primary loyalty is left) and fractious to even consider it. Another is that the economic strains on most communities are too severe to consider centrally mandated change, without first demonstrating the benefits. A better approach is to initiate an economic insurgency. Here's one potential pathway:

* Initiate. A small group of advocates builds a community platform: a microgrid, composting center, subscription farm, etc. This platform should include all of the necessary characteristics; from two-way interaction to simple expansibility.

* Grow. The group markets the initiative to others in the community with a focus on the economic benefits of participation. Savings. Income. Quality (of the product and the community). Build an ecosystem of participants. Encourage people to build businesses based on the platform.

* Leverage. Another group, which may or may not include the members of the first group, builds another (complimentary) community platform and repeats the evangelical effort. The process is repeated until the required platforms are in place.

As disruptions, shortages, instability, brown-outs, price spikes, credit crunches, etc. begin to sweep through the community, these platforms will gain greater adoption (and critical mass for rapid expansion). However, the best path to growth and success, isn't through forced participation and ubiquitous services. Instead, it is expansion through voluntary participation (which is nearly identical to how global guerrilla movements and organizations grow). This is important:

Membership in a resilient community will be less a function of geography and more the result of voluntary association. In this sense, it is a virtual economic/resilient overlay on existing geographical communities that over time will become dominant.

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