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Resilience: how to change to resist change

Brian Walker, ABC Environment
In this uncertain world the only constant is change. So how do we design systems so that change enhances a system, rather than destroys it?

"RESILIENCE" like love, is difficult to define. Yet everyone — from United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to government agencies, company boards, and community groups — is talking about how to build or maintain it. So, is resilience a useful concept or just a fleeting buzzword?

To answer that question, we need to start with a different one: How much do you think you can change without becoming a different person? How much can an ecosystem, city, or business change before it looks and functions like a different kind of ecosystem, city, or business?

All of these are self-organising systems. Your body, for example, maintains a constant temperature of approximately 37 degrees Celsius. If your body temperature rises, you start to sweat in order to cool down; if your temperature falls, your muscles vibrate (shiver) to warm up. Your body relies on negative feedbacks to keep it functioning in the same way.

That is basically the definition of resilience: the capacity of a system to absorb disturbance, re-organise, and keep functioning in much the same way as before.

Resilience should not be confused with resistance to change. On the contrary, trying to prevent change and disturbance to a system reduces its resilience. A forest that never burns eventually loses species capable of withstanding fire. Children who are prevented from playing in dirt grow up with compromised immune systems. Building and maintaining resilience requires probing its boundaries....

Brian Walker is an honorary research fellow at the CSIRO and is Chair of the International Resilience Alliance.
(10 December 2013)


For Land and Life: 25 stories of Indigenous resilience that you might’ve missed in 2013

John Ahni Schertow, Intercontinental Cry
With the sheer number of abuses and attacks that Indigenous Peoples face around the world, we don't often come by stories of hope and resilience--stories that speak of long-fought struggles coming to a just end, peaceful exchanges between Nations who live in different parts of the world, and assertions of Traditional authority that governments and corporations simply accept without challenge or condition. Here's a few of those stories that you might have missed over the past 12 months.

An Ainu-Maori Exchange
A group of 7 Ainu youth, accompanied by 3 Ainu committee members and 3 interpreters, traveled to New Zealand in order to study the various ambitious endeavors of the Maori people who have successfully revitalized their rights as Indigenous People while living with strength in the society of New Zealand. After successfully carrying out a major online fundraiser to pay for the journey, the Ainu--who are themselves struggling to revitalize their culture, language and identity--reported a very positive experience during their stay. As explored on the Ainu Maori Exchange activity website, the Ainu learned a language teaching method called Te Ataarangi, sat down with the Maori Party-Whangaehu Marae, visited several Maori-based schools and businesses as well as television and radio stations and many different historical sites.

An Alternative Currency
Esquimalt First Nation, in an effort to reform the monetary system, unveiled a new barter currency on their territory known as Tetlas. Similar to a gift certificate, the Tetla was developed by the organization Tetla Tsetsuwatil to assist economic development in the S’amuna’ Nation and other native nations, and to encourage trade with non-natives and among non-natives. More than two dozen businesses now accept the alternative currency.

Indigenous millennium development goals
Colombia’s indigenous organizations revealed five new ‘millennium development goals’ (MDGs), presenting the world’s first national framework for realizing indigenous rights in response to the Millennium Declaration. The move challenged the country’s authorities to record their progress in meeting the new targets, which include the protection of indigenous territory; the implementation of free, prior and informed consent protocols and the ‘institutional redesign’ of the state in its relations with Indigenous Peoples...
(14 December 2013)


33 cities named to resilient cities network

Staff, Sustainable Industries
The Rockefeller Foundation this week announced the first 33 cities selected to join its 100 Resilient Cities network. The cities were selected from nearly 400 applicants across six continents.

An impressive four cities – 12% of the inaugural 33 – are located in California's Bay Area: San Francisco, Oakland, Berkeley and Alameda.

In applying for the 100 Resilient Cities Challenge, cities were required to submit their visions, needs and plans to build "resilience" in a way that connects government, the private sector and civil society – and specifically addresses the needs of their poor and vulnerable citizens. Cities were selected upon the recommendation of a panel of judges from around the world, including former presidents Bill Clinton and Olusegun Obasanjo of Nigeria...
(3 December 2013)
Full list of the cities

Hands connecting teaser image via shutterstock. Reproduced at Resilience.org with permission.

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