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Resilient development in social ecological systems

  • Start date: 01 January 2009
  • End date: 31 March 2012

Resilience is generally understood as the ability of a system to absorb disturbance and still retain its basic function and structure. It involves three properties:

  • the amount of change a system can undergo
  • the degree to which it can re-organise
  • the degree to which the system can build capacity and learn to adapt.

 Resilience is therefore about how to understand and manage change, and about working with change rather than trying to maintain equilibrium. Yet resilience has many - often contested -meanings, and it is currently highly prominent in many areas of policy; in many ways, resilience is the ‘new sustainability’.


Research under the fellowship develops social science understanding of resilience and how the concept is applied in analysing linked social-ecological systems. It does this by:

  1. reviewing and synthesising resilience concepts across a broad range of social science disciplines
  2. analysing policy framings and discourses of resilience
  3. examining the lived experiences, narratives and empirical explanations of resilience.

It presents a political ecology of resilience that extends current social science perspectives on resilience by elaborating the cultural and social dynamics of resilience, and informs knowledge and policy debates on how societies can better respond to environmental change.