What is resilience?
The concept of resilience is widely applied to in several fields. Definitions can differ between sectors and disciplines.
It is generally understood that resilience is the capacity of a system to cope with shocks, disturbances or stressors, responding or adapting in ways that sustain their essential function, identity, and structure, while enhancing the capacity for adaptation, learning, and transformation.
Resilience is about surviving and thriving before, during and after adversity.
Resilience is a set of principles, methodology and toolkit, concerned with addressing disruptive events in a system-centric way.
The Resilience Institute makes use of high levels of specialism and collaboration between different disciplines across technology and management and works with policymakers and practitioners to understand and address local, regional and national resilience challenges.
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Resilience requires both proactive and reactive strategies
Government and organisations often only focus on resilience during or immediately following a crisis — with the Covid‑19 pandemic being one of the most extreme examples. In addition to this reactive approach, a proactive approach is becoming ever more urgent to build the capability to anticipate and prepare for intractable challenges (climate change, diversity, poverty, ageing population etc.) and sudden disruptions (terrorism, cyber-attack, extreme weather event, pandemic etc.). Resilience requires both proactive and reactive strategies.
Resilience requires a connected approach across all 'five capitals' — natural, human, social, built and financial and their interdependencies and feedbacks — that make up the system in which we live.
Improving risk management and system governance
Although some attempts have been made to connect or at least locate these different concepts in relation to one another, a useful understanding of the full extent and nature of vulnerabilities and interdependencies which act as a precursor to improved risk management and system governance remain in their infancy.
How might we strengthen resilience in natural environments, ecosystems, and their components, such as biodiversity and soil health, to withstand and recover from disturbances?
How might we develop and maintain the requisite knowledge, skills, behaviours and values in the face of external pressures and how we, at individual, community and organisational levels, make effective decisions in anticipation of and response to complex, dynamic and evolving nature of risks and threats?
How might we incentivise investments in resilience measures, quantify the return on investment and enhance the ability of an organization to maintain or access capital and liquidity in stressed conditions or withstand unexpected economic or financial shocks?
How might we help communities, organisations, or society to cope with and recover from disruptions and grow cohesion, adaptive capacity, social capital, and the ability to mobilize resources, coordinate actions, and innovate in response to challenges?
How might we design resilience into physical infrastructure (e.g., materials, transport system, storage, labour, energy availability), digital infrastructure (e.g., data and automated systems) and supply chains to withstand operational disruptions and minimize the impact on stakeholders?
The Resilience Institute is uniquely placed through its multi-domain, interdisciplinary resilience network; Aerospace, Defence and Security, Energy and Power, Environment and Agrifood, Manufacturing, Transport Systems, Water and School of Management to deliver leading thinking to improve the resilience of our society to acute or insidious, malicious or non-malicious threats.
The objective of our strategic agenda is to collaborate and understand resilience to connected risks and our preparedness, particularly in relation to economic stability, security and prosperity, and public wellbeing.
We aim to synthesise an alternative framework for resilience, and hence preparedness, with a detailed ongoing programme to re-evaluate our resilience to identified threats.
Assessing risk/forecast ‘events’
Society needs a better understanding of how to be able to assess and prioritise threats, including determining their frequency and likely locations. Including:
- Future threat classification/identification
- Signals and indicators of the onset of risks, including critical thresholds
- The network (cascade impact, interdependencies) of the risk
- The social view/impact (versus the reality/scale) of the risk
- Risk perception and communication (e.g. tiered approaches for different sectors/societal groups).
Managing the unexpected
This research will examine how both the governmental and non-governmental sectors can better contribute to managing the unexpected, including how to scale up response in short order via ‘stress testing’ using severe, plausible, and useful stress scenarios combined with behavioural science. We intend to use foresight, scenario techniques and modelling to understand risk and recovery and identify visions and roadmaps for mitigating risks and disruptive events.
Through data science and analytics, we must anticipate, understand and model threats and optimise solutions to develop a greater understanding of what creates resilience. There is also a requirement to understand how to identify and characterise the risks within interconnected complex systems.
Resilience by design
The level of resilience, including recovery time and barriers and enablers should be considered. This work will examine specific physical properties of systems for systems engineering, materials research, infrastructure engineering and business models to design secure resilient systems to aid better planning and decision making.
People and systems
We will undertake an examination of human capital (skills and aptitudes), social capital (institutions and communities), and built capital (everything from our cities to manufactured goods) play into complex systems. This includes approaches to build buffering capacity through investment across the five capitals.
Cranfield resilience opinion in the Financial Times
Resilience will be key to future crisis recovery
by Professor David Denyer
Professor Graham Braithwaite, Professor Jim Harris, Professor Paul Jeffrey, Dr Simon Harwood and Dr Simon Jude
Covid-19 was not a “black swan”. Similar events were widely predicted and listed as the nation’s biggest risk in 2017, so why were we not better prepared both to prevent it and recover from it? The lessons from Covid-19 must not only be learnt for responses and preparations for future pandemics (“MPs criticise UK’s handling of coronavirus pandemic”, May 19). They must be learnt for wider threats such as to our national security, our safety and of a potentially more overwhelming emergency ahead, that of climate change.
We believe that the UK should implement a new approach to quantifying risk, and improve our preparations and ability to recover from crises. This must include all “five capitals” — Natural, Human, Social, Built and Financial and their interdependencies and feedbacks — that make up the system in which we live.
This would involve a shift from simply classifying threats using a traditional risk-based probability versus consequence assessment, to a more detailed analysis including their interdependencies, social impact, cascade and recoverability through a new connected approach to resilience.
As we have seen with Covid-19, too often, investment in resilience measures are made during or after a crisis. If we are to build a more resilient nation it is vital we embrace a new approach.
Cranfield resilience opinion in Nature
Time to invest in Global Resilience
by Professor Jim Harris
Professor David Denyer, Professor Paul Jeffrey, Professor Graham Braithwaite, Dr Simon Harwood and Dr Simon Jude
Investment in resilience is too frequently made only during or after a crisis — with the COVID‑19 pandemic being one of the latest examples. A different approach is becoming ever more urgent if we are to secure the resilience of our society and natural resources (see, for example, Nature 581, 119; 2020).
This approach must go beyond siloed strategies to include all five components of the system in which we live. These ‘five capitals’ are natural, human, social, built and financial, along with their interdependencies and feedbacks. They form a framework for sustainability, which will enable long-term planning for global resilience.
Such an approach would involve a shift from classifying the probability and consequence of known threats to addressing multiple hazards and recoverability. Emergent and interconnected issues, including adaptive capacity in organizations and critical infrastructure, must be actively managed. And we need to find ways to get company boards, governments and society in general to invest in resilience — even when there is not yet an economic argument for doing so (see also G. K. Marinov Nature 581, 262; 2020).
Long-term planning and investment can be guided by short-term emergency responses, effective adaptation to repeated shocks and proper preparation for unexpected events (H. Weise et al. Oikos 129, 445–456; 2020).
Resilience Reimagined: A practical guide for organisations
Resilience has been pushed firmly toward the top of the agenda for boards and senior management teams of organisations of all types. But how can resilience be developed? Who does it well, and what can we learn from them? What are the practical steps necessary to strengthen resilience for long-term success? As a leader, what more could you do to develop resilience for your organisation?
Resilience reimagined: a practical guide for organisations was produced by Cranfield University, in partnership with the National Preparedness Commission (NPC) and Deloitte. The report presents insights from business leaders from a range of sectors and makes seven recommendations for organisations on how to become more resilient, drawing on lessons from past 12 months.
Cranfield University’s Professor David Denyer and Mike Sutliff conducted in-depth interviews and four focus groups with more than 50 C-suite level people (boards, senior executives, policymakers, and resilience directors) from FTSE 100 companies, multi-nationals and major national infrastructure organisations, many of them household names.
The report warns we are entering a new period of uncertainty and change, with an ever-increasing possibility that things will go wrong. It sought answers from leading figures about how resilience can be developed, who does it well and what other businesses can learn from them.
It also outlines practical steps necessary to strengthen resilience for long-term success and makes recommendations to business leaders on what more they can do to help their organisations to develop the ability to cope.
Sign up to download a copy of Resilience reimagined: a practical guide for organisations and receive updates from the Resilience Institute at Cranfield
The world’s grand challenges of resilience, sustainability and security attract good intentions and principles.
But real solutions can only come from working with the nuts and bolts, getting down to the details of what will work and what won’t.
This is what The Resilience Institute at Cranfield does: making use of high levels of specialism and collaboration between different disciplines across technology and management; having the full knowledge and insights to look beyond surface issues and make the necessary choices.
The Resilience Institute brings together experts from across the University to focus on how to make progress now.
We are calling for government organisations, industry and academia to engage with The Resilience Institute for:
• Research collaborations, projects and sponsored PhD opportunities
• Award bearing and executive education solutions
• Advice on preparation and response to disruptive events
If you'd like to work with The Resilience Institute, please contact Mike Sutliff
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