German philosopher and cultural critic Fredrich Nietzsche once said ‘invisible threads are the strongest ties’. As well as being reminiscent of Paisley’s very own Sma’ Shot, there is the undeniable truth that these invisible threads Nietzsche refers to are what binds our communities together. Our strong ties are in the social connections we make and in being part of something bigger, a shared ‘we’re in this togetherness’.
This strength of connection, or sense of community, is what underpins all that STAR Project does. It’s a solid and safe foundation, albeit invisible, a platform for change that facilitates risk taking, creative expression, exploration and growth. The onset of Covid-19 threatened to rip through these invisible threads as, piece by piece, they were imbued with fear. Connections were now fraught with risk.
We feared the impact, what it might mean for us, our community, ourselves, our existence. Fear is contagious and, alongside our own fears, we were inundated by the fears of hundreds of distressed and vulnerable community members looking for comfort and reassurance. People were displaying signs of trauma and grief, fight or flight responses were kicking in and, for many, there was a profound sense of loss. A loss of what was known and safe, of connections, and of the way things were supposed to be.
Understanding this threat to the psychological safety of our community and culture is what compelled us to try and salvage those invisible threads as quickly as was humanly possible. A collective determination developed within the team and we decided to do what we do best; we got creative in the face of adversity and upped our game.
And so began our digital revolution.
We experienced a real urgency to adapt and creatively replicate our services digitally, and as closely as possible, to what was familiar. Within 32 hours we had our contingency plan in place, adapted our social media strategy, a creative operational plan and associated protocols, set up various digital tools and implemented a new wellbeing framework for the team.
For our community members, their need to connect with us, and each other, was so strong they were willing to put aside age-old resistances to change and, for some, a mistrust of new technology. If you’d said to me a month ago that our Drop-In would work digitally I’d have laughed (albeit in my head). If you’d said that we could be just as creative and that our community would engage just as creatively, I may have doubted it. Yet here we are, even busier than before** and with a whole new level of creativity to explore. People who were a bit quieter have come into their own, leading on topics, enjoying a newfound digital freedom. People who resisted technology are suddenly connoisseurs of Zoom, Slack and Hangouts.
Amid the horrors of this crisis, the fear and the loss, there has also been gain. New ways of working, evidence of cultural resilience*, expanding comfort zones, heightened creativity, lots of compassion, and a new kind of connectedness. Those invisible threads continue to hold fast.
*Cornelius Holtorf (Assistant Professor, University of Lund, Sweden) describes cultural resilience as the capability of a cultural system (consisting of cultural processes in relevant communities) to absorb adversity, deal with change and continue to develop.
**From 19th March -24th April
1640 people accessed emergency food provision via our Community Fridge delivery
76 new volunteers were recruited
700+ people received wellbeing calls
800+ people’s isolation was reduced through our Digi Drop-In/Workshops
300+ parents/carers accessed our online pre-school creative activities
(Update provided by The Star Project)