Societal resilience

Resilience is today a broadly used concept in academia and its use by disaster managers to plan for crisis and to manage crisis situations has also steadily increased over the last thirty years. For this reason, ENGAGE, seeking better solution for interaction between disaster managers and society, is interested in rethinking societal resilience.

Disaster managers often use resilience in an abstract sense while interacting with citizens during a crisis situation or their reference to resilience reduces the complexity of social dynamics to be able to integrate it in standardized disaster management strategies. At the same time, the fact that resilience is used by practitioners in various ways is sometimes met with skepticism by researchers, but rarely addressed as an opportunity to reconnect research and practitioners’ insights and experiences of resilient individuals, organizations and communities.

We are interested in how resilience is used to analyze, but also how it is used to manage crisis. We propose societal resilience to bridge the gap between citizens and disaster managers.

Our approach to resilience is “societal” for four reasons

  • First, we want to include everybody affected by crises, from the individual, to organizations to societies. However, independent of who is coping with a crisis, it always unfolds in a specific context. Even a global pandemic takes place in a concrete place at a given moment.
  • Second, we understand societal resilience as a state that emerges from what people do, say and what they believe in depending on their place in society. By focusing on what people do, we can account for how citizens cope with a disaster, but also what they want and the context in which they live.
  • Third, societal resilience is in that sense a relational approach to coping with crisis. It is always about what connects people and how they think of themselves and their place in society.
  • Fourth, societal resilience depends always on a context. It makes a difference, if people act in a village or a city, if they young or old, if they acting alone or in a group, if they are close or if they are far away. We need to understand as much who acts against crises as where and when people act to improve interactions between citizens and first responders.


Copyright ENGAGE Project 2021