Redefining Economy Through A Community Resilience Lens

Urban Systems duo exchange learning at the Indigenous Economic Opportunities Summit


“In order to have a resilient economy, you need to have resilient communities,” says Robert Stupka. “They are complementary to one another.”

The engineer and associate senior consultant Tony Bradwell recently co-led a presentation called Enabling Resilient Communities, Enabling Resilient Economies at the Indigenous Economic Opportunities Summit in Bella Bella, which coincided with Tribal Canoe Journeys 2014 — Qatuwas Festival.

“The characteristics of resilient communities are the same characteristics that weather resilient economies,” Rob says.

But defining what those characteristics are does not work in a cookie cutter fashion.

Each community has its own unique needs, issues and strengths. And each contributes something unique to collective resiliency.

Notions of community resiliency resonated strongly at the gathering, especially among First Nations communities with hundreds of years of stories accounting for their community resiliency.

When asked about where the conversation needs to go from here, Robert says that “each community has its own conversation.”

As a starting place, he’d like to communities convere about their assets and resources and what they’d like to achieve. The conversation should focus on outcomes first before jumping to process.

Communities should also ask where they’re spending money and whether some costs can be reallocated in a way that provides community solutions.

“We’re moving away from band-aid solutions to creating solutions that actually provide assets and create assistance and community supports.

“We’re moving from something dependent to something resilient,” he says.

For a community whose economy is highly dependent on fishing or forestry, for example, community members can ask whether they’re going to sustain their economic enterprises by harvesting all the fish or by allocating time and capacity to developing fish rearing, habitat conservation and reforestation programs as part of the economic enterprise.

“If you’re simply focused on the bottom line, then you’d cut down all the trees and send them all to Japan or China or the U.S and then you’d go find some more trees,” Tony says.

“But if you’re striving to build a vibrant community that’s sustainable over time you’d think differently about each of the trees that are there and what you might do to continue to drive value from that natural resource.”

Tony and Robert were both humbled and energized by the experience to share information and learn from the immensely rich gathering.

The event marks the beginning of a conversation about more intentionally intertwining community resilience and building a resilient economy.

Where do you see opportunities to deepen this relationship?

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