Six Foundations for Building Community Resilience

Post Carbon Institute

Author +
Daniel Lerch

Year: 2015

In this paper David Lerch, Publications Director of the Post Carbon Institute and founding chair of the Sustainable Communities Division of the American Planning Association, offers a new framework for community resiliency. The “ability of a community to maintain and evolve its identity in the face of both short-term and long-term changes while cultivating environmental, social, and economic sustainability,” Lerch asserts, has six foundations—people, systems thinking, adaptability, transformability, sustainability, and courage. He draws on both ecological resilience science and local experience to demonstrate how communities can develop processes which allow them to make sense of complex challenges, build regenerative capacity, sense emerging risks, respond to new challenges, and adapt.

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The Six Foundations

Although many resilience frameworks and tools for building community resilience are now available, no single approach will likely work for all communities and their varied social and economic contexts. Therefore we have identified six foundations that, in our view, are essential— no matter where or how resilience-building efforts are undertaken, or which challenges are of most concern locally. The foundations support building community resilience, rather than achieving resilience as a fixed goal, so as to emphasize resilience building as an ongoing process. The six foundations are:

  1. People. The power to envision the future of the community and build its resilience resides with community members.
  2. Systems thinking. Systems thinking is essential for understanding the complex, interrelated crises now unfolding and what they mean for our similarly complex communities.
  3. Adaptability. A community that adapts to change is resilient. But because communities and the challenges we face are dynamic, adaptation is an ongoing process.
  4. Transformability. Some challenges are so big that it’s not possible for the community to simply adapt; fundamental, transformative changes may be necessary.
  5. Sustainability. Community resilience is not sustainable if it serves only us, and only now; it needs to work for other communities, future generations, and the ecosystems on which we all depend.
  6. Courage. As individuals and as a community, we need courage to confront challenging issues and take responsibility for our collective future.

Table of Contents

Executive Summary
What’s the problem we’re trying to solve?
What is resilience, really?
Why communities?
The Six Foundations
Foundation #1: People
Foundation #2: Systems thinking
Foundation #3: Adaptability
Foundation #4: Transformability
Foundation #5: Sustainability
Foundation #6: Courage