On-going community resilience from the ground up: a relational place based approach to grassroots community resilience

New Zealand
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This paper summarises a research project that aimed to more fully understand the role of non-governmental local organisations in shaping responses to local crises, and also to investigate whether there was a case for increasing support for grassroots groups on the basis of the resilience capacities they can contribute.


The Christchurch earthquakes that occurred in September 2010 and February, June and December 2011 have wrought unprecedented devastation on the region of Canterbury. Yet amongst the disaster, hope has shone through. Communities have pulled together, supported each other and started the long process of recovery and rebuilding. Academics, community leaders and policy analysts, both locally and internationally, have looked to Christchurch to observe the effects of this disaster and the way in which Cantabrians have and will recover. Having lived in Christchurch for most of my adolescence I started this research in the hope of showing the human stories of disasters in the academic and policy realm. To do this I have focussed on the role of grassroots organisations in facilitating resilience and the role of place in shaping these processes.

I approached Project Lyttelton as a possible case study for this research as they were well publicised as a grassroots group that was actively involved in immediate and on-going recovery from the earthquakes. Project Lyttelton is an organisation that focusses on building a sustainable and vibrant community in response to the issues of climate change, peak oil and consumerism. Through appreciative inquiry (searching for and telling the good stories) and hands on grassroots activities, such as a time bank, farmers market and community garden, the group has been contributing to the Lyttelton community since 2003. Due to the generous participation of members of the organisation and wider community this research was able to be undertaken in June 2012. The following information summarises the approach of the research and the results.

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