Resilience – Definition, meaning & examples

What is the definition and meaning of resilience? What is business, community or urban resilience? What examples are there?

What is resilience? Definition & meaning

Resilience is originally a term that defines the resistance of a body or material to shock or deformation used in physical sciences. Nevertheless, in the seventies and eighties, the concept of resilience spread and it is used nowadays in other fields of study such as biology, psychology, economics, sociology or ecology.

In a broader sense, and particularly regarding the human sciences, resilience can be considered as a capacity, for a given system, to overcome the changes caused by one or more disturbing elements and to recover its initial state and/or normal operations. In ecology, the term resilience can be used to describe ecosystems that continued to function more or less the same in spite of adversity.

Resilience Definition and Meaning - Urban Business Psycholo

What is business resilience? Definition & meaning

Business resilience is a business-wide term that comprises crisis management and business continuity and that represents the ability of organizations to rapidly adapt and respond to all types of risks – such as natural disasters, cyber attacks, supply chain disruptions, among others. Besides the ability to face the consequences of a major incident, business resilience also includes the capacity of an organization to adapt and adjust to a new environment and new circumstances.

Business resilience planning is a governance and risk management responsibility that boards must address in order to survive and thrive in an increasingly hostile environment.

Examples of risks that need business resilience

  • Cyber attacks;
  • Data breaches – the loss or theft of confidential information;
  • Security incidents such as vandalism, fraud, theft or protests;
  • Acts of terrorism;
  • Climate change extreme events and adverse weather;
  • Supply chain disruption – upstream or downstream;
  • Lack of talent to recruit.

Is business resilience the pinnacle of corporate social responsibility (CSR)?

Companies engaged in a CSR process, as defined by the European Union and using the criteria of the ISO 26000 standard, are called upon to organize and develop their activities, taking into account the impacts they can have on social, environmental and economic levels. CSR practices are primarily preventive and include foreseeing potential problems in order to neutralize or reduce their effects before they occur – as a result, business resilience increases.

The implementation of a corporate social responsibility (CSR) approach is therefore mainly directed towards preventing risks and hazards by anticipating the strategies that will address these problems and ensuring that the commitments made (both internally and externally) are met. In fact, CSR development is a process of permanent adaptation that directly promotes resilience, as any crisis situation is considered surmountable through the development of appropriate methodologies.

Business Resilience - Meaning Definition and CSR

Ecological Resilience & corporate social responsibility (CSR)

The notion of resilience applied to ecology consists of an ecosystem’s ability to recover its initial balance after having experienced modifications caused by multiple sources (natural or human). Examples of situations where species and plants need to be resilient may be when tropical animals need to adapt and handle the loss of their homes due to deforestation in rainforests or soils that keep healthy after being used for intensive single-crop productions.

Corporate social responsibility (CSR) encompasses sustainable development and consists of an integrated strategy whose practices and policies avoid as much as possible any negative environmental and social impact. This means preserving natural resources and biodiversity and fighting against climate change by reducing greenhouse gas emissions. In the end, the processes that produce resilience at the business and organizational levels end up being same as those that produce ecological resilience. Therefore, the resilience capacity of ecosystems is usually improved when organizations adopt CSR strategies and put them into practice.

What is urban resilience? Definition & Meaning

In urban planning, urban resilience is also used to think of urban systems in terms of the disturbances they are likely to experience. In summary, urban resilience means better organizing urban areas through the combination of different disciplines such as architecture, design, eco-design and sustainable construction, urban planning, health planning or energy, waste, traffic, and parking management. In the end, the union of these systems makes it possible to develop resilient cities – cities that can better handle natural and human-made disasters, protect human life, absorb the impact of economic, environmental and social hazards and promote well-being and inclusive and sustainable growth.

For example, urban resilience might mean choosing the materials for the construction of infrastructures that have the best fit with the local climatic condition or re-planning a city anticipating that it will double its number of citizens soon and therefore avoiding traffic or parking problems in the future. It may also include educating citizens to act democratically and sustainably and that governments try to diversify the economy of their countries, better engaging with the private sector and supporting the development of circular economy business models.

For more information, read our article: United Nations World Cities Day – Resilient Cities.

What is community resilience? Definition & Meaning

The resilience of societies, or community resilience, refers to a society’s ability to be prepared for shocks and crises, as well as its capacity to overcome them. According to a 2017 research article that was looking for a universally accepted definition of community management, there are several definitions and most of them share the same keywords and ideas. In this way, some authors Cox and Perry (2011) defined community resilience as a reflection of people’s shared and unique capacities to manage and adaptively respond to the extraordinary demands on resources and the losses associated with disasters”. By their turn, Castleden et al. (2011) see it as “a capability (or process) of a community adapting and functioning in the face of disturbance ”.

According to the same study, community resilience is a concept that is understood and applied uniquely by different investigation groups and that can either be seen as an ongoing process of adaptation, the simple absence of negative effects, the presence of a range of positive attributes, or a mixture of all three. However, the authors of this study found nine common components of community resilience among the literature:

  1. Local knowledge;
  2. Community networks and relationships;
  3. Communication;
  4. Health;
  5. Governance/leadership;
  6. Resources;
  7. Economic investment;
  8. Preparedness;
  9. Mental outlook.

What is resilience in psychology? Definition & Meaning

Resilience Definition in Business Meaning Psychology

The concept of resilience is also used in psychology and it refers to the set of processes that an individual needs to go through in order to overcome a psychological trauma. In a classical way, resilience can be considered to be built around eight stages:

    1. Defense-protection;
    2. Balance while facing tensions;
    3. The challenge of commitment;
    4. The comeback;
    5. Evaluation;
    6. Meaning-evaluation;
    7. Self-positivity
    8. Creation.

Image credits to Shutterstock for resilient business, business psychological resilience & climbing effort resilience