Resilient communities as value creators: Exploring participatory knowledge creation with the Lapinlahti community

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School of Arts, Design and Architecture | Master's thesis
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Master's Programme in Creative Sustainability
In the neoliberal economic system value-extraction is more highly rewarded than value-creation, and only things with a price are accounted for in the usual metrics (Mazzucato, 2018). The underlying ideology of never-ending growth, competition and the monetized idea of value has permeated all levels of society (Harvey, 2005; Hickel, 2020) resulting in damages to communities, society and planetary systems. In order to find more socially sustainable ways of living, it is worthwhile to try and understand how communities could promote resilience on an individual and societal level, and what non-monetary value this could create. The general aim of this thesis is to explore how resilient communities can sustain spaces for livelihood practices that are alternative to those provided by a capitalist state, or situated on the margins of capitalism. The objective was to explore how early-stage participatory research and design methods can be used in a design research process for learning together with a community and understanding how they promote resilience and create non-monetary value. By researching and making visible what non-monetary value resilient communities create, neoliberal ideas of value and success are called into question. A literature review provides an overview of the four key topics of this thesis: 1) value, 2) care, 3) the commons and commoning, and 4) community resilience. The Lapinlahti community was used as a case study of a resilient community in Helsinki as they have persevered throughout the years, despite their existence being under constant threat, through means of resistance, adaptation and transformation, all the while retaining their identity and core values. The research methods used draw from social design and participatory action research, and included semi-structured interviews and a participatory workshop. The aim of this methodology was to create knowledge together with the community, instead of extracting knowledge from them. The findings suggest that resilience and non-monetary value is created through various commoning practices, i.e. managing a common resource for collective benefit, and through care provided by the community. The most important form of value the Lapinlahti community creates is well-being, which becomes apparent through the experiential knowledge of community members. These findings call to question neoliberal values, because they show that Lapinlahti’s success was not born out of financial growth, but through resilience and commoning.
Berglund, Eeva
Thesis advisor
Pinto, Nathaly
communities, community resilience, commons, commoning, value, participatory design, social sustainability
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