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Resilience Scan: A review of literature, debates and social media on resilience

This Resilience Scan summarises writing and debates in the field of resilience during the third quarter of 2017.
Abhishek Sen


This Resilience Scan summarises writing and debates in the field of resilience during the third quarter of 2017. It comprises an ‘expert view’ on coastal resilience, an analysis of Twitter discussions from the past six months, and summaries of high-impact grey literature and academic journal articles.

We summarise our understanding of the impacts of climate change at the coast and explore the challenges and opportunities presented. We promote a greater emphasis on adaptation and resilience, including the need to make space for an increasingly squeezed coast to safeguard its natural dynamic resilience (and its role in supporting conventional engineered defences). We discuss issues of regional sediment conflicts (as coastal areas are starved of sediments in response to development choices in the upstream catchment and updrift coast) and social injustice (as the vulnerable are disproportionately disadvantaged by climate change) as indicative of the multi-dimensional challenges at the coast and as underlining the need to mainstream whole-system, long-term thinking if we are to be successful.

Find links to more Resilience Scans under Further Resources. A summary of the key points from this publication is provided below.

What’s in this quarter’s scan

Resilience on Twitter

This Resilience Scan provides an analysis of resilience conversations over two quarters, from April 2017 to September 2017, in a range of different contexts, including climate change, agriculture, food security, conflict, urban development, water and economic resilience.

Resilience in the grey literature

Our examination of the grey literature on resilience published in July–September 2017 includes 28 articles from research and private-sector institutions, humanitarian and development agencies. These span seven broad themes: finance and investment for resilience; urban resilience; climate and risk information; hard and soft infrastructure; agriculture and food security; fragility, conflict and governance; and taking stock of resilience concepts and approaches.

Resilience in the academic literature

The academic literature on resilience scanned from the third quarter of 2017 covers 28 publications that cover five thematic areas: agriculture, livelihoods and food security; conceptual approaches, indicators and measurement; understanding impacts, policy and governance; community resilience; and health.

Key findings

Multiple disciplines and domains of practice employ resilience thinking. We can interpret the literature discussed in the scans of blogs, academic and grey literature based on five broad characteristics of resilient systems identified by the Rockefeller Foundation. These are distilled through a consideration of a wide body of research on the topic:

1. Awareness.

  • Access to climate information and forecasts is vital for raising awareness of imminent climate risks, but language barriers, technical barriers and lack of knowledge regarding how to apply this information undermines resilience.
  • Greater awareness and comprehension of informal urban contexts are required to reduce misconceptions and to enhance DRR interventions for strengthening resilience in such contexts.
  • Gaps in resilience awareness or knowledge among households and municipal decision-makers across different sectors present a central concern in the academic literature.

2. Diversity.

  • Market systems development can open up diverse livelihood and market opportunities, thereby enhancing resilience.
  • The involvement of a diverse group of stakeholders in decision-making is necessary to minimise negative impacts and maximise co-benefits in other sectors, particularly in areas of conflicting interests and policies.
  • Though diversification presents a major opportunity to increase the resilience of livelihoods, climate change can also reduce the availability of diversification options.

3. Self regulation.

  • City governments can take action to tackle climate risk and climate change even without significant support from national-level policy, with leadership and creativity.
  • Health systems need to be adjusted to resource-scarce contexts and be able to cope with and learn from shocks for their reorganisation if they are to become more resilient and support UHC in African countries.
  • To ensure post-disaster reconstruction supports longer-term community resilience, standard project management cycles need to be expanded by prevention and preparedness activities.

4. Integration.

  • A ‘one UN’ approach that integrates the DRM and conflict agendas is needed to implement the overlapping prevention and sustaining peace agendas.
  • Migrants, particularly those who are not well integrated into society, face greater climate risk as they are less able to access climate forecasts, warnings and other information.
  • Integrating the concept of resilience within the assessment and management of emergency planning can help to strengthen emergency preparedness.
  • To strengthen the resilience of food security, ecological approaches need better integration with socioeconomic considerations, to support a holistic approach across multiple scales.

5. Adaptiveness.

  • Flexible funding is needed to enable adaptive programming.
  • Emergency cash transfers, and especially cash-for-work programmes, can help to enhance women’s adaptive capacity following a disaster, by supporting their economic empowerment.
  • Strengthening the resilience of smallholders can help them to grapple with climate change, but decidedly reducing hunger also requires structural transformation of food systems.
  • The adaptation of social-ecological systems to continuous conflict can, in turn, shape or intensify the dynamics of the conflict.
<p><strong>A life-cycle model to support effective reconstruction of housing after a disaster</strong>(figure 33 of the report;<em>Vahanvati and Mulligan, 2017)</em></p>

Suggested citation

Kirbyshire, A., Lovell, E., Morsi, H., Sayers, P., Tanner, T. and Weingärtner, L. (2017) Resilience Scan July-September 2017: a review of literature, debates and social media on resilience. London: Overseas Development Institute.

Further reading

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