Applying resilience thinking

The concept of resilience has recevied enormous attention but confusion still exists about how it should be applied. Here are seven principles to help you along the way

Our planet is deeply marked and influenced by our presence. Scientists argue we have entered the Anthropocene, a geological epoch where there are now so many of us, using so many resources that we are disrupting the whole planet’s nutrient and energy flows leaving almost all the planet’s ecosystems with marks of our presence. The systems that are shaped by the interactions between people and ecosystems are the essence of what we call a social-ecological system.

A resilience thinking approach investigates how these interacting systems of people and nature can best be managed in the face of disturbances, surprises and uncertainty. We define resilience as the capacity of a system, be it an individual, a forest, a city or an economy, to deal with change and continue to develop.

But amid the enormous attention it has attracted, confusion exists. How it should be applied?

Here are seven principles to help you along the way

Principle one: Maintain diversity and redundancy
Principle two: Manage connectivity
Principle three: Manage slow variables and feedbacks
Principle four: Foster complex adaptive systems thinking
Principle five: Encourage learning
Principle six: Broaden participation
Principle seven: Promote polycentric governance

All the principles presented here require a nuanced understanding of how, where and when to apply them, and how the different principles interact and depend on one another. It is therefore essential to consider a complex understanding of what you want to build resilience of, and to what types of disturbances (e.g. fires, floods, urbanization).

Read more about the seven principles and how to apply them here