Interrogating resilience: toward a typology to improve its operationalization

Davidson, Julie L. and Jacobson, Chris and Lyth, Anna and Dedekorkut-Howes, Aysin and Baldwin, Claudia L. and Ellison, Joanna C. and Holbrook, Neil J. and Howes, Michael J. and Serrao-Neumann, Silvia and Singh-Peterson, Lila ORCID: and Smith, Timothy F. (2016) Interrogating resilience: toward a typology to improve its operationalization. Ecology and Society, 21 (2):27.

Text (Published Version)
Davidson et al., 2016.pdf
Available under License Creative Commons Attribution Non-commercial 4.0.

Download (675kB) | Preview


In the context of accelerated global change, the concept of resilience, with its roots in ecological theory and complex adaptive systems, has emerged as the favored framework for understanding and responding to the dynamics of change. Its transfer from ecological to social contexts, however, has led to the concept being interpreted in multiple ways across numerous disciplines causing significant challenges for its practical application. The aim of this paper is to improve conceptual clarity within resilience thinking so that resilience can be interpreted and articulated in ways that enhance its utility and explanatory power, not only theoretically but also operationally. We argue that the current confusion and ambiguity within resilience thinking is problematic for operationalizing the concept within policy making. To achieve our aim, we interrogate resilience interpretations used within a number of academic and practice domains in the forefront of contending with the disruptive and sometimes catastrophic effects of global change (primarily due to climate change) on ecological and human-nature systems. We demonstrate evolution and convergence among disciplines in the interpretations and theoretical underpinnings of resilience and in engagement with cross-scale considerations. From our analysis, we identify core conceptual elements to be considered in policy responses if resilience is to fulfill its potential in improving decision making for change. We offer an original classification of resilience definitions in current use and a typology of resilience interpretations. We conclude that resilience thinking must be open to alternative traditions and interpretations if it is to become a theoretically and operationally powerful paradigm.

Statistics for USQ ePrint 46802
Statistics for this ePrint Item
Item Type: Article (Commonwealth Reporting Category C)
Refereed: Yes
Item Status: Live Archive
Faculty/School / Institute/Centre: No Faculty
Faculty/School / Institute/Centre: No Faculty
Date Deposited: 02 Mar 2022 22:57
Last Modified: 13 Apr 2022 02:09
Uncontrolled Keywords: Social-Ecological Systems; Complex Adaptive Systems; Community Resilience; Disaster Resilience; Climate-Change; Building Resilience; Policy Implications; Management; Lessons; Risk
Fields of Research (2008): 16 Studies in Human Society > 1699 Other Studies in Human Society > 169999 Studies in Human Society not elsewhere classified
05 Environmental Sciences > 0502 Environmental Science and Management > 050299 Environmental Science and Management not elsewhere classified
Fields of Research (2020): 41 ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCES > 4101 Climate change impacts and adaptation > 410199 Climate change impacts and adaptation not elsewhere classified
44 HUMAN SOCIETY > 4499 Other human society > 449999 Other human society not elsewhere classified
Socio-Economic Objectives (2008): D Environment > 96 Environment > 9603 Climate and Climate Change > 960399 Climate and Climate Change not elsewhere classified
C Society > 94 Law, Politics and Community Services > 9402 Government and Politics > 940204 Public Services Policy Advice and Analysis
Socio-Economic Objectives (2020): 19 ENVIRONMENTAL POLICY, CLIMATE CHANGE AND NATURAL HAZARDS > 1999 Other environmental policy, climate change and natural hazards > 199999 Other environmental policy, climate change and natural hazards not elsewhere classified
19 ENVIRONMENTAL POLICY, CLIMATE CHANGE AND NATURAL HAZARDS > 1901 Adaptation to climate change > 190199 Adaptation to climate change not elsewhere classified
Identification Number or DOI:

Actions (login required)

View Item Archive Repository Staff Only