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Canadian Mennonite University (CMU)’s Centre for Resilience is now open for business.

Canadian Mennonite University (CMU)’s Centre for Resilience is now open for business.

The Centre for Resilience (CFR) is a co-working lab that will incubate and nurture social enterprises. Faculty, students and staff celebrated the grand opening of the $1.7 million centre on April 13.

"We're thankful for the opportunity to create a space designed to meet the needs of the 21st century," says James Magnus-Johnston, director of the centre. "The CFR will maximize the impact of social entrepreneurs, and allow students to work on complex, real-world problems."

The CFR's work links with CMU's teaching, scholarship, practica and other activities, says Dr. Cheryl Pauls, the university's president. These links will be found in many areas of study, including environmental studies, business and social innovation.

"Our hope is that the CFR will inspire students, faculty and others who connect through CMU to be good stewards of God's creation, competent and willing to blend patience and urgency, courage and inventiveness in all we are and do," Pauls says.

A handful of organizations have already signed on to join the CFR.

Magnus-Johnston is excited about the possibilities for the CFR, where businesses and non-profits can work together at social and ecological challenges.

"That's where the joy is," he says of the interplay that can happen between CFR stakeholders. "As a university, we should be able to experiment with new ideas, and if you think of faith as action in spite of the completely knowable—action in spite of uncertainty—all of these things are acts of faith in that regard."

The CFR's goal is to develop policy, design, and enterprise innovations for a resilient economy that improves social equity and environmental protection.

"I have a love/hate relationship with the word innovation" Magnus-Johnston says. In trying to make sense of how the CFR will be innovative, he went back to the Latin meaning of the word. To be innovative means to do something in a new way.

Climate change, social inequality, the emergence of a new kind of radicalism and fundamentalism in mainstream culture, First Nations water scarcity—social and ecological problems like these put constraints on the way we need to move forward, Magnus-Johnston says.

"What's beautiful about this is, when you recognize the constraints as real problems, then you start to work at them in new ways—in innovative ways," he says.

He adds that CMU has the potential to make an impact on the church and community with the CFR.

As a community of followers of Christ, people at CMU aren't afraid to look at the problems facing the planet, imagine a better world, take a risk, trust in something greater than themselves and work toward solutions.

"We're not afraid," Magnus-Johnston says, "of putting things back together again."

Pauls agrees. At its core, she says, the CFR is committed to nurturing resilience—the capacity of social and ecological systems to absorb disturbance, undergo change, re-organize, and all the while retain health of centred purpose and presence

"Resilience is about remaining true to what matters most, even when various aspects of an organization or activity take on new forms and look very different from before," Pauls says. "In theological terms, resilience is a way to talk about faithfulness before God through a time of disruption and change in the church, and also in other spheres of our lives."

Attending to the word innovation, Pauls adds, gives voice to yearnings that disruptions and changes will not lead to despair and destruction, but rather to new manners of flourishing.

"At CMU, a university moved and transformed by the life and teachings of Jesus Christ, innovation is about new ways of being present to God's ongoing transformation of the world," Pauls says. "I'm persuaded that faithfulness through the likes of stewardship—a biblical call and longstanding commitment of the church—has much more potential for innovation and transformation in church and society than we often recognize."

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