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Kenny Bailey hosts workshop on Social Emergency Response Centers

In partnership with the Downtown Eastside Heart of the City Festival, social activist and community organizer Kenny Bailey conducted a workshop on how we can imagine creative ways of solving social problems — presenting the Social Emergency Response Center as one of those solutions.

Bailey previously visited SFU in March 2016, where he held a workshop on social emergencies and more broadly on the work of the Boston-based Design Studio for Social Intervention (DS4SI).

Social Emergency Response Centers (SERCs) are one way DS4SI has responded to social issues, by creating a pop-up space where people can come together to heal, to eat, and share in community.

The purpose of these SERCs is to bring together activists and artists to develop practical solutions to real world problems. Inspired by Emergency Response Centres that pop up in natural disasters, these spaces invite people to come to receive resources, support, and engage with others.

“One of the things we noticed before we started doing this work around social emergencies is that we often don’t have much space in our everyday lives to just admit how social crises or cultural crises are affecting us personally,” said Bailey.

Each of the SERCs provide four major supports: healing, food, shelter, and resources. The aim is to take a holistic approach that allows people to feel welcomed into the space, to bring their ideas and whole selves into the environment, and to empower people to begin to make a change in their local communities.

Bailey began by asking attendees to brainstorm, in small groups, social emergencies that are present within Vancouver. The two predominant emergencies were housing inequality and the fentanyl crisis. He then challenged each of the small groups to come up with ten action steps to take to begin to address these issues within Vancouver.

Many of the groups found this to be a challenge which Bailey addressed saying: “In a way, I kind of pulled a trick on you guys asking you to come up with [. . .] the ten steps to get out of the social emergency into something more just, because those are the questions that we are really struggling to answer.”

He spoke about the importance of encouraging people and organizations to dedicate people specifically to working on creating actionable ideas. DS4SI focuses on providing space and bringing people together in order to make this happen. Bailey’s workshop demonstrated that the sharing of experiences is a fundamental part of addressing the bigger issues present around us.

Bailey added, “We understand rules like ‘nothing about us without us’, however, these problems that we’re facing are affecting us all. So, [. . .] we’ve got to figure out how to create conditions that we can move together.”

If you’re interested to learn more about SERCs and how you can create one in your area, check out this resource for more information.