An essential guide to the foundations, research and practices of community disaster resilience
Framing Community Disaster Resilience offers a guide to the theories, research and approaches for addressing the complexity of community resilience towards hazardous events or disasters. The text draws on the activities and achievements of the project emBRACE: Building Resilience Amongst Communities in Europe. The authors identify the key dimensions of resilience across a range of disciplines and domains and present an analysis of community characteristics, networks, behaviour and practices in specific test cases.
The text contains an in-depth exploration of five test cases whose communities are facing impacts triggered by different hazards, namely: river floods in Germany, earthquakes in Turkey, landslides in South Tyrol, Italy, heat-waves in London and combined fluvial and pluvial floods in Northumberland and Cumbria. The authors examine the data and indicators of past events in order to assess current situations and to tackle the dynamics of community resilience. In addition, they put the focus on empirical analysis to explore the resilience concept and to test the usage of indicators for describing community resilience. This important text:
- Merges the forces of research knowledge, networking and practices in order to understand community disaster resilience
- Contains the results of the acclaimed project Building Resilience Amongst Communities in Europe - emBRACE
- Explores the key dimensions of community resilience
- Includes five illustrative case studies from European communities that face various hazards
Written for undergraduate students, postgraduates and researchers of social science, and policymakers, Framing Community Disaster Resilience reports on the findings of an important study to reveal the most effective approaches to enhancing community resilience.
The emBRACE research received funding from the European Community's Seventh Framework Programme FP7/2007-2013 under grant agreement n° 283201. The European Community is not liable for any use that may be made of the information contained in this publication.
HUGH DEEMING, Principal Consultant, HD Research, Bentham, UK
MAUREEN FORDHAM, Emerita Professor of Gender and Disaster Resilience, Northumbria University, Newcastle upon Tyne, UK; Centre Director, IRDR Centre for Gender and Disaster, UCL, UK
CHRISTIAN KUHLICKE, Professor of Environmental Risks and Sustainability, joint appointment Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research and University of Potsdam, Germany
LYDIA PEDOTH, Senior Researcher, Eurac Research, Bolzano, Italy
STEFAN SCHNEIDERBAUER, Senior Researcher, Eurac Research, Bolzano, Italy
CHENEY SHREVE, Adjunct Researcher, Western Washington University, Resilience Institute, Washington, USA
Understanding Disaster Resilience: The emBRACE Approach
Thomas Abeling1, Nazmul Huq2, Denis Chang-Seng3, Jörn Birkmann4, Jan Wolfertz5, Fabrice Renaud5, and Matthias Garschagen5
1 Climate Impacts and Adaptation, German Environment Agency, Dessau-Roßlau, Germany
2 University of Applied Sciences, Institute for Technology and Resources Management in the Tropics and Subtropics (ITT), Cologne, Germany
3 Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission of UNESCO, Paris, France
4 University of Stuttgart, Institute of Spatial and Regional Planning, Stuttgart, Germany
5 United Nations University, Institute for Environment and Human Security, Bonn, Germany
This chapter discusses literature that justifies the emBRACE approach to community resilience. It does not present a comprehensive and broad literature review on community resilience, but rather reviews literature from different disciplines associated with the concept of resilience that informed the emBRACE project. The focus is on resilience concepts in general, rather than on community resilience specifically. The chapter thus provides an overview about concepts, methods, and indicators that paved the way towards the conceptual development of the emBRACE framework on community resilience. It takes the shape of an overview discussion, highlighting studies that present conceptual frameworks, theories and heuristics of resilience, and methodology as well as indicator-based approaches for measuring resilience. The aim of this chapter is to highlight those gaps and challenges of selected resilience literature that provide grounds for the emBRACE framework of resilience. It does so by synthesising key themes across academic disciplines and shedding light on prevalent weaknesses and 'blind spots'. The text of this chapter draws from Deliverables in Work Package (WP) 1 of the emBRACE project.
2.2 Resilience: Concept
The prospects and limits of resilience as a concept in research on disaster risk reduction are discussed differently by Alexander (2013), and Keck and Sakdapolrak (2013). In his review of the etymological development of resilience, Alexander (2013) expresses concerns over attempts to develop resilience as a research paradigm or science, suggesting that the strength of the concept lies in its ability to describe objectives and intentions of disaster risk reduction. Keck and Sakdapolrak (2013) seem to be more optimistic about the prospects of resilience to innovate research on risk reduction. In particular, their study points to the opportunities for strengthening the social and political dimensions of resilience research, which so far have often depoliticised social structures, according to the authors. For this, the local scale, and the community in particular, emerges as the central unit of analysis, and this speaks to the relevance of the emBRACE approach.
Increasing attention is paid in resilience research to social, in contrast to merely technical or environmental, dimensions of the concept. This is reflected, for example, in critiques of socioecological resilience literature as putting too much focus on the ecological (natural hazards and risk) (Cote and Nightingale 2012), rather than the social dimensions of resilience. Based on contributions that condense the evolution of resilience research (e.g. Alexander 2013), questions arise as to what steps can be taken to further develop the resilience concept, how this is best done, and what the goals of this process are (e.g. communication to policy makers, analytical value, etc.). These questions suggest struggles within the literature on resilience to understand how exactly the resilience concept can be conceptualised to include social dimensions, and how this can be applied through methods such as agent-based modelling (Saqalli et al. 2010).
2.2.1 Resilience in the Social Domain
The conceptualisation of resilience in the social domain, on both a collective and an individual level, seemed to be a challenge emerging from a shift in focus from technical (engineering resilience) to social characteristics of resilience. Both levels are addressed through interdisciplinary research within emBRACE. Case study work on psychological dimensions of resilience in Van, Turkey (Chapter 15), for example, offers insights into sociopsychological resilience at an individual level. Reflections on conceptualising resilience in the social domain also emerge from the London case study (Chapter 14) and its focus on social networks and capital during heat events. In particular, Klinenberg (1999) demonstrates how a social reading of heatwaves that goes beyond biophysical and epidemiological aspects can contribute to more nuanced explorations of urban heat risk. Klinenberg's foundational work has indeed informed the set-up of the London case study in emBRACE (Chapter 14), which attempts to combine research on biophysical aspects of urban heat stress with behavioural and decision-making analysis. Insights into how social capital shapes individual resilience to heat stress in the UK are also offered by Wolf et al. (2010), who suggest a complex, rather than linearly positive relationship between social capital and resilience to heat stress. According to the study, strong bonding networks might enhance, rather than reduce, vulnerability to heat stress, if they perpetuate misperceptions about heat stress among the elderly.
Studies that highlight the depoliticised nature of current discourses on resilience provide grounds for the approach taken in emBRACE, which in many ways focuses on the social and political dimensions of community resilience. Indeed, the emBRACE framework should be read as an explicit attempt to substantiate resilience research that often seems to be decoupled from the ambiguities of social practice. A particular focus on the social dimensions, at both a collective and individual level, is thus a contribution of emBRACE, and this resonates with literature that suggests this is important (Walker and Westley 2011; Keck and Sakdapolrak 2013; Welsh 2014). The politics of resilience are the focus of a contribution from Welsh (2014), for example, who reflects on how a focus of resilience in response to events or shocks might undermine desirable transformations and changes, reinforcing rather than changing dominant system configurations. Walker and Westley (2011) make a similar argument by pointing to the role of governance in resilience. Their study suggests that vertical power relationships between different administrative scales (national, regional, local) can shape community resilience if they provide room for critical reflection and innovation at the local level, potentially suspending rules to make room for self-organisation and leadership.
2.2.2 Resilience: An Outcome or a Process?
A central theme in resilience research is the question of whether resilience is best understood as something to be built (e.g. by individuals, communities, etc.) or whether the value of resilience thinking lies in its ability to provoke discussions and thoughts about issues in governance of disaster risk reduction in the context of climate change. Grey literature, in particular, seems to conceptualise resilience more as an outcome than a process, suggesting frameworks and assessment tools to conceptualise and measure resilience. Prominent examples in this respect are contributions from the Rockefeller Foundation and Arup (2014), and the UNISDR self-assessment tool and score card for resilience assessments by local governments. Academic contributions seem to be more reserved about conceptualising resilience as something 'fixed' to be attained. Almedom (2013), for example, suggests that resilience cannot be built by outside experts, but acknowledges that external interventions can stimulate the development of conditions that are conducive to resilience building through self-organisation and local governance. The authors highlight, however, that resilience itself is an adaptive and ongoing process. As pointed out above, other studies see the integrative power of the resilience concept as its key contribution, highlighting the way in which it facilitates discussions and reflections by stakeholders involved in disaster risk reduction (Brand and Jax 2007; Vogel et al. 2007; Strunz 2012).
2.2.3 Resilience on Individual and Collective Levels
The identification of specific components of community resilience seems to be the focus of research that centres on a collective, rather than individual level. At the heart of literature in this domain remains the question of what community resilience is, and how it can best be conceptualised. Norris et al. (2008) suggest that a focus on well-being, rather than civil protection, can be a meaningful way of advancing knowledge on resilience. The authors place their focus on how communities can make use of dynamic resources to mitigate adverse effects of hazards, and how these community capacities can be beneficial for community resilience. Well-being is also at the heart of the contribution by Armitage et al. (2012), who use this concept to draw out the interdependence of social, ecological, and environmental systems. The systems perspective allows the authors to reflect on and identify a range...