Image shows participants printing during an accessible art workshop

Building Resilience in Scotland: Taking A Collaborative Creative Approach

Ailsa Mackay, the NCR Centre Manager, discusses the benefits of collaborating with the creative sector to demystify complex concepts.

In times of crisis, clear and timely communication can mean the difference between safety and harm. It is the role of the emergency services and local authorities to shoulder the responsibility of delivering these critical messages. Our partner, The Met Office, have been conducting extensive research to understand how people respond to critical messaging in emergencies. This invaluable insight is shaping strategies employed by authorities before, during, and after events such as storm Babet.

Yet, building resilience isn’t solely about following emergency instructions—Just being told what to do isn’t always enough to keep people and communities safe. They need to understand why those instructions are just so essential, especially as failure to grasp this concept could leave people vulnerable. Especially in situations such as flooding, where misconceptions can be life threatening.

As Scotland faces new and more frequent challenges caused by natural hazards and climate change, the necessity to build strong community resilience becomes more imperative than ever before. The answers are not simple to find and it is widely recognised that no single organisation, individual or authority holds all the answers. Only through collaboration across multiple sectors and disciplines, organisations and communities can we seek to create a stronger future.

From our past research* we learned that effective communication and resilience capacity building requires striking a delicate balance between providing sufficient information for self-directed learning and avoiding overprotection—a balance essential for empowering individuals to navigate challenges independently.


Community Councils and groups tell us that whilst many have a clear understanding of resilience to the challenges presented by natural hazards, large proportions of communities are simply not engaged. As a result they want to be empowered with grass roots informed practical tools and help to communicate effectively with all individuals in accessible and engaging ways. They have asked for visual aids, communication tools and instructions for how to seek out and deliver clear messaging to different audiences in ways that they will find relatable and clear.

Therefore, in January this year, we held a workshop that brought academic colleagues, community representatives, and local government from across Scotland, together with representatives from the creative industries to think through new and innovative ways to support our communities with engagement and communications.

Image shows attendees at the NCR's 'the art of communicating resilience' event in January 2024 Attendees are sat round tables discussing
Our ‘The Art of Communicating Resilience’ event in January 2024


Including the creative sector brings a unique ability to communicate, engage, and inspire, through visual storytelling, innovative design, immersive experiences, and a wealth of tools that can convey complex concepts in accessible ways. Equally it can help foster empathy and understanding by tapping into emotions and experiences that can resonate with audiences of all ages and backgrounds. It can break down language barriers and engage diverse communities. Whether through interactive exhibits, educational games, or community workshops, the creative industries offer dynamic platforms for dialogue and learning.

In the context of resilience-building, the unique characteristics of the creative sector combined with practical experience, academic evidence and community understanding provides a versatility that could be invaluable to demystify complex concepts, bridge gaps in understanding, empower individuals to make informed decisions, foster community cohesion and cultivate a culture of preparedness.

Attendees at an accessible creative workshop in Dumfries
Attendees at an accessible creative workshop in Dumfries – Image credit to For Enjoyment CIC


Already, tangible outcomes have emerged from our January collaborative workshop. Designers in the NCR’s core team have been working with cross sector partners and created a new and engaging educational game. It is set to launch later this year and clearly demonstrates the power of practitioner, academic, policy and creative collaboration in providing tools to help cultivate resilience in audience specific groups.

Looking ahead, the NCR remains committed to advancing resilience-building efforts through a blend of practical tools and academic inquiry. As Scotland navigates an increasingly uncertain future, collective action and creative ingenuity will be indispensable in building strong communities that can stay safe from the impacts of natural hazards.

* “Fostering resilience in young people with additional support needs using a ‘settings’ approach”   May 2022, Authors: A. Bell, A. Whitelaw, A. Mackay, P. Barber

Thankyou to For Enjoyment CIC for the creative session images.

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