So what is community resilience anyway!?

Blog by Tal Fitzpatrick, Resilience Leadership Project Coordinator

Part of the reason that the focus on resiliencies is growing is the concern that resilience at a range of levels and scales (e.g. environmental, individual, communities, business, organisational, etc.) is declining. Source: Australia 21 – How Resilient is Australia?

In my initial research I have come across a wide variety of definitions and frameworks that try to explain what community resilience is. Resilience is a concept that has been explored and applied in a variety of professional fields and therefore there are extremely different understandings of this concept. Here are some of my favourite snapshots from my research around community resilience that explain what resilience means on a community level.

  1. "Resilience can be considered as the ability of a system (social, economic, environmental etc.) to maintain its general structure and functions (it's broad identity) even though it must adapt and change in various ways within that broad identity." Australia 21 – How Resilient is Australia?
  2. Community resilience means the capacity of communities to respond positively to crises. It is the ability of a community to adapt to pressures and transform itself in a way which makes it more sustainable in the future. Rather than simply 'survive' the stressor or change, a resilient community might respond in creative ways that fundamentally transform the basis of the community. Australian Government – Australian Social Inclusion Board NB. This is Volunteering Queensland's preferred definition, however each of these snapshots captures different key characteristics and understandings.
  3. "A community or region's capacity to prepare for, respond to, and recover from significant disturbance-driven changes: while maintaining community character, cohesion and capacity, and without permanent impairment of the community's public safety and health, economic, social, and national security functions, thus, accelerating recovery." SERRI 
  4. "Resilient communities are able to integrate their resources and capability to respond positively to crises and adapt to pressures." Australian Government – Australian Social Inclusion Board
  5. "Social resilience is the ability of groups or communities to cope with external stresses and disturbances as a result of social, political, and environmental change... ability of communities to withstand external shocks to their social infrastructure." Adger, 2000:347, 361
  6. "...the amount of disturbance a system can absorb and still remain within the same state...the degree to which the system is capable of self-organisation... the degree to which the system can build and increase the capacity for learning and adaptation." Klein, Nicholls, and Thomalla, 2003:35,40
  7. "Community seismic resilience is defined as the ability of social units to mitigate hazards, contain the effect of disasters when they occur, and carry out recovery activities in ways that minimise social disruption and mitigate the effects of future earthquakes." Bruneau et al. 2003:735

I would love to know what you think the main characteristics of community resilience are – please share your thoughts in the comments below!