Resilience Thinking - What difference does it make?

Resilience is considered integral to permaculture and Transition. But what does it mean to you?

lonely-tree-xs-596x330.jpgIn many ways, the idea of building resilience - the capacity to survive and thrive in the face of change and/or adversity - is integral to permaculture and related movements for change (such as Transition Towns).

Permaculture principles point towards resilience, for example, in emphasising the need for ‘each important function to be supported by many elements’, and in encouraging us to ‘creatively use and respond to change’.

Permaculture practitioners are drawing on these ideas to inform their work with both ecological and social systems, at a range of different levels - from designing gardens that can cope with less predictable weather patterns to developing livelihoods with multiple income streams, from community projects that increase local capacities to turn problems into solutions to strategies for physical and emotional well-being.

In many ways, then, ‘resilience’ has served as inspiration for many engaged in attempts to foster creative alternatives to an inequitable and unsustainable status quo ‘from below’ - and if you’re reading this, this may well include you.

Alongside the inspiration that the concept of ‘resilience’ can offer, however, its expansion into more and more areas of life - from policy documents to corporate advertising, from the literature of peacebuilding and development NGOs to sports coaching, from management literature to local community initiatives - is generating critical discussions of its meaning and effects.

Critical analyses of the ‘resilience’ concept have raised concerns about it being used in ways that depoliticise, that do not pay sufficient attention to issues of power, inequality and disagreement, and that reinforce rather than question neoliberal economics and politics. There is concern that ‘resilience’ becomes a demand for stoicism and uncritical adaptation in the face of adversity, limiting or silencing discussion of the causes of the problems people face.

This is an invitation to engage in reflection on what ‘resilience’ has meant to you, and on what it means to you now: What has been helpful about ‘resilience thinking’? What has been problematic?  How has it informed your thinking and practice? What kinds of activities has it encouraged/ discouraged?

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