Community Resilience Definitions and Notes

RAND Corporation

Psychological Resilience


Special thanks to Trathen Heckman, whose original writing and notes this page is based off of.

What is Resilience?
Resilience is a rich and complex concept. It has roots in systems theory , and it has a variety of interpretations and applications including for ecosystems management, disaster preparedness, and even community planning. Our interpretation is based on the work of the Resilience Alliance , the leading scholarly body working on the resilience of social-ecological systems. In that field, resilience is commonly defined as the capacity of a system to absorb disturbance and re-organize while undergoing change so as to still retain essentially the same function, structure, identity, and feedbacks.

Building Community Resilience
The interconnected environmental, energy, economic, and equity crises of the 21st century are posing complex and often-unpredictable challenges to communities around the world. But conventional forms of urban planning, design, and governance—often centralized, hierarchical, and inflexible—are ill-suited to these new realities. It's time to go beyond piecemeal urban sustainability efforts and meaningfully equip our communities for the the challenges. It's time to build our communities' resilience.

Community Resilience Definitions and Notes

  • Community resilience is a measure of the sustained ability of a community to utilize available resources to respond to, withstand, and recover from adverse situations
  • Community resilience is the ability of communities to withstand and recover from disasters and to learn from past disasters to strengthen future response and recovery efforts.
  • Resilient communities withstand and recover from disaster. They learn from the past to reduce vulnerabilities
  • Neighbor-to-neighbor reliance in a disaster, a cornerstone of community resilience
  • What are the levers we need to pull to get to a resilient community?
    • Wellness, access, education, engagement, self-sufficiency, partnership, quality, efficiency
  • Building from the base of resilient/prepared individuals and homes > neighbor to neighbor connections > strong orgs > org connections

Rob Hopkins Blog Post Nov 2011: Community resilience, Transition, and why government thinking needs both
  • “People in resilient communities use their existing skills, knowledge and resources to prepare for, and deal with, the consequences of emergencies or major incidents.
  • They adapt their everyday skills and use them in extraordinary circumstances.
  • People in resilient communities are aware of the risks that may affect them. They understand the links between risks assessed at a national level and those that exist in their local area, and how this might make them vulnerable. This helps them to take action to prepare for the consequences of emergencies.
  • The resilient community has a champion, someone who communicates the benefits of community resilience to the wider community. Community resilience champions use their skills and enthusiasm to motivate and encourage others to get involved and stay involved and are recognized as trusted figures by the community.
  • Resilient communities work in partnership with the emergency services, their local authority and other relevant organizations before, during and after an emergency. These relationships ensure that community resilience activities complement the work of the emergency services and can be undertaken safely.
  • Resilient communities consist of resilient individuals who have taken steps to make their homes and families more resilient. Resilient individuals are aware of their skills, experience and resources and how to deploy these to best effect during an emergency.
  • Members of resilient communities are actively involved in influencing and making decisions affecting them. They take an interest in their environment and act in the interest of the community to protect assets and facilities.

David Orr January 2012: Security By Design
  • Resilient systems are characterized by redundancy so that failure of any one component does not cause the entire system to crash. They consist of diverse components that are easily repairable, widely distributed, cheap, locally supplied, durable, and loosely coupled.
  • The goal of resilience, on the other hand, is an ongoing adjustment to changing political, economic, and ecological conditions. In practical terms, resilience is a design strategy that aims to reduce vulnerabilities
  • It will, in turn, require a scope large enough to include the basic food, energy, materials, economic, and education infrastructure at the neighborhood, community, and regional scales.
  • The network we propose would integrate local and regional projects into practical demonstrations of sustainability designed to foster the economic, environmental, and social growth of its surrounding community as well as the resilience needed to withstand systemic disruptions (larger storms, long droughts, heat waves, ecological stresses, economic downturns, terrorist acts, pandemics, etc.).
  • As Kentucky writer and farmer Wendell Berry once put it, our goal is to “solve for pattern,” so that every solution solves multiple problems, while causing no new ones.
  • The goal we seek is to foster a knowledgeable, ecologically literate, and competent public equipped with the practical skills necessary to effect the transition to sustainable communities.
  • Finally, we are interested in those communities and projects that integrate these areas—energy, food, education— into a larger pattern of sustainability that includes health, economic development, and the partnership of public and non-governmental organizations in order to create the capacity to withstand and/or rapidly recover from extreme weather events, acts of terrorism, power blackouts, economic crises, and so forth.

Kate Bodi October 2010: The Grassroots of Resilience
  • Community barter and trade key, self-organizing. Local production becoming more vital and of clear worth over other services.
  • Less populated areas with higher levels of personal accountability did better
  • Peeps became more resourceful, local currencies, solar and outdoor ovens more used
  • Music, arts, street theatre becoming vital. Social structures and networks changing.
  • Resilience / resilient: The capacity of a system, community or society potentially exposed to hazards to adapt, by resisting or changing in order to reach and maintain an acceptable level of functioning and structure. This is determined by the degree to which the social system is capable of organizing itself to increase its capacity for learning from past disasters for better future protection and to improve risk reduction measures. (from UNISDR's Basic Terms)

YES! Magazine
  • Just the Facts - Why Build Resilience?
  • 3 Ideas for a Resilient Future
  • Resilience Quiz
    • How to build resilience
      • Build a support network
      • Becoming locally reliant
      • Develop personal strength and self-care
      • In a survey by United Healthcare, nearly three-fourths of Americans who volunteer report that their volunteer work lowers their stress level; 70 percent say it makes them feel physically healthier.
  • Crash Course in Resilience
    • "Nor is this the bunker mentality of survivalists who look to save themselves regardless of what happens to others. Instead, these are creative, common-sense, low-tech approaches to meeting people’s needs now while planting the seeds of a more sustainable world for everyone."

Bay Localize Community Resilience Toolkit

Chris Martenson

Kenny Ausubel
  • October 2010 - The Shift Hits the Fan
  • "The key to building resilience is to foster the system’s capacity to adapt to dramatic change. As Dana Meadows observed, “A diverse system with multiple pathways and redundancies is more stable and less vulnerable to external shock than a uniform system with little diversity.”"

RAND Corporation

Community resilience (CR)—ability to withstand and recover from a disaster—is a national policy expectation that challenges health departments to merge disaster preparedness and community health promotion and to build stronger partnerships with organizations outside government… A baseline survey documented community resilience–building barriers and facilitators for health department and community-based organization (CBO) staff. Questions focused on CBO engagement, government–CBO partnerships, and community education.

Building Community Disaster Resilience -
  • All large-scale disasters demonstrate the critical importance of building community resilience.
  • Equitable and effective response and recovery strategies can be greatly enhanced by the presence of resilience capabilities in communities.
  • A health department's primary challenge in implementing community resilience initiatives is to achieve a cultural shift from a bioterrorism-focused and individual-preparedness orientation to an all-hazards, community-partnered, collaborative approach.
  • An emerging approach to public health emergency preparedness and response, community resilience encompasses individual preparedness as well as establishing a supportive social context in communities to withstand and recover from disasters.
  • Building community resilience has become a key component of national policy across multiple federal agencies and discuss the core principles embodied in community resilience theory—specifically, the focus on incorporating equity and social justice considerations in preparedness planning and response.

Assessing Community Resilience
Community Resilience Toolkits

Building Resilient Communities: An Online Training

Road to Resilience Infographic
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Psychological Resilience

In recent years, though, we have started to better understand the neural bases of prosocial human behavior such as happiness, gratitude, resilience, love, and compassion.

UC Berkeley Greater Good Science Center
Born to Be Good by Dacher Keltner
Taking in the Good by Rick Hanson

Why we meditate - Thanissaro Bhikku, from "Meditations"
"To watch things patiently so we can see them for what they are and deal with them effectively. Our concentration practice gives us a center in our awareness where we can rest, where we feel less threatened by things. When we feel less threatened and less oppressed, we have the resilience to be more patient, to look into what's going on in the mind, and to develop the proper attitude toward what is skillful and what isn't."


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