solutions_quote_SMALLWe heard this comment from a stressed resident this week and feel like it sums up pretty well how we need to approach a long recovery.

“One step at a time, as long as it’s forward. ”

Do you remember way back to just after the quakes when we talked to each other about opportunities and solutions that would move us forward in leaps in bounds? We knew we had problems, and although we were naive in terms of the size and scale of them, we also had an outpouring of ideas about how things could be better. CanCERN was founded on that energy and the belief that our wisdom as affected residents within a wider community would play a vital role in informing the ‘experts’ of earthquake recovery.

We acknowledge it has taken a long time and a whole lot of hard work from many people to get recovery agencies to see the true value residents bring to finding solutions. CanCERN has had an easier time than most in getting access to the right people  to advocate for solutions that are resident focused. Some will question whether we’ve managed to make any difference at all because, for them, life isn’t getting any easier and they just want and need their individual problems sorted.

But we have made a difference and we’re taken more seriously than ever at an agency level, with many finally realising the importance and benefit of the resident voice.

What we’re struggling with at the moment is the ability to advocate for resident-led solutions to the many problems that still exist.

Why? Well there’s a complexity to that question. Firstly, there is an over-dominance of conversations in the community that regurgitate the same problems again and again. Solutions thinking is generally difficult to interject into this conversation as people are still waiting to be acknowledged for their issue. Secondly, there are some loud voices in the community who shout conspiracy and mistrust. Often their comments are founded in a truth of sorts but the focus is on warning rather than overcoming issues in a proactive way. Thirdly, many people are just over it – too weary, worried, hurt and now deeply in avoidance mode. Kiwis are not terribly practised at confronting people constructively. We don’t send food back in restaurants but we will complain loudly to everyone else about how bad it was. We are doing the same thing with our recovery issues.

We understand why this happens and empathise with residents who feel so drastically stuck and powerless. And it’s not that cynicism, anger, weariness and helplessness (the list goes on) aren’t valid emotions to be feeling – they most definitely are, and we feel them too – but what’s important is making sure you don’t get so caught up in them that you miss opportunities to help solve some of the very problems that cause the anguish.

You don’t have to try and feel negative, it’s a natural response to a tough situation. Having a solutions-focused mindset, on the other hand, is harder because it’s a choice that requires a certain level of hope.

So what are we asking of you?

  • Participate in our surveys and workshops asking for ideas
  • Share any successes with your networks
  • Make the most of opportunities for help (e.g. RAS, CIAS, In The Know) and if they don’t work for you, feed back the constructive criticism
  • Take note of attempts to do things differently

Not an easy mindset but surely a more beneficial one.