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Building Community Resilience

What is Resilience?

The word resilient is derived from the Latin wore resilire, meaning to jump back, recoil. So, we might recoil after sticking our foot in frigid water and, importantly, recover composure. According to the Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, resilient means:

 a. capable of withstanding shock without permanent deformation or rupture; and

b. tending to recover from or adjust easily to misfortune or change.

Community resilience is a measure of the community’s tendency and capacity to recover or “bounce back” from or adjust to adversity or change. Of course, we should ask “resilient to what?” What are the changes that might challenge Michigan communities and how can we be better prepared to respond to these changes and make the most of them? How will Michigan communities become more successful in this rapidly changing world?

Building Resilience

Resilience is the capacity to recover from adversity or change, including adaptive capacity. Adaptation is a critically important part of resilience because it allows us to prevent further harm from significant change while making the most of the new conditions. By adapting rapidly to changing circumstances, our communities may not only survive challenges, but thrive. 

Communities interested in becoming more resilient assess their vulnerabilities and make action plans to reduce their sensitivities and exposures to hazards of all kinds. For example, local governments can improve building standards to reduce heating and cooling challenges posed by severe temperature swings (cold and heat). 

Improvements in social cohesion and civic engagement also improve community resilience, by increasing the capacity of volunteer organizations and providing more secure neighborhoods, among other things. Planning processes can help increase civic engagement by improving communications and cooperation between cultural and service organizations and organizing larger community projects.

To improve economic resilience, communities can work to encourage and support local production of goods and supplies, increasing self-reliance and reducing the flow of funds out of the community. Programs to encourage local investing and entrepreneurship have been helpful in building both employment and production capacity. Local investments, consumption of locally produced products, and locally owned businesses all help to diversify the community’s economy, giving it greater resilience.

This page last updated on 8/26/2016.

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