Concepts 2 - Resilience Framework Building

Source Document: Joern Birkmann, Denis Chang Seng, Thomas Abeling, Nazmul Huq, Jan Wolfertz, Nuray Karanci, Gözde İkizer, Christian Kuhlicke, Mark Pelling, John Forrester, Maureen Fordham, Hugh Deeming, Sylvia Kruse, Sebastian Jülich. 23 July 2012. Systematization of Different Concepts, Quality Criteria, and Indicators. Deliverable 1.2. Work Package 1.

Working Paper 1.2 of the emBRACE project deals with the systematization of different concepts, quality criteria and the identification of components as well as indicators of resilience. The key aim is to review how resilience is assessed and operationalized in existing studies by drawing on the literature review of resilience research provided in emBRACE Working Paper 1.1 and additional recent sources and publications on frameworks and indicators for assessing community resilience.

The development of criteria to assess indicators of resilience is guided by the objective of contextualizing indicators within the different schools of thought existent in the literature, such as social-ecological resilience or psychological resilience, to name but two. The systematization of different concepts and indicators is based on the following categories: a) hazard/phenomenon, b) dimension scale, c) phases/context, d) component (of resilience), e) indicator and measurement of resilience. A definition for each of these terms is provided in section two. We show selected examples of studies that have proposed frameworks and indicators to assess social-ecological, psychological, critical infrastructure, organizational and institutional and community-focused resilience. Key findings from the systematization of indicators from five different schools of thought suggest the following:

Social-Ecological Resilience

Indicators for understanding and assessing social-ecological resilience vary with regard to their hazard context. While some indicators are provided independent of a particular hazard, others are hazard dependent, focusing, for example, on heat stress. In a hazard independent context, the indicators were presented in four stages: (1) (re)organization, (2) growth, (3) conservation, and (4) release. These reflect the four phases of the adaptive cycle. Each of the stages has its own set of resilience components. The characteristics of each component are defined by a set of indicators.

Although all the indicators are equally important in defining social-ecological resilience, some of the indicators occur more frequently in the literature.

The most prominent indicators and characteristics are: learning, sharing, re-organization, preservation of knowledge and re-sources, diversity, human capacity, and information and networking.

Apart from these indicators, context specific indicators are also available to assess specific characteristics of the resilience components. Traditional knowledge management, for example, is an important indicator for agro-ecosystem resilience while the availability of funds and experiments appear prominently in studies that measure resilience to heat stress. The spatial con-text of resilience indicators is as yet unaddressed in studies that measure social-ecological resilience. This is surprising, as the spatiality of measurement approaches defines the intrinsic values of indicators.

Psychological Resilience

We provide thirteen examples of key indicators used for assessing psychological resilience. These are drawn from the studies of Gillard & Paton (1999), O’Leay (2004), Norris et al. (2008), Bonanno (2009), and Mancini & Bonanno (2009). The key indicators include: (1) individual socio-demography, (2) individual resources, (3) community resources, (4) preparedness and mitigation, (5) social support, (6) personality, (7) spirituality, (8) disaster impact severity, (9) disaster experiences, (10) coping appraisals, (11) positive adjustment, and (12) positive emotions.

Critical Infrastructures Resilience

Studies trying to assess the resilience of critical infrastructure include the Bruneau et al. (2003), and Boin (2007). Key indicators that are closely linked to the discussion of infrastruc-ture resilience in the literature include: robustness, rapidity, redundancy, and resourcefulness. It remains to be examined, however, how exactly critical infrastructure relates to the resilience of the communities.

Organisational and Institutional Resilience

Organizational and institutional resilience seems to be predominantly operationalised independently from a specific hazard or phenomenon. As a consequence, the accuracy of information on the scale of measurement and the stage/context of the measurement remains rather broad. The specific indicators reveal the conceptualization of organizations and institutions as limited, closed entities of a larger system. Most of the indicators attempt to describe the ability of individual organizations to withstand shocks and to re-organize and learn after a shock has occurred. This implicit definition of organizations as autonomous, individual elements in a larger system risks undermining a broader conceptualization of both organizations and institutions as spatially-unbound elements of a system as a whole. This rather significant gap in research deserves further exploration. Finally, the preoccupation of indicator approaches with preparedness seems to be prominent. Measurements and indicators of organizational and institutional resilience are predominantly trying to assess the preparedness of organizations and institutions. They thus risk overemphasizing the importance of preparing for disturbances, which inherently necessitates arbitrary assumptions on the magnitude and frequency of shocks. This undermines a focus on flexibility and the notion of living with uncertainties, which would reflect current resilience discourses in the literature more accurately.

Practical Perspectives

We focus our attention on four examples of practical perspectives on resilience, including two from grey literature, which was found to be focused more explicitly than academic literature on measuring community resilience. The frameworks and approaches presented in these studies can thus inspire the development of a framework for community resilience in the emBRACE project. The first example (Twigg 2009) explores dimensions of resilience, which are organized under the thematic headings of planning, regulation, integration, institutional systems, partnerships and accountability. These represent the main areas of Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) interventions, based on a framework developed by the UN International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (UNISDR 2005): the Hyogo Framework for Action 2005-2015 (HFA). Characteristics set out in this study represent an ideal state of resilience in quite general terms, which there-fore could be said to relate equally to developed and developing world contexts.

The second practical example discussed in this Working Paper draws on the work of the Inter-national Federation of the Red Cross (IFRCRCS 2008). It outlines a framework for community safety and resilience. The Framework links closely with the 5 HFA priorities. The framework’s objective is to “establish a foundation on which all Red Cross Red Crescent programmes, projects and interventions in DRR and all actions which contribute to the building of safe and resilient communities can be created, developed and sustained” (IFRCRCS 2008: 2). Within this framework, resilient communities are perceived to: a) understand disaster risks, assess and monitor these and protect themselves to minimize losses and damage when a disaster strikes, b) be able to maintain basic community functions in times of disaster, c) build back after a dis-aster and work towards ensuring that vulnerabilities continue to be reduced for the future, d) understand that building safety and resilience is a long-term, continuous process that requires on-going commitment, and to e) be aware that being resilient increases chances to meet development goals. It is the IFRCRCS’s contention that more safety and resilience means less vulnerability. The framework is based on the understanding that building safety and resilience is a long-term, continuous process that requires ongoing commitment. In the face of such unknown factors as the effects of climate change, the degree of urban growth or environmental degradation, the study outlines that there is much that can be done to adapt to future problems and challenges by building on the current knowledge of communities.


Interestingly, the IFRCRS emphasizes that resilient communities appreciate the fact that being safe and disaster resilient means that there is a greater chance of meeting development goals, which in themselves will greatly add to safety and resilience.

The third practical example is drawn from the work of Cutter et al. (2010). The authors challenge Bruneau et al.’s (2003) critical-infrastructure focussed definition because the “operational framework ignores the dynamic social nature of communities and the process of enhancing and fostering resilience within and between communities” (Cutter et al., 2010: 2). The authors underline the importance of evaluating and benchmarking the baseline conditions that lead to community resilience and of measuring the factors contributing to adverse impacts and to the diminished capacity of a community to respond to and rebound from an event. In this example resilience is considered as a multifaceted concept, which includes social (e.g. age, transportation access, telephone access, language competency), economic (e.g. housing capital, employment, income and equality, health access), institutional (e.g. mitigation, insurance, experience), infrastructural (housing type, shelter capacity, medical capacity, evacuation potential’), ecological, and community (place attachment, political engagement, social capital, religion, civic involvement, advocacy) elements and indicators.

However, a key weakness of the comprehensive and holistic approach by Cutter et al. (2010) is the reliance on national data sources, which are often out of date and inadequate for characterizing local resilience. Furthermore, Cutter at al. largely exclude environmental or place-based indicators and therefore fail to offer a comprehensive assessment of ecological dimensions of community resilience.

The fourth practical example discussed in this Working Paper focuses on the work of Norris et al. (2008). The study finds that community resilience emerges from four primary sets of adaptive capacities or components: (1) economic development, (2) social capital, (3) information and communication, and (4) community competence. According to the authors, these capacities, when taken together, provide a strategy for disaster readiness. In the study, communities are perceived to be composed of built, natural, social, and economic environments that influence one another in complex ways. Norris et al. suggest that post-disaster community health depends in part on the effectiveness of organizational responses, and ultimately the purpose of disaster management is to ensure the safety and well-being of the public. The key indicators proposed in the study include: (1) resource volume and diversity, (2) resource equity and social vulnerability, (3) network structures and linkages, (4) social support, (5) community bonds, roots, and commitments, (6) systems and infrastructure for informing the public, (7) communication and narratives, (8) collective action and decision-making, and (9) collective efficacy and empowerment.

To identify key components of resilience and their associated sets of indicators, section three attempts to overcome the somewhat arbitrary divide of approaches to measure resilience be-tween different disciplines and schools of thought. To identify key components of resilience, we draw on feedback from experts involved in the emBRACE case studies, on a systematic review of the prominence of individual components in the studies presented in this Working Paper as well as on the focus of individual components of community resilience, in particular.

Overall, we have identified and listed 81 components of resilience. Out of these, fifteen main components of resilience have been synthesised. These are:

1. Governance (Actors, Institutional Arrangements, Organisations)

2. Education, Research, Awareness and Knowledge

3. Information and Communication

4. Culture and Diversity

5. Preparedness

6. Response

7. Protection

8. Exposure, Experience and Impact Severity

9. Resources

10. Infrastructure and Technical

11. Health and Well Being/ Livelihood

12. Economic

13. Adaptive Capacity

14. Coping Capacity

15. Innovation and Capital

In section four we discuss the key insights as well as gaps and challenges arising from the assessment and systematization of indicators. We find that often different indicators are used to assess the same components of resilience. Furthermore, a large set of sub-components of resilience is situated in the governance (actors, institutions, organizations) component. Gaps and challenges include the complexity and ambiguity of the resilience concept, the disturbance–stress context which underlines the necessity to define the perturbation of interest (“resilience to what?”), the interaction between dimensions and components of resilience, the ambiguity of the community concept within resilience research, as well as the difficulties in identifying quantifiable measurements of resilience.

Based on the assessment, systematization, and evaluation of this Working Paper, we formulate the following recommendations for the development of a theoretical framework within the emBRACE project:

- Elaborate on the concepts of community and community resilience. The five types of community outlined in emBRACE Working Paper 1.1 (geographical communities, communities of interest, communities of circumstance, communities of supporters, and communities of identity) can serve as a basis for such an endeavor.

- Define guiding questions for the framework, for example on what the most important systems, subjects or objects at risk are. Moreover, also identify the key perturbations or stressors (e.g. natural hazards) the case study deals with. This process should also be influenced by and reflected against the background of the empirical work to be conducted in the case-studies (WP5) .

- Apply the core components of resilience identified in this Working Paper to the system, subject or object of analysis within the community.

- Explore the interactions between and within the identified main and sub-components of resilience and their respective sets of criteria and indicators.

- Reflect on the role of the key components of resilience, identified in this Working Paper, in developing the theoretical framework. Innovation, for example, is identified as a key component in resilience despite a lack of sufficient information and examples about the role of innovation in building resilience.

- Focus on key components and indicators developed in a natural hazard context rather than on those drafted in non-natural hazard contexts.

- Pay adequate attention to the interactions and impacts of the key components in order to facilitate and accommodate all the indicators according to their disciplinary merit and importance.

Concepts 1 - Literature Reviews | Concepts 2 - Resilience Framework Building | Concepts 3 - the emBRACE Framework

Introduction | Concepts | Methods | Case Studies | Reaching Out | Resources