A resilience masterclass launched by the University of Cumbria during the coronavirus crisis became a truly international event, with more than 860 participants from over 60 countries.

‘Resilience - a Journey of Becoming’ was the brainchild of senior lecturer in engineering Stephen Mullen, who is based in West Cumbria.

He said the university always tried to help people with their continued professional development, but was aware that accessing this training would be difficult for many in more rural parts of the county.

“We were looking to create something more bespoke for practitioners, particularly on the West Coast, on the theme of resilience” he said.

The sessions were originally planned to take place face to face at Energus, in Lilyhall, before they were pushed online by the virus.

However, this did not dull their popularity.

Stephen said news of the sessions spread, with people from all over the world taking part, including United Nations and Cabinet Office public servants, global business and community leaders, emergency services personnel and frontline humanitarian aid workers.

They all logged in to join the sessions from as far afield as Guatemala, South Africa and California.

He said the programme involved the “resilience community” - people such as paramedics and emergency planners, police and those involved in high hazard industries - who were able to make an online presentation with a discussion session to follow.

“It was an opportunity to bring some of the subject matter experts together,” he said.

“We wanted to bring a specialist speaker of international repute into Cumbria and get a local hero who has been on the ground and let them share their story alongside one of our academic subject matter experts.”

He said for many businesses and other organisations it was a challenge to be resilient in a situation which was so changeable and uncertain.

“For lots of large organisations resilience might be a checklist,” he said.

“But when you are dealing with uncertainty the plan you had today might not be the plan you have tomorrow.”

He said it was also important for people to develop self-care skills rather than only concentrating on other people.

“If you’re not in a place of safety and security yourself then your ability to care for another is quite limited,” he said.

Masterclass presenters have included internationally renowned hostage and crisis negotiator Andrew Brown, who delivers training on tactics at law enforcement agencies including the NYPD and FBI, and who is the chief security officer for the Jesuit Refugee Service based in Rome.

The nine one hour sessions, which finished at the end of June, covered topics including charity responses to crisis, communication, security issues and the importance of peer support.

They concluded with a graduation ceremony complete with a bagpipe performance from one of the participants in California, a final message from the Most Reverend and Right Honourable Dr John Sentamu, the university’s first chancellor and recently-retired Archbishop of York and a two-minute silence to remember those who had suffered losses during the coronavirus pandemic and those using their lives to fight it.