Photo by Nathan Anderson on Unsplash

Re-Imagining Community Resilience

Insights from the international Rising Women Collective

Ksenia Benifand
Aug 2 · 6 min read

On a beautiful Sunday morning, a group of women gather together to connect and share stories. The women gathered are engineers, architects, entrepreneurs, developers, designers, educators, storytellers and community animators, working across different sectors on solving issues such as climate change and inequality, democratizing education, developing innovations in healthcare, and building healthy resilient communities.

This is a Zoom call, and we have gathered from around the world, countries including Germany, Romania, India, Canada and USA. We share a common interest — to tackle some of the world’s mega challenges. We recognize that community building is a powerful mechanism to enable and accelerate change, and we are gathered to share our experiences and seek advice.

This conversation is part of the Rising Women Collective — a global community of women who are exploring, working on, and manifesting social change within their local regions and worldwide.

Women are often the architects of community weaving. We are connecting, inspiring, and celebrating one another, sharing stories and passing wisdom across generations, as well as taking care of each other, our families, communities and our planet.

Power of Communities

Our global consciousness is expanding. And with that, the narrative on how we define ourselves is shifting from an individualistic worldview to that of ‘interbeing’ — being embedded in a complex social network with vast interdependencies across local and global communities and ecosystems.

When we come together to form intentional communities rooted in trust, dignity, and respect, we begin to weave deep physical, social, and emotional networks.

Communities help us improve our individual and community health & well-being, provide us with means to manage unexpected events, and help us thrive in the face of multiple convergent crises. In fact, disaster research shows that tight-knit communities with strong, locally driven organizations and local networks respond better in unexpected disaster scenarios.

Weaving communities takes long-term thinking, patience, and vulnerability to go out of one’s comfort zone, in order to open up and connect with others.

As this community of Rising Women share stories and lessons learned from our individual journeys, several themes emerge from all the different stories and global perspectives.

Key Insights for Designing Community Resilience

Empower Collective Action through Participatory Visioning

Many of the challenges faced by individuals today are complex and can be overwhelming. When individuals come together in an act of collective action, it becomes easier to solve big challenges. There are frameworks that can enable structured form of collaboration towards a shared goal or vision, while getting the commitment for individual action from all involved.

Dragon Dreaming is a powerful tool for participatory visioning. It’s a systemic design process and meta framework built upon three principles of personal growth; community building; and service to the Earth. It is based on the notion that every project starts with the dream of a single person. But because most people do not share their dreams, many projects are stuck. Everyone then has a chance to share their personal dream. Each dream is recorded, and this becomes a collective vision.

This design process is being used for building Global Grassroots Democracy, to create a future that nurtures humanity and our planet, hosted by the Collaboration Incubator based out of Berlin. The purpose is to bring diverse groups of citizens together to envision and co-create desired futures to navigate complex challenges at hand. This is a relatively recent project that is still in incubation stage, you can learn more and join here.

An example of a more mature collective action community project can be found in Toronto. Project Neutral was founded in 2010 to help people take action on their climate impact, with a strong focus on neighborhood action and distributed leadership. For several years, the organization worked closely with community leaders, providing neighborhoods with tools to measure their greenhouse gas impact, compare their impact with others, and explore individual and collective actions that reduce energy use and carbon emissions.

This collaborative approach was successful, over 80% of households joined the project, and were able to reduce 20% of the carbon footprint. As neighbors begin to get engaged and talk about their impact and energy use, they inspire each other to make lifestyle changes that can significantly reduce their climate impact and have a positive ripple effect in their community.

Re-Imagining Traditional Community Spaces

Designing intentional spaces is a critical opportunity for building strong communities. Traditional spaces can be transformed into intentional hubs.

For instance, traditional malls can become a safe space free from traffic and bad weather for senior citizen communities to get daily exercise by walking around a designated indoor space. For example, a hospital in Washington, D.C runs a walking club at a nearby plaza. In addition to helping seniors get exercise, participating in the walking club reduces isolation and builds stronger community.

Traditional post offices are also re-imagining how they can become community hubs. For instance, in Canada, post offices are looking to become community hubs for digital access and social innovation, connecting communities and climate-friendly businesses to customers, as well as providing banking services, and supporting elders.

Your dinner conversation can also be designed as an intentional space for communities to gather. For instance, Death Over Dinner, is an international movement where people intentionally come together to talk about one of the most intimate and difficult conversations in a healthy way. They are provided with conversational tools and a template for how the dinner is hosted, depending on the specifics of the conversation and types of guests invited. This project has reached millions of individuals and dinner tables.

Developing Decentralized Tools for Deeper Collaboration

For communities that are spread around the world, resource sharing and on-going support is critical to help them function like a good neighborhood.

Traditional social media tools like Facebook and LinkedIn are proving to be not enough for deep community building and collaboration. New digital tools are being developed that can help us deepen our connections, and create new powerful bonds.

For instance, Lean-In Circles, (founded by Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook and author of Lean In) are decentralized face-to-face formats for connections and actions among women around the world. This is an online portal, where women can find meeting locations in their local area, as well as all kinds of materials for fruitful conversation — including skill-building videos, discussion guides, and worksheets on various topics. Over time, women connected in these circles begin to take action together, like collaborating on projects, or advocating for social policy. This seems to be a minimal set-up for what seems as a highly replicable model.

Vanilla Way is working with Prodii to develop a collaborative digital platform for joining professional partnerships for creating a sustainable future. What makes Prodii unique is it is a cooperative social platform, that helps organizations and individuals map and profile people and resources for easier collaboration. It functions like a global neighborhood, helping communities get a good sense of what’s going on in their network.

Final Thoughts

Thank you to all the amazing women participating in the call, and especially to those of you sharing your personal stories — Kerri Brock, Sandra Leigh Lester, Alexandra Stef, Sara Khalek, Manuela Bosch, and Sarah Marie Pullman.

Building community resilience is vitally important in these challenging and chaotic times, and it takes all of to come together, be vulnerable, and reach out to one another to create meaningful networks and connections.

Thanks for reading. If you would like to suggest any additional examples or have resources and feedback to share, please get in touch! I will continue to pursue research and work on this important topic.

About Rising Women Collective

Rising Women is an international community of women who are exploring, working on, and manifesting social change within our local communities and worldwide. The purpose of this collective is for women to support one another in our personal and professional growth journeys and enable collective social impact. We do this through intimate storytelling, mentorship, and wisdom sharing during in-person retreats and on-line gatherings.

Ksenia Benifand

Written by

Connecting with people through participatory futures & design to enable healthy, equitable, empathy-driven & sustainable planet.

Welcome to a place where words matter. On Medium, smart voices and original ideas take center stage - with no ads in sight. Watch
Follow all the topics you care about, and we’ll deliver the best stories for you to your homepage and inbox. Explore
Get unlimited access to the best stories on Medium — and support writers while you’re at it. Just $5/month. Upgrade