How to create a Resilient Space in your neighborhood

In 2010, as locals found themselves displaced or divided in Oakland’s Fruitvale District, six houses took down their fences to grow food, medicine, and other surprises. Anne and Terry Symens-Bucher, two founders of Canticle Farm, didn’t stop at building rainwater catchment or restoring a creek – they started bringing soul, soil, and society together. They did this by gifting food to neighbors, hosting retreats, providing edible landscaping services, and supporting formerly incarcerated men and youth climate organizers. One heart, one house, one block at a time, their resilient space keeps the neighborhood strong.

WHAT IS A RESILIENT SPACE?

Resilient spaces are places that feed community life. These include community gardens, tool lending libraries, storefronts, homes, and even virtual spaces where people gather to host events, exchange information, and support each other. At the city level, “resilience hubs” are community facilities augmented to serve as centers for communication and resources when disasters strike, and to demonstrate climate solutions. Resilient spaces work more at the block or neighborhood level, providing everything from caring, healing, and community to cooking, crafting, and sustainability. They are often a source of pride! Imagine Canticle Farm, your own space, or one you’ve yet to start.

NorCal believes that there are three core components that every resilient space should work to include:

  • Disaster preparedness & response: Investing in relationships and resources, from emergency plans to extra food, neighbor check-ins to off-grid power like solar with battery backup.
  • Local sustainability & permaculture: Nourishing ourselves and our ecosystem, from rainwater catchment and greywater systems to community gardens and land stewardship.
  • Community engagement & inclusion: Cultivating community programs that honor and follow feminine, Black, Indigenous, and People of Color leadership.

CRISIS STIRS CHANGE

Hard times bring people together. After a hate crime that led to the loss of a young black man in their community, Jessica Bates and two neighbors in El Sobrante, California met weekly over breakfast to ask, What can we do? How can we fight hate and fear, and build community?

Over three years, they formed a Resilient Space called “La Colina Community Circle”. “Like everything in nature,” says Jessica, “spaces like ours are built on relationships.” Breakfasts led to a memorial vigil. Crop swaps to trade lemon balm plants for hot sauce led to organizing emergency kits and a buddy system for wildfire preparedness. Then came the swales, ditches that do amazing things: channel rainwater, conserve soil, and filter pollutants. They built four swales in one work party! Neighbors passing by said, “I want one too!” and the work continued. Today, La Colina Community Circle is still organizing against hate by bringing neighbors together.

You can’t force resilience, but if you build it and love it, they will come, and it will grow.” – Jessica Bates

A STEP-BY-STEP RESPONSE

  1. Get connected: Invite your neighbors to connect. Host a virtual gathering, organize a dinner or movie watch party, or start a listserv or WhatsApp group.
  2. Form a pod: Start regular meetups to share and compare visions for resilience. Talk about and align around immediate and long-term goals.
  3. Do a site analysis: List your community assets and needs, prioritizing one to work on first. Work with a permaculture design team on an ecosystem strategy and include a rough budget and fundraising plan to manifest your vision.
  4. Host an event: Launch your first project by identifying something that’s needed in your community. Try a food swap or swale build day, and invite neighbors to help. Make space for reflecting and bonding during and after the event. Be sure to make it COVID-safe, and fun!
  5. Share your story: Review your process, find lessons, and let neighbors and community members know what you’ve created! Celebrate your work, showcase the results, and start to plan your next projects.

Download a free 2-page (printable) PDF of the step-by-step primer to creating a Resilient Space here.

To make full use of this primer, check out supplemental material at norcalresilience.org including their resilience criteria checklist, case studies of resilient spaces, events, and more.

Getting started? Getting organized? Get in touch! Email them at info@norcalresilience.org.

Shareable is a member of the NorCal Resilience Network.

This article is part of our reporting on The People’s COVID-19 Response.

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