There are many small resilience-building projects your community can start today: creating community gardens, running tool-sharing libraries, advocating for bicycling infrastructure, and countless other grassroots initiatives like those described in the offerings from our partner Shareable.

But if your community is ready for something bigger, a community resilience assessment is where to start. As we’ve learned in Think Resilience, communities are extraordinarily complex systems; if your community starts trying to take big resilience-building steps without proper preparation, the efforts may be wasted or, worse, counterproductive.

A community resilience assessment is no small task. At minimum it starts with a dedicated organizing group with the capacity, skills, and time needed to work with diverse community stakeholders and collect and process data over a period of months or even years. But that doesn’t mean only large organizations or government agencies should think about resilience assessments. Here are a few paths for getting started, depending on the situation you find yourself in.

Option A. It’s just me, nobody else.
Join an existing organization, or start your own group. We recommend a local Transition initiative or a Think Resilience discussion group, but if there are already well-established groups (like a Sierra Club chapter) consider those too. Then you can move on to the next options:

Option B. I’m a member of a community group, and we will probably have to do an assessment on our own. We can spend between a few months and a year.
Perhaps your group is the only game in town, or your local government is uninterested in sustainability and resilience issues. A simplified community resilience assessment may be worth doing to get conversations going and to spur future collaborations. Here are three models you might consider:

  1. Rooted in Resilience (Oakland, Calif.), Community Resilience Toolkit
  2. Transition Fidalgo (Anacortes, Wash.), Vision 2030
  3. Transition Town Totnes (UK), Energy Descent Action Plan

Option C. I’m a member of a community group, and we have the capacity and relationships to build a coalition with other groups to do this. We can commit over a year to this project.
If you have the capacity, Stockholm Resilience Centre’s Wayfinder Guide is an excellent, recently developed resource for a thorough, science-based resilience assessment. Although it was developed primarily with rural resource-dependent communities in mind, it has been successfully used with urban communities as well.

Option D. I’m in a position to lead (or advocate for) our local government to take this on as an official, funded project.
Stockholm Resilience Centre’s Wayfinder Guide (as discussed above in Option C) can be used by governments and may be useful for implementation within existing structures. If you’re a larger city and you have significant funding available, consider applying to join Rockefeller Foundation’s 100 Resilient Cities program as a “sponsored city.”

Whatever option you choose, please stay in touch with us — and share your experiences with the rest of the Think Resilience community in our Community Resilience Assessments forum.