Revisiting a Compass of Resilience

We urgently need to adapt to life without fossil fuels. This will involve major changes to many aspects of our lives. One view of community resilience is as a measure of a community’s ability to respond creatively to change.

exploringcommunityresilience1Five years ago, when he was working with Carnegie UK, Nick Wilding produced the practical handbook: ‘Exploring Community Resilience’, the outcome of two years of action research with a wide range of community activists-the Fiery Spirits Community of Practice.

I have recently been revisiting this work and the idea of a ‘compass of resilience’ in particular (as part of the EU funded TESS project, researching community led climate action across Europe)

compassofresilienceIn simple terms, this identifies four broad aspects, or dimensions, for creating a resilient community, as follows:


  1. Healthy and Engaged Peoplerelating to individual’s physical and psychological well-being, strong and healthy personal relationships, connection to nature, learning and sharing new skills etc…


  1. Creating a Localised Economy Within Ecological Limits –relating to the creation of a different sort of local economy which positively stewards the local environment and resources, enhances biodiversity, cuts carbon dependence and creates meaningful locally-based livelihoods that are less dependent on fossil fuels.


  1. Cross-community links – relating to external networking, links and partnerships with groups in other communities, with support networks and with other sectors and actors including public sector/government, business etc.


  1. Building a creative, inclusive culture –relating to how a community addresses social inclusion, social justice/equity and openness to creating/exploring different/novel ways of working, support for social and technical innovation etc…

We can then overlay on this an understanding that there are three distinct states of community resilience:

Breakthrough: thriving on change and able to use outside shocks as a stimulus to create a better future

Breakeven: able to cope with disruptions and bounce back to ‘normal’

Breakdown: a fragile, brittle state in which an outside shock may cause a breakdown, without outside help and support

Can this provide us with a useful way of assessing the work of our community organisations? To what extent are we succeeding in enhancing the resilience of our community across all four of these aspects of resilience -or are we too narrowly focussed on one or two and neglecting other important aspects? What would these different states of resilience look like for each of these four ‘compass points’?

Your thoughts on this would be welcome! Please get in touch:

Breakthrough community

The classic kind of empowered community is one that is confident, resilient, energetic and independent. It is well networked. It has a high degree of social capital. It is confident enough to imagine a better future for itself, and is in a position to take control of that future. It has the breadth of vision to be able to enlist others and other agencies in helping it to deliver its ambitions. By contrast, a disempowered community is one which is dependent on people external to itself to address its needs and whose future is directed by others.”

Alison Elliott, Chair of Land Reform Review Group.