Reflections from the Tuesday parallel session “At the cutting edge: translating resilience theory into practice to facilitate sustainability transformations”

This conference is all about resilience, but how does one actually assess and measure resilience? Allyson Quinlan from the Resilience Alliance was the first speaker of the session. She was a co-author to the first resilience assessment workbook, Assessing Resilience in Social-Ecological Systems: Workbook for Practitioners 2.0. It explains how practitioners can actually use resilience in the field. One of the key points that she brough up was the need to “persist, adapt, and transform” when applying and assessing resilience, concluding her talk stating that “identifying what your purpose is of having a resilience assessment is” and then going from there is key to any assessment.

My Sellberg from the Stockholm Resilience Centre (SRC), Sweden, follwed Quinland’s talk and showed how a resilience approach is used by regional natural resource managers in Australia. The resilience approach influenced the manager’s planning to include a social-ecological systems perspective and adaptive management. However, there is still a gap in addressing transformations in the system. Sellberg ended her presentation by suggesting four points for applying resilience thinking in planning: 1) assess opportunity context, 2) establish role of entrepreneurs, interpreters, and networks, 3) strategies to manage complexity and uncertainty, and 4) combine with “managing in, out, and up.”

Next, Lance Gundarson from the University of Idaho College of Law, US, explained how to apply resilience concepts. He compared resilience assessment handbooks with a cooking TV show in which the contestants receive all the ingredients for a dish, but not the recipe and which they have to make up themselves. He says that he wanted to avoid having a cookbook for resilience assessment but rather provide people with the ingredients needed for planning and let them work out the recipe for their specific context and needs. He said “assessments help us understand system trajectories, and that most systems are in a rigidity trap maintained by lawsuits.” Yet laws on the other hand can institutionalize change.

Energetic Kelly Siman from the Univeristy of Akron, US, introduced us to the field of biomimicry, which is the study of looking at where nature has failed and learning from it. Kelly’s research is centered on the Ohio region of Lake Erie, one of the most stressed lakes in the system. Kelly says “there are a bunch of really wealthy people that don’t want to see a green lake” and this is beneficial to her work, because industries improve when there is pressure to do so. She also tied her talk back to the opening plenary about working with art to create resilience. Her and her colleagues partner with art students to design and create green infrastructure in the lake because at the moment the lake’s shoreline is characterized by unnatural, grey cement.

Finally, Elin Enfors Kautsky from the SRC introduced Wayfinder, a web-based platform that will be launched in 2018. The platform will focus on action. The tool will show actions strategies in three different domains: 1) nurture capacity of biosphere, 2) strategies to foster flexible management and governance, and 3) contribute to culture of stewardship. Kautsky and her colleagues at the SRC hope to bring forward “a comprehensive format that will still be simple yet useful for resilience practitioners.”

The session ended with a discussion about how to actually apply resilience assessment outside the realm of research. One of the participants from Ikea’s sustainability division, asked “how can we incorporate this at the corporate level at Ikea (for instance)?” Several participants and speakers immediately gave suggestions and advice on how to use resilience assessments at the corporate level. Elin suggested to “use a resilience lens right from the start when you are setting up a resilience program.” Siman added that corporate businesses in the US, such as Smuckers, are doing this by applying it to one stream, assessing it, and then scaling it up from there. This to me is what this whole conference is about, people sharing experiences, insights, and ideas and working together for a more resilient future.

Your Resilience2017 correspondent:

Ida Gabrielsson is a communications officer for the Sustainable Poverty Alleviation from Coastal Ecosystem Services (SPACES) project led by Tim Daw and Kate Brown. She has a master’s degree in Environmental Science with a focus on environmental communication from the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences (SLU). Ida has an interest in making environmental science accessible to a wider audience. She was born and raised in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania but is now happy to call Stockholm home.


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