Learning to Apply Resilience

Over the past decade, few concepts have gained as much prominence as resilience. This rise of interest has led to increased attempts to apply resilience in practice. Resilience assessment is frequently recommended as a way of operationalizing resilience and it is now practiced worldwide, but does it work and what does it actually do?

New research from the centre presents the first in-depth evaluation of what the practice of resilience assessment actually accomplished.

The study was carried out in Eskilstuna municipality, which was named "Environmentally best Swedish municipality" of the year in 2012 and prides itself on being a leader in environmental sustainability. In this spirit, two of the municipality’s strategic environmental planners, Lars Wiklund and Lars-Erik Dahlin, pursued an interest in exploring how resilience could be applied in the municipality.

In particular, they were concerned that conventional planning was not addressing how global threats, such as climate change, peak oil, and financial crises would affect the municipality.

The assessment had four focus areas: food, water, transport and employment. All were assessed based on their capacity to deal with disturbances such as energy crises, economic crises, climate change and the struggle to stay within planetary boundaries.

However, the assessment lacked guidance on how to identify threshold effects. For example, it was much easier for the participants to identify thresholds related to water, such as when lakes become eutrophic, compared to finding thresholds related to more social focus areas, such as employment.

"We urge researchers to continue developing the Resilience Alliance Workbook and engage in local transdisciplinary learning processes. This way we can create useful assessments applicable to a diverse set of audiences and purposes," My Sellberg concludes.

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