(#293) Community Resilience

Maybe we can approach resilience as a condition of
not only being adaptable to a disaster but also living
and sustaining a healthy life that avoids (or, at least, prepares for) disaster before it happens.

Thinking out loud about resilience….

Does resilience necessitate a response to disaster? That is, does resilience only exist in conjunction with a disaster?

A good deal of the reading I’ve done on resilience focuses on “adapting to or bouncing back from adversity and disaster.”  There are some veiled references to protection or sustainability—but again, my (limited) reading finds those concepts couched in terms of adversity.

For instance, the American Psychological Association sees “resilience as the process of adapting well in the face of adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats or significant sources of stress— such as family and relationship problems, serious health problems or workplace and financial stressors. It means ‘bouncing back’ from difficult experiences.”

The RAND Corporation approaches community resilience as “a measure of the sustained ability of a community to utilize available resources to respond to, withstand, and recover from adverse situations.”

Again, that description goes back to adversity.

Video recommendation for the week:

This short video follows along those lines as it introduces a “volunteer network that aims to coordinate and deliver a local response to emergencies.”

Licensed Mental Health Counselor Eileen Crawford told me recently, “In counseling, we look at [resilience] with a deeper context: not only bouncing back from disaster, but finding meaning in the experience and growing as a result of it. In personal terms, one becomes a changed human being as a result of going through an experience; whether that change is for better or worse is where resilience comes into play.”

OK, I do understand that.  Can we, as well, look at resilience from a slightly different perspective, I wonder? Maybe we can approach resilience as a condition of not only being adaptable to a disaster but also living and sustaining a healthy life that avoids (or at least, prepares for) disaster before it happens. In the RAND wording above I read three key concepts that, I believe, go beyond just coping with and bouncing back from adversity and stress after the fact: Preparedness, Protection and Development (my wording not theirs).

As a metaphor, consider those of us who go to the gym on a regular basis, eat healthy meals, and get appropriate sleep. From our physical standpoint we build tools of resilience—and maintain those tools with regular adherence to a healthy lifestyle. We don’t go to the gym (necessarily) to adapt to physical or emotional adversity—we go to the gym to build, maintain and sustain our healthy bodies.  We nurture sustainability within ourselves. We understand the importance of self-efficacy: Our effort does matter.

Crawford, the mental health counselor, shared that perhaps what I am grappling with is intentionality.  Or, as she phrased it, “growth through intentional living.”

That makes sense.  Can we intentionally build a sense of and a practice of resilience prior to adversity? Maybe I’m parsing words but I’m thinking it’s a worthy goal for individuals and communities alike. I’m not arguing for one (response after disaster) or the other (preparation prior to disaster).  I am proposing we examine both in our quest for resilience.

Is a community’s resilience only measured by rebounding from disaster or can it, too, be viewed as the manner in which a community organizes its social capital, manages resources and risk, and provides access to public goods to avoid (or lesson the effects of) disasters before they happen. That does take intentionality. And that’s where transformational leaders (like Doc Hendley of Wine to Water) become critical. And from what I am hearing, seeing, and reading, the effective communities do those things at one level or another.

Consider one company’s perspective to “manage and leverage change” buy understanding what is coming and preparing for that:

RAND speaks of eight “Levers of Resilience” for a community: Wellness, Access, Education, Engagement, Self-Sufficiency, Partnership, Quality and Efficiency.  I would like to think my seaside community of Atlantic Beach, Florida considers these levers as it prepares for a sustainable future by preparing and developing plans for resilience that will protect our families and lifestyles.

And think of your workplace community. How does it measure up to RAND’s eight levers? Do you work in a space that waits for disaster…or one that prepares, protects and develops its team members? How about the community in which you live?

Make it a wonderful week—H.T.R.B. as needed.

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You can find my podcast series at Growth and Resilience (http://stevepiscitelli.com/video-media/podcasts). 

Check out my website  (http://www.stevepiscitelli.com/programs.html) for programming information as well as details about upcoming webinars (http://www.stevepiscitelli.com/webinars).

My books Choices for College Success (3rd edition) and Study Skills: Do I Really Need This Stuff?  (3rd edition) are published by Pearson Education.

(c) 2016. Steve Piscitelli. All rights reserved.


About stevepiscitelli

Community Advocate-Author-Pet Therapy Team Member
This entry was posted in Critical Thinking, Mindfulness, Personal growth, Personal Wellbeing, resilience, risk-taking and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to (#293) Community Resilience

  1. Cass Worthington says:

    Very insightful, as always! Thank you Steve.


  2. Pam Campbell says:

    Thanks for your post. I am also thinking about proactive anticipation of questions as part of our desire to be intentional. Since our students do not always know what questions to ask or how to ask them, we can help those students develop resilience as learners by providing them with opportunities to participate in deep learning before they feel overwhelmed. Resilience has to start somewhere, so building the groundwork for creating a reservoir of strength that is available on a daily basis means examining what each of us already has in our individual or communal repertoire. Once we recognize what those strengths are (as individuals or organizations) we can recreate, reinvent, or renovate to energize that self or community to better serve itself and others. Just my thoughts.


    • Spot on, Pam. The “groundwork” you speak of remains key. Hard to be resilient–let alone intentional–without knowing where to start, prepare, and develop. That requires a healthy dose of awareness. And, again you are correct IMHO, in that so many of our students (especially in open-enrollment institutions) need interventions to empower them during transitions–and further into a resilient state. I will touch on this during my keynote next week. So many directions a person, a class, a campus, an institution, and a workplace can go. And each directions needs your “groundwork.” 🙂


  3. Pingback: (#344) A Blogger’s Retrospective: 2016 In Review | Steve Piscitelli

  4. Pingback: (#394) Resilience: Supporting, Flourishing, Growing | The Growth and Resilience Network®

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