Community Resilience

This page provides an overview of our understanding of community resilience and why it's important for this course. It summarises different approaches to the concept of resilience and explains the one we champion in this project.

'Resilience' is a term that has achieved significant prominence in popular discourse. You might have often heard this word being used by different people, in very different contexts with different definitions. Initiatives such as the Transition Network have 'resilience' as one of their foundational concepts for rallying community action. In their words, ‘resilience’ is:

"...the ability of a system, such as a local economy or community, to withstand shock and then adapt to that shock. It’s the ability to flex, adapt and to change, and think on its feet in any given situation. The twist which we try to put on resilience in the Transition Network is that the ability to react to those threats shouldn’t just be a process to avoid the worst possible outcome, but should be seen as an opportunity to engage with economic development in a positive and creative way. Resilience is an opportunity and a step forward, rather than purely a disaster avoidance strategy." (Transition Network, Online: [Accessed 22/02/2022])

As you can see from the above quote from the Transition Network, the resilience narrative builds a story of communities experiencing increasing stress as a result of unpredictable change. This change is often portrayed as overwhelming, inevitable and irreversible. ‘Resilience’ signals that communities need to prepare themselves by resisting, adapting and eventually, transforming themselves. Specifically, when confronted with shocks, a resilient community is able to react by sustaining key functions, such as food provision, but when these functions can no longer be maintained effectively through  existing practices (such as affording food from supermarkets), a community’s survival depends on radically transforming key functions – for example, by turning more spaces into food growing initiatives.

Definition of resilience used by the 'Resilience by Design' lab showing the connection between covid, climate and leadership.

The ‘Resilience by Design’ Lab at Royal Roads University champions yet another understanding of resilience focused on seeing resilience as a process that has to be enacted through creative, participatory engagement (

As advocated above, the term ‘resilience’ might still sound quite vague to you in practice. What exactly does this mean in a particular context and how can we measure or describe this? How does one assess whether a community is resilient to shocks? How does such an assessment broaden our understanding of ‘community’?  When is it appropriate to resist, adapt or transform? And by what means?

As an entry point in this course, many community gardens have stimulated or influenced external activities.  For example, they have generated food-growing initiatives in more places, greater knowledge about the origin of healthy food, and wider practices towards a quality ‘food culture’.  More subtly, some volunteers have gained social skills in cooperative decision-making, a crucial basis for group food-growing and community-building more generally. Together these roles strengthen the basis for an alternative agri-food system.  When community gardens creatively responded to the Covid-19 pandemic, new practices also strengthened social resilience for dealing with future disruptions.

Last modified: Monday, 7 March 2022, 2:52 PM