How do we build on the 'Exploring Community Resilience' publication? Use this discussion to propose topics to give our next conversations focus.


If you'd like to help shape the agenda, please respond to this discussion thread with two paragraphs:

Paragraph 1 should contain a short response to the handbook. For example

- did any of the stories particularly speak to you?

- is the compass  framework helpful?

- Are there other resources you know of that aren't in the book that other CoP members might find helpful?

If appropriate, please also include a weblink to your own place or work so we can get a sense of where you're 'coming from'.


Paragraph 2 is your proposal for 'what next':

- Are there areas that warrant more exploration?

- Are there thorny issues that would benefit from being brought into the light?

- Is there a very practical challenge you are facing now that you could do with support about? 


The Community of Practice Steering Group can then consider how best to support some next steps. Email with any questions.


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Replies to This Discussion

Hi Nick - glad to oblige:

Para 1 [reflection]

An aspect of culture I’d like to see explored and developed more fully is that of local history.


It’s always seemed to me a powerful means of drawing together newcomers and longer-standing members of communities:  the former gain a sense of ‘place’, whilst those who have lived somewhere for a long time have the chance to share their understanding and knowledge, are perhaps flattered by the attention and all comers can gain from the interaction.


Para 2 [questions]

A further element related to history is the way in which we seem so poor at taking lessons learned, through evaluations and monitoring reports, and improving subsequent practice.


Oftentimes evaluations appear to be ‘tacked on’ at the end of a policy, programme or project and thereby never influence what happens next. Allied to this is a pathological inability to build on success and, instead, to reinvent.


So the questions are - am I right!? If so, why is this the case?



I think we still have a thorny issue and a problem with the reductionist approach we take to resilience. We continually want to break things down into discreet little projects and initiatives and then consider how they can be transposed elsewhere. We have to understand the differences and then the connections and put effort into collaborative engagement.
The reductionist problem is then perpetuated by the organisational models we use. They have changed little over the past 300 years and yet we do not challenge them and accept them as sacrosanct. We should be looking at new ways of organisaing what we do not based on the legality of structures but the creative utility and the dynamics of the interactions of people and communities. The current system is comfortable for the elite but perpetuates the damaging norms that exasperates the problems facing people and communities and can hinder the opportunities that can emerge from new practice.

Hi Nick

thanks for the chance to look at this. 

Para 1 (sorry Nick – not a short one!)

1)    The examples and narratives within the book bring home different aspects of resilience. These narratives showed how people interpret resilience in different ways; how it might be developed in different ways and how different forms might be required by different communities. Narratives illustrate case studies and hence provide a more contextualized, holistic understanding of different aspects of resilience than a purely numeric, indicator driven process. This sort of approach can help us escape from the reductionist view that so often dominates these assessments, as Ian says. I liked the emphasis on diversity and modularity in one section – again this emphasises that we are not striving for a common form of resilience but rather that diversity itself enables more forms of adaptation and resilience. There is a paradox here – we agree that there is some danger in developing a reductionist, index driven approach, but practitioners (and academics) are crying out for ways to measure resilience. We need to be careful to allow different types of resilience and to also assess the process, recognising that we are dealing with complex systems.

2)    Resilience has become both an endpoint of community development work and a means to an end (sustainable development?).

3)    I found the section on resilience and creativity inspiring. Coming from a sustainability field, there is a lot of serious talk and a sense of needing to survive, of having to earnestly convince others, of having a duty to ‘save the planet’. Increasingly we see in communities that it is easier to engage people in fun, creative activities. Carnivals, Big Lunch – lots of nice examples here to contemplate and learn from.

4)    I was surprised in this book to see so little reference to the environment. Whilst the term resilience is used in a broad sense around communities, to indicate adaptability, ability to cope etc, the term originally derived from the concept of resilience in botany with reference to the resilience of an ecosystem to adapt/cope /respond to change. Out of this emerged the concept of socio-ecological resilience.  I accept that this is a particular version of resilience, but would have liked to see more explicit mention of ecological factors. For me, a key aspect of resilience is about living within local and global ecological and resource limits – in other words, understanding the environment and its limitations.




Para 2

What next? How do we develop mechanisms to assess resilience without seeing a particular form of resilience as a static endpoint? How do we nurture diverse, creative forms of community development? How do we recognise the process as well as the snapshot in time? How do we reengage with environmental issues?




Hello Nick

I have come to this Community of Practice only recently. My interest and response is informed by an earlier professional existence that included facilitating systems thinking and organisation development, and by my current participation in the transition initiative in the rural area to which I’ve ‘retired’ (Mmmm have rarely been so busy …)


Para 1 (reflection)

Really appreciated the opportunity to benefit from the distilled insights of diverse practitioners. It’s always valuable to find neat articulations and simple diagrams that encapsulate complex ideas.

I found the description of resilience as a function of diversity and inter-connectivity neatly captures the logic that underpins our local transition initiative’s aim to repair and refresh the fractured links between our small rural market town and its hinterland villages. We can encourage links between local communities much more easily than we could address the social factors that have led to the loss of diversity within the town or in specific villages.

I’m also energised by the prospect of using the resilience compass to facilitate a positive, non-judgemental dialogue around the characteristics of our local area. I can imagine using it successfully with people who react against any implied criticism, especially from an incomer. I’m thinking of starting out with a few fellow transitioners and supporters at our AGM … and then, deep breath, perhaps it’ll be the town council.


Para 2 (questions): I’m reflecting on my questions about resilience during the run up to local elections on May 5th. In my local area, as in many others, there are villages where the nominations for parish council were insufficient to fill available seats so there will be no election. My question is – has this anything at all to do with resilience? In a community where the people, links, economy and culture are thriving (breaking through) would we expect to see high levels of democratic engagement – or has ‘the system’ become irrelevant?



Thanks Nick and everyone


In general terms I like the model - I think it is very useable.


What occurs to me integrating the above a bit is some of the resources could be re-structured to serve as a back up pack of inputs that could be used for participants in workshops using specific methodologies such as Future Search, which gives a good place for local history and is flexible enough to accomodate the variations between localities.


Good luck



1. Reflections

I think the balance between theoretical stuff and lots of very diverse examples works well - stories are inspiring and make the theory come alive, and the theoretical framework makes sense of the stories. The compass model is a valuable tool I think, and can be used to test local activists’ and groups’ views on where a community is – I’ve used a similar wheel of wellbeing approach, using the group’s own indicators, in a community-led planning group I’m doing some work for in Oswestry, Shropshire.


The creativity stories are great - the idea of ‘rehearsing for resilience’ is especially resonant. I’ve found in social enterprise development work that successful social entrepreneurs are often artists/ creative folk  -  maybe because they see possibilities others don’t and are used to making something out of nothing or very little.


The energy/peak oil stories are important, I think – although I’m involved in HES I still find the whole area daunting to contemplate. Modular grids for energy are surely one of the solutions, but how do local community actions, as in Eigg, HES and the Three Rivers hydro project in Brecon link become influential enough to change national (lack of) policy?


I also responded to the idea of place-based education to encourage young people’s involvement in resilience-building. The teacher’s story of  children encouraged ‘up and out’ of their communities is I think universal in the UK, has been for a long time, and is deeply damaging especially to more deprived areas. Perhaps this approach could link with James Derounian’s call for local history and learning from the past.


I’m currently working with a range of social enterprise, council, business and third sector colleagues on an ‘outside the box’ approach to delivery of public services in Shropshire, inspired by the conversations at Hill Holt Wood and on the Fiery Spirits site before and since. The idea is to bring together the skills and strengths of different sectors, to build mutual understanding, trust and respect for the practical delivery of essential services at local level. In the present situation I hope this approach will make a real contribution to resilience building.


2. questions

I also think  working within environmental limits, conservation issues, eco-system goods and services could  be explored more. Connecting people and landscape is a big theme in our work and I think is becoming more noticed. One practical way this is done is exemplified by Tir Coed in west Wales, where I’ve been helping them with social enterprise development – they train disadvantaged young people in woodland skills, very successfully.


Generally though, how do people learn the skills of connection and resilience? Cultural and economic changes, and the general emphasis on individualism, have isolated people & many no longer know how to connect.


And how do we connect the small local action/story with the big picture, and connect up local actions which still often seem very boundaried – anything to do with health and education seem particularly stuck in their own world. But the dance story TR14ers came out of a health initiative, which I’m now involved with though I have no background in health, so it is possible.

Sorry posted this as comment in group rather than on discussion thread - copying here...

Congrats on a very useful framework that captures well the diversity in views and attitudes to community resilience. What really resonated with me was how the CoP 'commitment to bringing people together who didn't know they needed to meet' could be the guiding principle for the handbook and for next steps!

From our work over the last 20 years in local area development in Ireland, we see a need for better collaboration not just within the community, but for new models of partnership between the public, private and community sectors.  There is real opportunity for people engaged in greassroots arts and cultural activity to be part of the solution - bringing their natural resourcefulness and creativity to enable those new models of partnership with the public and private sectors.  There is a need for a process that engages local people in imagining new possibilities in a positive way.  I liked the use of action learning to mobilise action and forge, test and strengthen key relationships. In MCO our 4D process approach is rooted in 'thinking differently about what we have and how we use it'.  Can we all move on from 'top-down' and 'bottom-up' to a new collaborative way of becoming more resilient?    The importance of local storytelling is key and using the compass as a 'mapping' tool to gather, audit and value local assets so that decisions are not made in a vacuum by local authorities.  We are exploring how best to set up a resilient communities trust in Ireland that address this need for greater cross-sectoral collaboration.


On next steps and further research, I would suggest:

1. What are the benefits of moving on from 'top-down' 'bottom-up' stance to a brokering of all sectors within a specific area to focus on shared goals and pooling of resources?

2. How can an area-based approach to local 'mapping' and 'brokering' more cohesive action unlock the potential for local smart green and resilient economies?

3. What are the most appropriate mechanisms for an honest broker enabling collaborative action to delier on opportunities identified without creating a dependency?

Nick – thanks for the invite!


I found the book fascinating – I actually think it goes beyond thinking about crisis and is a good way to think about regenerating communities locked in a state of shock.  I also feel it gives a focus for “localism” as a concept – that’s useful for me.  I also find the comments here very pertinent and I agree much of what been said (which is odd for me..I like an argument!)

The compass framework is very useful; I find models that look at multiple dimensions more valid and it’s a potent message regarding the need for cooperation.  No one group, agency, individual can impact on all 4, but all 4 are critical to general wellbeing, as well as building capacity to deal with shocks or crisis. 

It reminds me of this: 

The stories were essential, and Cumbria was of particular interest to me.  It was interesting example of the “reliance is a muscle” concept.  Cumbria has had a rough time of it...Chernobyl fallout, foot and mouth, floods and the appalling murders in June 2010.    As a “community”, governance wise it has a number of district councils, a county council and a National Park authority...transport links are pretty challenging (trying driving from Penrith to Seascale....its quicker walking!)  Is it’s an example worth further exploration?  It would appear the odds are against resilience and yet these stories tell otherwise.


With regard what next; I think some urban examples might be useful.  I also think that communities can be in serious tension (e.g Dale Farm?) and can have very disparate wealth, health, wellbeing etc.  How issues such as that have been/can be managed is worthy of some deeper thinking and some examples.  There’s also the matter of localised resilience vs national policy.  In my old world, it was Local Authorities senior staff and local politicians  fought that out and still do. Perhaps a look at the state of those mechanism? Are they relevant?   It should be noted that there is a definite move in LA’s to “localism” as a way forward (or a way round the national indifference?) and some good examples:

This one of my favs:

More here:

Lastly, I think this is a very elegant example of the of what your trying to communicate in your book.  A bit of facilitation, a lot of local commitment and some very significant results (achieved by accident!) 



Hi Nick!

It's been a while but you will see from the immanent publication of my book that I have been busy on a parallel track.

I think your book is excellent for starting people off and I aim to use some of the ideas in it to warm up my local area of Pitlochry.

My World System Model approach is more complex but we have some interesting case studies of the IFF World Game version of it that have gone down really well in a variety of groups from ecovillage to boffins!

IFF hope to make available a DIY version of the game which might provide and additional resource for communities that have got started and want to dig deeper into the the idea of transformative resilience.

I have posted a note of the launch event in Edinburgh on December 6th. It would be great if you could come.

Meanwhile perhaps we could cook up a joint event sometime in the new year. It is, after all, 2012 and, as in the movie 2010, "something wonderful is going to happen".

best wishes


Apologies if my understanding and opinions of the publications are naive- I am relatively new to the sector!!


Paragraph 1

‘Exploring Community Resilience - In Times of Rapid Change’ is an informative and enlightened approach to understanding how community resilience can be fostered and vulnerability can be diminished. In particular, I was interested in ‘Learning from Katrina.’ I think this example exemplifies and deconstructs the values of the three types of social capital, yet also presents ‘grey areas’ surrounding the nature of social capital and financial resource. To some extent, social capital must exist in all communities and be beneficial as ‘Bonding Social Capital’ refers to ‘close ties…- such as family and close friends.’ However in the case of Katrina, in the immediacy of emergency, stocks of ‘Bonding Social Capital’ were too low to be of any value, and even if they were higher, it appears that social capital cannot be of true value in an emergency without the presence of all three types. 

Upon reading the Boston Globe exert, p.9, I debated the explicit correlation between social capital and the existence of significant financial resource. The journalist equates low stocks of social capital with a lack of financial and ‘affluent’ human resources to escape an emergency. However, in the example of Cumbrian communities affected by floods, high stock of social capital destined community members to stay. Therefore, I am left questioning as to whether social capital aids individual or community benefit- is it dependent upon the situation or economic status of a community? Are the impacts of social capital determined by different cultural dimensions? (i.e collectivism/individualism,masculinity/femininity.)

Furthermore, the example of Katrina highlights the interrelated need to identify, anticipate and prepare for risks and develop ‘Bridging’ and ‘Linking’ social capital in areas where stocks are low. For example in the Cumbrian narrative, assistance from bodies such as RAF, RNLI, Mountain Rescue, Red Cross, Royal Engineer is noted during the crisis. The crisis was addressed as and when it was unfolding. It is quite likely that such communities expected assistance due to high stocks of existent ‘Bridging’ and ‘Linking’ capital, therefore communities were not fearful. Conversely, risks were not prepared for in the Katrina situation, it was entirely a ‘clean-up effort.’ It is likely that assistance was not expected, therefore panic and mayhem ensued. It is quite clear that community resilience can only be progressed should communities
be aware of and confident in their service provisions, should they be administered by private, public or third sectors. Collaborative interventions and communications must be developed in order for communities to identify, ask for or anticipate particular assistance.

Is the compass framework helpful?

I think it is an aspirational model which could be of real benefit to community groups who wish to measure resilience and advances therein. It encourages a joined up approach and connects initiatives, which as I mentioned above, should by key to developing social capital and community resilience. I live in an area which is developing a robust ‘Localised Economy:’ sustainable community-owned land (Bute Community Land Company , sustainable food production (Bute Produce), sustainable energy (Fyne Futures; Bute Forest), services (e.g. Argyll Voluntary Action) and housing (Fyne Homes.) Although current focus on the Isle of Bute is geared towards developing a localised economy, nonetheless, these initiatives have positively impacted other elements of the ‘Compass.’ Furthermore, I am encouraged that ‘Healthy Engaged People’ are integral, more social initiatives and organisations should incorporate the knowledge of healthand social care providers - I have recently became involved with Argyll and Bute Local Services Initiative (ABLSI) which successfully capitalizes upon the combined expertise of the third, public and health sectors. 

Paragraph 2

As stated throughout the publication community resilience is often engendered following an emergency, problem situation or crisis, therefore I think different models of comprehensive emergency/risk management, relative to cultural dimensions, social capital levels and community size, should be researched further. For example, in smaller rural communities, a primarily third sector/ voluntary section approach may suffice and be expected, however in larger areas, working relationships and strategies between the private, public and third sectors may have to be developed and negotiated.

Alongside some American commentators, I have personally identified an emerging mistrust in regards to the capabilities and aptitudes of some third sector organisations and staff. Mistrust of corporations grew from abuse,whether intentional or not, and opaque communications, therefore further emphasis should be placed on strategies and applicable frameworks in which to install best practices and communications.


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