A new interdisciplinary dialogue has emerged around the issue of how to help vulnerable people, organizations and systems persist, perhaps even thrive, amid the expectation of unforeseeable disruptions. This is the multidisciplinary research area of co-management for ‘resilience’ (Fig 1).

Fig 1 Development of the concept of local co-management of land and water resources

For many years, research into the concept of resilience was the territory of social psychologists interested in the successful adaptative development of individuals, particularly young people, despite an environment of risk and adversity. More specifically, resilience was broadly defined as a process, capacity or outcome of successful personal lifestyle management despite the individual being surounded by challenges or threatening circumstances. The question addressed was how can good outcomes be cultivated for recovery from social trauma despite high risk status, with sustained competence under threat?

A resilient person is optimistic, accepts things as they are, is solution, not problem, orientated, is self-regulatory, only takes responsibility for what is under her control, is network orientated to family and friends and acts to meet future goals. An important target activity to reach these states is to make realistic plans for the future by being solution orientated and become capable of taking the steps necessary to follow through with them. These advantageous mental states are the goals of personal Wellness Resilience Action Plans (WRAPs).

WRAPS are designed to set oneself realistic goals to overcome difficulties in order to:
  • generate knowledge and beliefs that not everything can work out and that not everything is controllable
  • know/believe that alternatives and flexibility in future planing increase the chances of success
  • not delay deeds because of anxiety
  • reconciled oneself with one's past traumas because the sight of the past influences the sight of the future.

Thinking about reslience in a wider planning context has now shifted towards socio-ecological management in a world where global environmental instability is becoming a major factor of human development. Personal WRAPs are still important but when seen in a wider context of community, resilience is a targeted managerial process in response to environmental change. The starting point for this global thinking was the Rio Environment Summit in 1992, since when the aims of the international community have been centred on the goal of ‘sustainability’. Agenda 21 promoted the management of natural resources for living sustainably in order to create ecological harmony in global peace.

‘Resilience’ now provides a managerial counterpoint to ‘sustainability’ by seeking ways to manage the environmental hazards of an increasingly discordant world which has to adapt to the effects of climate change, disease and population growth.

2 History of planning for resilience

There are five approaches to managing global reslience, which have co-joint planning histories (Fig 1), which are described below in sections (i-v).

Top-down agency plans

(i) Adaptive conservation management plans are grounded in applied ecology around early ideas of restoring habitats and species to a pristine condition in a stable world. This was the area of conservation planning by government agencies for managing habitats and species. The objectives of conservation management plans were dominated by scientific thinking about stable climax communities. We now know that modern species assemblages are ephemeral. External disturbances and environmental change occur so frequently that the realization of a climax community is unlikely. Long-term vegetation dynamics are now more often characterized as resulting from the action of local random factors. It was in this context that adaptive planning was introduced to long-term conservation management plans. It accepts the fact that management must proceed even if we do not have all the information we would like and are not sure what all the effects of management might be. It anticipates that unexpected changes will occur in the planning environment and views management not only as a way to achieve objectives for habitats and species, but also as a process for probing to learn more about the resource or system being managed. Thus, learning is an inherent objective. As more is learned from monitoring outcomes in relation to the target objectives, policies can be adapted to improve management success and be more responsive to future conditions.

(ii) Socio-ecological resilience planning (SERP) has been developed to deal with conservation management in agriculural landscapes, rangelands and watersheds facing long term environmental change. Management is concerned with land and water uses that not only involve modern intensive production methods but are also outcomes of traditional culture-related practices. The importance of traditional agriculture in landscape conservation lies in its diversity, multi-functionality, stability and adaptation to local conditions. In past times these characteristics enabled whole farm production to be kept in balance with environmental factors over time. SERP provides tools for establishing and maintaining a semi-natural landscape modelled on ecological processes. The management outcome is to conserve biodiversity by applying indigenous knowledge for plant and animal production as features of cultural heritage. Such knowledge, for example, resides in the minds of livestock managers carrying on a tradition of pastoralism.

Plans involving all stakeholders

(iii) Inclusive urban management plans focus on setting objectives for creating and managing access, movement and transport in open spaces so that people can make full use of them. Planning takes place through bringing all stakeholders together in processes of dialogue involving collective deliberation with all stakeholders functioning as as a single community, learning for concerted action.

(iv) Communicative resililence planning (CRP)comes from developments of inclusive management planning. Plans are aimed at outcomes set through mutual understanding and creative consensus between stakeholders about the uncertainties of environmental change.

Top-With-Bottom Community reslience planning

(v) Local co-management of resilience (LCM) was given a boost when discussions began about how to link CRP and SERP. A key meeting of minds was in 2008 at an international symposium, ‘Planning for the Unthinkable: Building Resilience through Collaboration’, held at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University. The question was what can be done to cultivate resilience to catastrophic events?

An example of the advantages of combining the two approaches to planning of SERP and CRP is forest stewardship in Northern India. Villagers initially responded to state-planned scientific forest conservation management with arson and illegal woodcutting. However, after they were offered the opportunity to participate in forest management, villagers developed new capacities and began to identify themselves as resourceful and knowledgeable forest stewards. This in turn reinforced the new community-based institutional regime.

Regarding definitions, since the turn of the century the collaboration between scientific adaptive managers and communicative planners has been described as ‘co-management’. As a principle, co-management involves local communities as well as the state and its agencies working together to establish long term plans for maintaining local land and water resources important in the lives of local people. For two decades co-management has been a major component of most internationally-supported programmes of resource management, particularly in the forest sector. The arguments in favour of community involvement in resiliency planning through co-management are numerous and compelling. The advantages range from the positive aspects of local participation, in terms of capacity and proximity to resources, to the negative features of the alternatives, such as the inefficiencies of existing systems of single-purpose top down management and the need for improved discipline in managing local land and water resources.

LCM may be defined as ‘top-with-bottom’ planning and is applied to community orientated resource management such as forests, fisheries, tourism and heritage. It is in these areas that climate change has an unequal impact on the poorest and most vulnerable communities in developing countries and is exacerbated by unrelenting biodiversity loss and ecosystem degradation in the landscapes upon which communities depend. Reducing vulnerabilities and increasing resilience start with local, community-based adaptation initiatives that engage multiple stakeholders at various levels to help design and pilot risk reduction measures and adaptation technologies and practices that increase long-term community and ecological resilience

3 Web References