In March, I posted a blog about three of seven resilience principles put forth by the Stockholm Resilience Centre and adapted to my research. Those principles were “maintain diversity and redundancy,” “manage connectivity,” and “manage slow variables and feedbacks.” In this post, I will describe the remaining four principles and how I adapted them to economic vulnerability to hazards.
Economic resilience to hazards is the ability of the local business community to handle natural hazards. By focusing on how resilience principles can be applied to that specific circumstance, we can identify targeted ways to increase resilience and therefore reduce the vulnerability of the business community. This post will look at the final four resilience principles, and how they apply to the more narrow focus of economic resilience to hazards.
The fourth principle is “foster complex adaptive systems thinking.” Many of the resilience principles are based on a systems perspective, a way of thinking that emphasizes relationships and unpredictability rather than individual elements that function as they have in the past. This principle highlights the importance of not just addressing issues through individual strategies based on systems thinking, but habitually making connections between challenges. From an economic resilience to hazards perspective, this focuses on explicitly considering the connections between different disciplines, types of infrastructure, and hierarchical levels. Finding ways to create solutions that address multiple problems takes creativity and collaboration that systems thinking supports.
The fifth principle is “encourage learning.” Gathering information from many sources helps both to provide more data for planning, and includes additional perspectives. This principle also encourages regular revisiting of strategies based on new information. It is easy to rely on traditional methods without evaluating them to see if they still serve. From an economic resilience to hazards perspective, this principle becomes “gather and share information about hazards resilience.” This focuses on information about how local businesses can better prepare to absorb and recover from disruptions.
The sixth principle is “broaden participation.” For the sake of efficiency or ease, those with the authority to make decisions often only include participation from experts, the majority, or those proactive enough to seek out opportunities. Our communities include many members who lack the time, resources, or context to participate through traditional outreach. These community members require more effort to engage with, but their participation provides more complete understanding of the issue and strengthens social fabric. From an economic resilience to hazards perspective, this becomes “engage under-represented populations.” These populations could be based on geographic or demographic characteristics. Reaching out to voices that have not been included before leads to more representative decisions and a stronger community.
The seventh and final principle is “promote polycentric governance systems.” This refers to governmental structures that can act independently and in a coordinated fashion so that key decisions can be made flexibly depending on the circumstances. From an economic resilience to hazards perspective, this becomes “share and clarify roles and responsibilities with partner organizations.” Beyond city, county, state and federal government agencies, there are many organizations that have an active role in economic development. By connecting these autonomous groups, they can plan better for collaborative efforts, avoid duplicated effort, and anticipate roles during an emergency.
These four principles focus on how organizations work towards their missions on a daily basis, as opposed to the first three principles, which focused more on specific hoped for outcomes. While all are important, complex adaptive systems thinking is absolutely foundational, and sets the others up for success beyond a single project.