How can local resilience partnerships enhance societal resilience with limited resources? This is a vital question that has exercised the minds of those working collaboratively through the National Consortium for Societal Resilience, including our team at The University of Manchester.
What we have co-developed since 2021 is an approach to societal resilience that will help people and places to adapt and advance in a changing environment. Our ambition and a step-by-step approach are described in a new and freely-available Strategy and Manual to create a Local Resilience Capability, which has been written by the NCSR team including Professor Duncan Shaw, David Powell and Róisín Jordan.
Need for a new approach
Among the key drivers for a new approach is that the UK Government Resilience Framework commits to a whole-of-society approach to resilience. This moves the nature of resilience partnerships from response to resilience, requiring additional relationships and capabilities to enhance the resilience of our society. Societal resilience is not just an emergency management activity, and more can be done for example to connect the work of local resilience partnerships with supportive agendas such as around climate adaptation, public health and social cohesion.
Recent events, including the COVID-19 pandemic, have shown that most in society are quite resilient and can prepare for a disruption, or self-help when it happens. But society is diverse, and some people are less resilient to disruption, suffer more from its impacts, and have needs that they cannot resolve themselves. Some disruptions are so big that the volume of needs they create outstrip what resilience partners can realistically support. Here, society also has a crucial role to play in bolstering the official response so that emergency responders can focus on priority groups most in need.
Local resilience partnerships can help society to channel these efforts strategically to get ready before a disruption and to react to what may happen during and after it. To accomplish this, local resilience partnerships can develop a system that operationalises societal resilience as a capability that can be activated when additional support is required. By integrating this capability into local resilience (and response/recovery structures), the new national ambition on resilience can be translated into local action.
What is local resilience capability and how can we deliver it
Local Resilience Capability is the system designed to prioritise providing support to vulnerable people, the services they rely on, and organisations that provide those services. Identifying and addressing needs in society is central to this capability. This includes needs when responding to a disruption. For example, by coordinating requests for help and offers of support from individuals, groups, organisations, and networks, and by monitoring changing local needs. But this capability must be proactively built and exercised in advance of a disruption.
We propose an eight-step process for local resilience partnerships to follow to deliver a Local Resilience Capability – one step to align partners on the ambition; three steps to design; three steps that will implement and run the capability; and one step to continually improve performance.
These steps need not be time and resource intensive. One of our underlying principles is to start simple and grow – for example, by focusing on one priority group at a time, building momentum, learning from experience, and creating spill-over opportunities to grow the coverage. The pace of development will depend on resources available.
Generating mutual value for society
Our approach will enable local resilience partnerships to support society to improve their own resilience to disruption, activate those who can help themselves or others, and reduce demand, risk and vulnerability so they can prioritise resources onto those most in need. Local resilience partnerships can embrace local community responses as a valuable resource. Value for money will clearly be important for local resilience partnerships to justify upfront investment and future expansion.
Support from strategic leaders is essential to unlock this mutual value for society. Leaders able to affect change and galvanise others are needed to ensure the alignment of partners, commitment to deliver the ambition, and integration of the capability into the resilience partnership. Otherwise the effectiveness of the capability may suffer due to competition among those who seek to deliver it.
Watch this space
Our work continues with several local resilience forums especially to help design and implement their strategy for societal resilience to create a Local Resilience Capability. These cases have already informed the development of the Strategy and Manual and will feed into how we assess the impact and continually improve. Maintaining momentum behind this new approach is critical to its success and ensuring that all can play a meaningful part in building the resilience of our society.
The second conference on societal resilience takes place on 4 March in Manchester.
Photo credit: Andrei Rydzkowski, The University of Manchester.