resilience & transformation

Resilience assessment as capacity building

The practice of resilience assessment requires some key conceptual framings. One, as in the Nature of Cities roundtable that I discussed last time, is around the questions of whether and how to measure the resilience of people-in-place. Another is around the standpoint of the assessor to the assessment. In other words, should the assessor's emphasis [...]

Measure city resilience? Lance Gunderson: don’t

The term resilience has specific meanings in engineering, psychology, and ecology. What might it mean for people-in-place to be resilient? A region, say, as my Ecotrust colleagues and I examined a few years ago, or a city or a neighborhood. These days, there is a lot of discussion about resilient cities, and last month, the [...]

Resilience 2014 master class

If you'd like to check out the recent Resilience 2014 conference, this video embedded above offers an inside look at the interdisciplinary conversations. Social anthropologist Melissa Leach, economist Luca Alinovi, and ecologist Brian Walker each begin by describing the influence of resilience thinking on their work. Leach focuses on the relationship between resilience and the [...]

With the triennial Resilience 2014 conference next month, I was looking back at this post I wrote after the 2011 conference. Fair to say, I think, that these statements still hold: resilience is increasingly discussed yet often narrowly understood. As we wrote in the title of the publication above, the resilience of social and ecological [...]

Understandings of transformation

Just what is this thing called transformation? I've been looking at a new paper and recent book that both seek patterns of understanding. One approach in the paper, "Social science understandings of transformation," by Katrina Brown, Saffron O'Neill, and Christo Fabricius -- part of the International Social Science Council (ISSC) “World Social Science Report 2013” [...]

Communicative resilience as a duality bridge

"Resilience and transformability are not 'opposites,'" cautioned Brian Walker at the Resilience 2011 conference. "They are compatible aspects of a complex adaptive system that functions at multiple scales" (video and slides). I think of resilience-and-transformation as a duality: each defined in relation to the other, and together comprising a whole. As systems thinking can be understood [...]

Judith Curry: resilience orthogonal to sustainability

In yesterday's post, "Forget sustainability – it’s about resilience," Judith Curry links to the 2008 version of Brian Walker's "Resilience Thinking" that I edited and published, and she writes: Over the last 5 years or so, I have been framing my research and applications related to extreme weather events around the concept of resilience. I viewed [...]

No resilience without transformation

Four years ago, on May 3rd 2009, Paul Hawken came to Portland, Oregon, to deliver a “direct, naked, taut, honest, passionate, lean, shivering, startling, and graceful” commencement address at the University of Portland (pdf). "Civilization needs a new operating system," he said, "you are the programmers, and we need it within a few decades." Hawken's [...]

ISSS slides on design for social change

Here are my slides from the 2012 International Society for the Systems Sciences conference. I organized this talk as a set of 12 propositions. The core idea is that the stability landscape metaphor, as developed by the folks in the Resilience Alliance, can be used as a heuristic for engaging in social change work. The [...]

Climate adaptation literature and links

Last week, Greg White, director of the Global Studies Center at Smith College, circulated a request: I'm keen on finding scholarly or solid journalistic treatments on "adaptation."  It's an oft-invoked concept, of course...  I wonder if people have suggestions for good articles suitable for syllabi -- pieces that would bring home the political implications of [...]

Resilience as ownership, capacity and connection

The 2008 UN and partners' Roots of Resilience report examines resource-dependent communities with an emphasis on ownership, capacity, and connection. Here is the nut graph, from "World Resources 2008: Roots of Resilience -- Growing the Wealth of the Poor," a joint publication of the United Nations Development Programme, United Nations Environment Programme, World Bank, and [...]

Buzz Holling on target-based management

I've been following the discussion of social impact bonds, in which a social venture like prison inmate training and rehabilitation is financed by a third party, evaluated against certain targets, and ultimately paid for by taxpayers if the targets are met. In this context, I took a look back at Buzz Holling’s writing on target-based [...]

Dynamic fluids and critical transitions

"I study the way shapes develop," says Norwegian artist Tone Kristin Bjordam. "I work in a very measured way and plan everything in advance. But the fun and exciting part is what happens by chance." Her movie Critical Transitions is a collaboration with ecologist Marten Scheffer, who also composed the music soundtrack. An October 2012 [...]

Andrew Zolli on resilience and sustainability

Resilience and sustainability are often discussed interchangeably, but it's worth drawing distinctions between them. PopTech founder Andrew Zolli distinguishes the two in a NYT op-ed. "The sustainability regime is being quietly challenged," he writes, "not from without, but from within." This introductory statement unfortunately misses half the story. The reality is that a perceived sustainability [...]

Panarchy and pace in the big back loop

[Reprinting an 18MAR2009 P&P article that came up in conversation today. --HS] “The back loop is the time of the Long Now,” writes Resilience Alliance founder Buzz Holling. It is a time “when each of us must become aware that he or she is a participant.” “The trick is to treat the last ten thousand [...]

Design principles: Buzz Holling

Last year, resilience pioneer Buzz Holling, one of the originators of adaptive management -- an approach to ecosystem management that emphasizes actively testing hypotheses and uncertainties -- summarized his experiences in a talk at the American Fisheries Society. Buzz' notes on "Lessons from Active Adaptive Management Experience" read to me like a set of design principles [...]

Local food systems: sustainability or resilience?

What are the benefits of local-regional food? Last week, I posted a John Ikerd talk on local food relationships as a means to restore national integrity(!). Today I'll stick with quantifiable stuff. A 2010 USDA report ("Local Food Systems: Concepts, Impacts, and Issues”) examined the question of local food benefits and found more research needed. [...]

Marten Scheffer and dynamical systems in NYT

Good to see a nod to Marten Scheffer in yesterday's NYT -- in an op-ed ("Searching for Clues to Calamity") by Scientific American executive editor Fred Guterl: Scheffer, a biologist at Wageningen University in the Netherlands, ... grew up swimming in clear lowland ponds. In the 1980s, many of these ponds turned turbid. The plants [...]

Regime landscapes and transformation

What comes to mind when you hear the phrase regime change? Donald Rumsfeld and Iraq? Or maybe some kind of popular uprising or coup d'état? That’s the usual understanding: the replacement of one governing body with another. But the regime metaphor can be applied more broadly as well. Not just to political regimes, but also [...]

Ecologist Brian Walker calls the dynamic between resilience and transformation: “learning how to change in order not to change.” In other words, learning how to transform maladaptive regimes, for the greater resilience of human individuals and societies. From the 2012 Krebs Lecture at the University of Canberra Institute for Applied Ecology (beginning at 21:15): When [...]