Hi everyone, Leanne here.
This week has had some real highlights in it, like having the opportunity to catch up with a hero of CanCERN’s. We hope you take the time to read the post, ‘A retiring hero’ because this man should be celebrated.
Mostly though I think I could sum this week up as disappointing and perhaps it has been coming for weeks now. One of the bigger disappointments I have wrestled with this week as CanCERN team leader relates to my expectations of exhausted and disenchanted residents and their capacity to continue to have faith in seeking solutions. (I don’t mean disappointment in the residents themselves, but rather at the situation we find ourselves in at this point in the recovery.) Standing back, it makes sense that some people are not going to see much hope in the idea of discussing collaborative solutions.
However, CanCERN is all about working in constructive ways to influence or co-create solutions that are based on the values, priorities and knowledge of the residents. This in itself seems to cause disappointment for some people because of an expectation that CanCERN will work in a way that better reflects how they feel – angry, frustrated, let down.
The unfolding saga of the ‘Just for Southern Response Claimants’ meeting CanCERN planned to host this week has been tough. It’s no secret that we have a good working relationship with Southern Response. We find the management inviting and open and more willing to think about their ‘rights and wrongs’ than many recovery agencies. We can be very honest with them and have on many occasions advised them to do things differently. We do, however, hear firsthand of experiences that seem to have more wrongs than rights – hence the development of the Breakthrough pilot.
CanCERN decided to host a meeting for Southern Response customers to tell them more about the Breakthrough pilot and to see if some people wanted to give it a go. We invited the other earthquake services along in the hope that if Breakthrough was not the best pathway, perhaps one of the other services might be. Southern Response asked us if they could join the meeting to describe some of the new ways they are dealing with ‘stuck’ issues, and of course we saw the value (and the risk) and said yes.
Unfortunately, due to a potential security threat we decided to postpone the meeting. This has resulted in a number of comments on the quake-related Facebook pages. Some have said it is cowardly for Southern Response not to front up despite the possibility of violence, and almost all who have shared their feelings have aimed them only at Southern Response. This has not been my reality this week. My week has been downright disconcerting. We have had to make decisions about our own safety, the safety of other earthquake recovery colleagues, and the safety of Southern Response customers. We have had to consider the possibility of real violence and the possibility that it is all a misunderstanding. Mostly we have just been nervous, and so have our families.
Social media is a useful platform for many people to share experiences and support, but it’s also a place where situations can become dehumanised and dominated by unmet expectations, and sad realities. The situation we find ourselves in currently is one of competing ideas about what a good recovery experience looks like. These ideas have created the ‘us and them’ mentality we have discussed before. Unfortunately, with ‘us and them’ thinking it becomes easier to dehumanise people.
We refer to individuals as customers, claimants and clients, or managers, contractors and call centre operators. In our office we have a Spokesperson, Communications Manager, Project Manager and Community Facilitator, but we can also be labelled wife, mother and grandparent, husband, father, daughter and sister.
This week we decided we wanted to postpone the meeting because that was a fair decision for our families. It was also a fair decision for the Southern Response families because those attending are also mother, father, wife, husband, partner and grandparent. In the audience we also expected mothers, fathers, wives, husbands, partners, and grandparents.
The one thing we all have in common in this place – which can at times feel more like a battlefield than a recovery – is that we are people first and foremost. Perhaps if we could use that as our starting point for setting expectations we may all be a little less disappointed.