The heavy toll taken by Christchurch earthquakes in 2010 and 2011 has wreaked physical, social and personal havoc in many parts of the city from which many are struggling to recover, and substantial new settlements, temporary and permanent, are being planned.
This destruction and the need for re-building open up a challenge to create a resilient city in which its present and future generations can flourish.
The project of re-designing a new city, and discussion around it, also provide a unique opportunity to lead the way in demonstrating how a city can be brought together to understand major twenty-first century challenges and to identify effective ways of meeting them.
The big question is: how in practical terms can the people of Christchurch be comprehensively engaged in this project?
I think a single most-effective way to so involve everyone would be to create opportunities for them to help construct narratives of transition from their present situation to the kind of urban villages they would like to live in, in the city, country and world they would like to live in. These would be aesthetically appealing narratives around the opportunities and challenges they see in their local village and wider contexts.
There is also a wide recognition, reflected in submissions on post-quake Christchurch, that transition to a sustainable, green order is necessary. This exercise could therefore also provide an opportunity to build sustainability issues into inclusive narratives of flourishing green villages. These narratives would help clarify why transition is necessary and how villagers might work effectively to bring it about. Christchurch could in this way become a cutting-edge city in helping to create a sustainable, green world.
Social media and film could be deployed to help stimulate and sustain inclusive local conversations about villagers’ diverse and shared hopes and knowledge. Local creatives could then help to configure material from these conversations into an aesthetically-engaging, filmed narrative of the villagers’ aspirations and how these might be achieved. Further, on-going face-to-face and online discussions stimulated by this narrative could then continue to bring to light more aspirations and how villagers might fulfil them. From time to time when villagers wished, this new material could be built into yet more on-going, filmed narrative episodes.
The following is offered as a simplified, vision-based, practical process. It is based on a methodology Hazel Ashton piloted in her doctoral thesis.
1. Show a short film which is left open ended as to what will happen next to stimulate conversation about hopes, challenges and local projects. The film needs to be engaging and exciting.
The film also needs to reflect the diversity of villagers and their lives, as well as open up global, sustainability and diversity issues
2. Facilitate a process whereby villagers can safely and authentically express what they see happening and what will happen next – based on their hopes and aspirations in the context of the opportunities and obstacles to fulfilling them.
Web communications/social media technologies can be used for 24/7 follow-up comment and conversations.
Based on villagers input, locally commissioned creatives write and film the next episode.
3. This narrative co-creation can be repeated, incorporating real-life experience and learning and the imagination.
On-going conversations about the filmed episodes could continue to open up more possibilities for development, obstacles to them and how the relevant issues might be addressed from personal through to wider national and global levels.
Done well, this kind of process would attract and engage local people in an enjoyable process of discovery, imagining personally and together the flourishing and sustainable futures they truly want by drawing on their backgrounds, knowledges and experiences to test out and clarify what courses of action could help to make these imagined futures a reality.
This methodology is offered as a process in which local people could use new tools to come together and reconstruct life in post-quake Christchurch urban villages. The process would constitute a new paradigm of local, village-based development, one in which communications technologies are deployed to generate narrative-inspired networking projects and new patterns of everyday living.
In using this methodology, Christchurch villagers could also break ground for other villagers around the country and around world.
Any comments or questions about any aspect of this blog are most welcome