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Resilience: A risk management approach

Working paper

Written by Katie Peters

Working paper

Resilience, a concept concerned fundamentally with how a system, community or individual can deal with disturbance, surprise and change, is framing current thinking about sustainable futures in an environment
of growing risk and uncertainty. This Background Note explores the concept of 'resilience' and investigates whether a common definition and understanding can be reached and whether resilience can be translated into a practical set of tools and approaches.

The paper begins by examining some core definitions of resilience, before progressing to explore how resilience might be measured, how risk can be managed to build resilience and also investigates the dangers in aligning resilience and risk management.

This research suggests that resilience is an integrating concept that allows multiple risks, shocks and stresses and their impacts on ecosystems and vulnerable people to be considered together in the context of development programming.

While resilience clearly has attractions as a unifying concept and as a vision with political currency in uncertain times, achieving positive outcomes will require policy makers and practitioners to fall back on more familiar concepts with which they have practical experience. Risk and risk management provide this familiarity and, similarly, allow a cross-disciplinary, cross-issue discussion.

Nonetheless, a more systematic approach to addressing the multiple risks to development progress is the prize and combining elements of resilience and risk management will likely be the most pragmatic option.


Tom Mitchell and Katie Harris