Resilience is an unwanted process constructed through the intersection of personal, social and environmental factors, being these positive or negative, natural or man-made.
As the epidemic that’s paralyzing China and threatening the rest of the world comes on top of other challenges inside and outside our genuine way of being informed and understanding, I went back to a concept – resilience and community - which in the past 15 years at least meant a lot to me in dealing with complex emergencies.
The terms resilience and community (or the term community-resilience) have gained an increasing centrality in the way today, while facing economic, environmental and social crisis, we study the effects caused by the progressive globalization, the chain of catastrophic climate events and terror situations caused by man.
In an attempt of synthesis of the various contributions in the literature, the resilience of the community building process can be described as self-restorative action implemented at the onset of critical events. And yet, the emphasis is more and more placed on the dynamic component and the connectedness2 of the process, according to which the community resilience is conceptualized in terms of adaptability to changes rather than emphasizing the characteristics of stability.
The resilient community is therefore interpreted as a closed system (community, concept of self, with its own identity ) from the point of view of the internal environment of the organization, and also as an open system (resilience, dependent on the distal or proximal relationships and change), since the behavior of the parts is affected by the interactions with the external environment.
In the complexity of this debate, the adoption of a deterministic perspective - to encourage the study of the reduction of vulnerability and mitigation of trauma - allows to focus on the return to the status quo of the self and the community identity (recovery).
Moreover, the ecological perspective, emphasizes the development of resources to support communities in their process of interaction and social change, including post –traumatic actions, distinguishing further between the internal conditions useful to deal effectively with adversity (coping), and the empowering interaction with external factors (resilience) […]
The contrast allow us to overcome the static interpretation of “a structure that favor the re-organization of the internal bonds to guarantee their survival” […] In facts, the adoption of dynamic lenses confirm that individuals, families and communities being constantly changing systems can never return to a "previous state " in the strict sense of the meaning.
The resilient community is therefore homeostatic, able to remain in the vital conditions self- correcting accidental variations through interactions between its sub-systems and supra-systems. And therefore, community resilience is a term that cannot be simply defined on the basis of its structure (territory, members), but only as a function of the relationship between the components that constitute and define the structure itself (values, norms and "accepted" behaviors), by time and space, whether physical or virtual.
Each of the problem (or the challenge or the goal to be achieved) in the modern society is undoubtedly itself complex and involves the interaction of complex systems.
They also do not exist in isolation (as we say in vitro) but are open. Actually, interrelated with sub-systems and supra-systems.
As an example, if the recent spread of coronavirus would have been combined with a strong cyber attack on hospital computer systems this would have multiplied, drastically, the problems and the efforts involved. Moreover, I think back to chaos theory and the so-called butterfly effect where, apparently, [...] the flap of a butterfly’s wings in Brazil may set off a tornado in Texas...
And I want to give you an example that happened to me when I decided with some friends to go to a Chinese Restaurant (an excellent unique restaurant in Rome that serves superior Chinese food and it is always fully booked). We wanted to express, somehow, our solidarity to the Chinese community.
Well we were the only customers...
To make the long story short, I witnessed directly how the flap of an outbreak in Wuhan generated financial and social tornado in a small restaurant miles and miles away...
In our globalized, interconnected, yet beautiful world, any one crisis will precipitate many others in a complex system collapse. Chaotic!
We have become so dependent on everything working correctly, from smartphones to digital banking to social media, that we are increasingly vulnerable to a system breakdown. Financially, Biologically and Emotionally.
How much the social media impacted on the spread of this virus? (technically speaking this is the first pandemic in the era of social media).
Until a few years ago we were debating on empirical studies describing how social media and SMS proved to be effective in coordinating humanitarian relief after the Haiti Earthquake in January 2010, after the “traditional” communication system collapsed. Now we are discussing how the favor the spread of fake news.
Science is developing tools in complexity theory to help to anticipate and prepare for global challenges. Yet little thought has been given to building resilience (as in the words of Pope Francis), despite the common admission that crises are increasingly likely. In truth, we have a crisis of leadership, at any level. People with narrow objectives in best case, rather than common values. This situation has obvious intergenerational consequences.
Those who inherit the mess we are making of Earth today will have to go to great efforts to restore our land and seas, without ever being able to replace much of what has been lost, especially extinct species.
A common feature to all of the threats summarized above is that they are all global and local in character. While national governments can try to reduce their vulnerability and increase their resilience in the face of the challenges ahead, these problems can only be truly addressed through strong and value-based sense of leadership and multilateral dialogue across geo-political, cultural and territorial boundaries.
Resilience: is the capability to prepare for, prevent, protect against or mitigate any type of anticipated or unexpected significant threat or event, including terrorist attacks, and to expeditiously respond, recover, and reconstitute critical assets and services with minimum damage to public health and safety, the economy, and national security.
Community is any area (physical or virtual) that is defined as such by its stakeholders. A community can be a group of individuals of similar backgrounds or interests, or who perform a particular function, or a village, municipality, broad metropolitan area, or portion of a state (or province) where shared institutions and culture exist.
Key stakeholders: include individuals, private and public sector organizations, non-profits, community groups and other organizations that have significant disaster resilience needs or play major roles in providing essential services and products that underpin the economic vitality of a community or region, the welfare of its citizens, and support national security.
Critical infrastructures: include systems, facilities, and assets so vital that if destroyed or incapacitated would disrupt the security, economy, health, safety, or welfare of the public. Critical infrastructure may cross political boundaries and may be manmade (such as structures, energy, water, transportation, and communication systems), natural (such as surface or ground water resources), or virtual (such as cyber, electronic data, and information systems). These also include the complex physical and electronic linkages among critical infrastructures and other essential service providers that affect operations and business functions, including supply chains (e. g. Cybersecurity).
Hazards: include any significant threat, event, including natural disasters, system failures, infrastructure deterioration, accidents, and malevolent acts.
• Earthquake: The sudden shaking of the earth due to the shifting of subterranean rock
• Flood: A large amount of water in a specific area, due to a number of events and can either develop slowly or suddenly without visible signs of rain
• Hazardous Materials Release: The release of a substance that has any of the following characteristics: flammability, explosives, combustibility, poisonous, or radioactive
• Large Scale PH Threats (e. g. Epidemic/Pandemic): A disease outbreak that is larger than expected over a certain period of time that substantially effects the population
• Terrorism: An act of violence that threatens human life and appears to be intended to either intimidate or coerce a civilian population
• Tsunami: A series of massive waves that are created by an underwater disturbance (earthquake, landslide, or volcanic eruption)
• Violence: Activities between people that can either cause or threaten physical or psychological harm
Points to Ponder
• While resilience is not an easy concept to define, coming to terms with the multiple meanings of community can also be a challenge. Communities are impacted by high mobility, migration, economics, changing governments and policies, and natural disasters;
• How Communities, Governments, and Donors Can Work Together? One of the criticisms of governments and funders is that they tend to view communities as static;
• There is considerable research interest on the meaning and measurement of resilience from a variety of research perspectives including those from the hazards/disasters and global change communities. The identification of standards and metrics for measuring disaster resilience is one of the challenges faced by local, state, and federal agencies;
• Numerous frameworks, conceptual models, and vulnerability assessment techniques have been developed to advance both the theoretical underpinnings and practical applications of resilience. Challenge or opportunity?
JL PENTA ACTION PLAN on Community Resilience
Goal: Reinforce the community’s resilience through enhancing intersectoral cooperation TOP-DOWN and BOTTOM-UP, cross-border actions, locally led response and recovery plans, resource allocation, and coordinating with all stakeholders at central and local level to collectively respond with confidence and compassion.
The Action Plan PENTA Cycle
- Identification: Measure Resilience within the set community by conducting a gap analysis assessing current resilience level and response and recovery needs using clinical tools (e. g. CCRAM3, Q-Core4, etc.) open source information, stakeholder survey, focus groups and interviews;
- Formulation: Develop the SMARTEST5 empowering strategy that include milestones, funding requirements, and sources of technical and other assistance at short/mid and long term;
- Financing: Get resources;
- Implementation: of the defined programme;
- Evaluation: of the programme results in terms of i) Output, ii) Outcome and iii) Impact.
1 A review from Rosi L. et al., Global Mental Health Trauma and Recovery, A Companion Guide for Field and Clinical Care of Traumatized People Worldwide, Harvard Medical School, Harvard Press, 2010.
2 The term connectedness refers to the need to ensure that activities of a short-term emergency nature are carried out in a context that takes longer-term and interconnected problems into account.
3 CCRAM - Conjoint Community Resiliency Assessment Measure developed at the Ben Gurion University of the Negev.
4 Q-CORE – Questionnaire on Community Resilience developed at the PENTA Joint Laboratory.
5 The acronym SMARTEST stands for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, Time-bound, Ecological/Equitable, Sustainable/Secure and Team Builder […], extract from How to Write the SMARTEST Objectives in the New Millennium, L. Rosi et al., Mc Gill University, 2004.