Chris Van Es

What Is Resilience?

“Resilience,” like love, is difficult to define, yet everyone – from United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to government agencies, company boards, and community groups – is talking about how to build or maintain it. So, is resilience a useful concept or a meaningless buzzword?

CANBERRA – “Resilience,” like love, is difficult to define. Yet everyone – from United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to government agencies, company boards, and community groups – is talking about how to build or maintain it. So, is resilience a useful concept or just a fleeting buzzword?

To answer that question, we need to start with a different one: How much do you think you can change without becoming a different person? How much can an ecosystem, city, or business change before it looks and functions like a different kind of ecosystem, city, or business?

All of these are self-organizing systems. Your body, for example, maintains a constant temperature of approximately 37 degrees Celsius. If your body temperature rises, you start to sweat in order to cool down; if your temperature falls, your muscles vibrate (shiver) to warm up. Your body relies on negative feedbacks to keep it functioning in the same way.

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