Challenges for resilience policy and practice

Working and discussion papers
September 2017
Thomas Tanner, Aditya Bahadur and Marcus Moench

Resilience is interpreted in multiple, often conflicting ways, which prompts critiques but is also viewed by others as a strength, bringing together otherwise disparate groups, institutions, disciplines and scales. The absence of explicit values within resilience concepts has caused some authors to caution its use as a guiding narrative or framework. A major challenge for practitioners lies in how to explicitly inject values and to navigate tradeoffs in resilience between groups, locations and timescales.

This working paper sets out the multiple ways in which resilience is interpreted. It highlights the broad dichotomy between functional and dynamic interpretations of resilience, which lead to different operational approaches. A functional perspective tends to fit with existing institutional approaches and a projectised approach, while dynamic interpretations perhaps represent the complexities and chaos evident across the world. The inconsistent treatment of system transformations is also a major challenge; while some see transformation as occurring incrementally within a system, others see it as when resilience fails and systems collapse.