On Resilience

Loosely defined, resilience is the capacity of a system—be it an individual, a forest, a city, or an economy—to deal with change and continue to develop. It is both about withstanding shocks and disturbances (like climate change or financial crisis) and using such events to catalyze renewal, novelty, and innovation. In human systems, resilience thinking emphasizes learning and social diversity. And at the level of the biosphere, it focuses on the interdependence of people and nature, the dynamic interplay of slow and gradual change. Resilience, above all, is about turning crisis into opportunity. –Carl Folke

in http://seedmagazine.com/content/article/on_resilience/

As such the rules outlined by Simon Levin, Professor of biology and ecology at Princeton, for addressing resilience in this later state I think are a better point of departure for a more holistic view of resilience. He outlines 8 many of which will seem counter intuitive to policy makers brought up in an era of “fail safe” (a term credited to Wohlstetter at RAND for defining an approach to avoiding nuclear catastrophe).

They are:

  1. reduce uncertainty,
  2. expect surprise,
  3. maintain heterogeneity,
  4. sustain modularity,
  5. preserve redundancy,
  6. tighten feedback loops,
  7. build trust
  8. do unto others (I wonder whether this ought be “tit for tat” or the golden rule - do unto others as you would have them do on to you, or do unto others as they do unto you)

in http://ilabra.org/blog/why-resilience-term-worth-preserving

Like sustainability, resilience encompasses both strategy and design, guiding how choices are made and how systems are created. Stripped to its essence, it comes down to avoiding being trapped – or trapping oneself – on a losing path. Principles of resilience include:

  1. Diversity: Not relying on a single kind of solution means not suffering from a single point of failure.
  2. Redundancy: Backup, backup, backup. Never leave yourself with just one path of escape or rescue.
  3. Decentralization: Centralized systems look strong, but when they fail, they fail catastrophically.
  4. Collaboration: We're all in this together. Take advantage of collaborative technologies, especially those offering shared communication and information.
  5. Transparency: Don't hide your systems – transparency makes it easier to figure out where a problem may lie. Share your plans and preparations, and listen when people point out flaws.
  6. Fail gracefully: Failure happens, so make sure that a failure state won't make things worse than they are already.
  7. Flexibility: Be ready to change your plans when they're not working the way you expected; don't count on things remaining stable.
  8. Foresight: You can't predict the future, but you can hear its footsteps approaching. Think and prepare.

in http://www.foreignpolicy.com/articles/2009/04/15/the_next_big_thing_resilience

other metaphors, directions and questions

What I’m pointing at is that there’s an executive function in response to crisis: restore things to pre-crisis conditions using resilience models, or implement revolutionary change. Right now, what I’m not seeing in the dialogues about resilience that I’ve been exposed to is a clear discourse about resilience as an *alternative* to revolutionary change. I want to see a discourse about knowing when to make systems resilient and when to prime them for revolution. http://vinay.howtolivewiki.com/blog/global/beyond-resilience-visionary-adaptation-1374

The term “resilience” is often held by some to be the holy grail of social qualities for all organisations. Yet resilience isn’t always the most appropriate attribute in all cases, especially when change is necessary or desirable. http://news.noahraford.com/?p=206