A Critical View On The Term Resilience

Resilience, definition ambuigities, use and purpose

What is the utility of resilience as a scientific construct? The term suffers from ambiguities in definitions and terminology, and is used in different ways in an array of different professional areas, – is the term resilience on its way to be undermined?

Resilience is not only about how a country or community are able to withstand social or financial crisis, or criminality, epidemics, cyber-attacks, natural disasters and conflicts. It is also about how to build trust and societal safety and security. It is about politics, power and community interests, as well as crisis or disaster risk mitigation and response, or quantitative measures that capture and implement engineering resilience in critical infrastructure structures.

Governments, finance organizations, researchers, professionals, NGOs, community groups and activists all over the globe, use the term. Despite its widespread use, there is a confusion, – what does it mean and what purpose does it serve?

The “common” understanding of the term is defined by most as the ability to recover from or adjust easily to misfortune or change. A capability of a strained body, community or structure to recover its size and shape after deformation caused by compressive stress.

In the development community, resilience is central to resolving challenges of capacity building, integral development, and governance. USAID defines resilience as “the ability of individuals, households, communities, institutions, nations, or even value chains and ecosystems to withstand crises, recover from them, and adapt so as to better withstand them.”

So, let us discuss the content and meaning of this term from different angels and perspectives!

Panel chairs

Lillian Katarina Stene (corresponding panel chair)
Biographical notes: Lillian Katarina Stene is Associate Professor in Risk Management and Societal Safety at the Faculty of Social Science/ SEROS (Center for Risk Management and Societal Safety) at the University of Stavanger, Norway. Research and teaching areas: New wars and conflicts. Development and security. Complex Emergencies, international crisis management, international response systems with emphasis on civil military coordination, crisis management concepts, societal safety, safety culture.  Some publications; Ratinonal Beliefs, -Inconsistent Practisies, Comprehensive approach: An appropriate tool to gain security in the new wars and complex emergencies? Unity of efforts in the New Wars?
e-mail; Lillian.k.stene@uis.no  Phone; +47 51831552

Riana Steen
Biographical notes: Riana Steen is Associate Professor in the field of Business and Economic at the BI Norwegian Business School. She is also Adjunct Associate Professor in Risk Management and Societal Safety at the Faculty of Science and Technology in the University of Stavanger, Norway. Her specialties and research interest is organizational resilience. Some of her publications are: ‘The trinity of resilient organization: aligning performance management with organizational culture and strategy formation’;  Toward Resilient Organization: Strengthening Performance Management in an Era of Turbulent Change’; ‘A risk assessment approach to support the launching of new products, services or processes’;  ‘The concept of ignorance in a risk assessment and risk management context’; ‘A risk perspective suitable for resilience engineering’.