Back in December, I posted a blog about how I think about and apply resilience to my research on hazards and the business community. From the high-level questions of “resilience of what” and “resilience to what,” this post will drill down into specific principles of resilience, and how they are applied to this topic.
The Stockholm Resilience Centre has developed seven resilience principles, which form the basis of my evaluation of economic resilience to hazards. Economic resilience to hazards is the ability of the local business community to handle natural hazards. By focusing in on how resilience principles can be applied to that specific intersection of stress and system, we can identify targeted ways to increase resilience and therefore reduce the vulnerability of the business community. This post will look at the first three resilience principles, and how they apply to the more narrow focus of economic resilience to hazards.
The first principle is “maintain diversity and redundancy.” Diversity helps because not all things are impacted in the same way by the same disruption when they have different qualities. Redundancy helps because functions are covered by multiple elements. If one system fails, the function is not completely lost; there are backups. From an economic resilience to hazards perspective, this becomes “support multiple types of businesses and back-up resources.” A community with different industries, locations and sizes of businesses can withstand hazards better. A community with multiple sources of power, water, and transportation options can get back on its feet sooner.
The second principle is “manage connectivity.” Connectivity is tricky, because you want enough connectivity for mutual support, but not such tight connections that breakdowns spill over. For economic resilience to hazards, this principle became “strengthen supportive networks.” By thinking about the networks that provide resources and support to businesses, we can focus on the connections that will serve businesses around hazards.
The third principle is “manage slow variables and feedbacks.” When systems change slowly, it can be hard to notice it happening, and even harder to determine the point at which the change is irreversible. Declining populations of fish or the pollution levels in a river are examples of this type of change. Another challenge is that there are infinite systems in our communities, and we cannot track all of them. This principle, when applied to economic resilience to hazards, became “identify and track areas of vulnerability.” By focusing on areas of vulnerability, the particular systems that businesses rely on, we are more likely to catch shifts that will have significant impact.
These three principles focus on the outcomes that resilience planning seeks to accomplish. The principles in my next post will focus on the process of pursuing those outcomes. Both are important in creating resilience.