What is Resilience?
Resilience is the ability to withstand, recover from, and adapt to periodic shocks and major disruptions. Bolstering resilience at multiple levels requires fostering a culture of preparedness and resourcefulness in the face of growing turbulence. Building greater resilience is an urgent imperative for more effectively coping with human-made and naturally occurring disasters as well as sustaining public trust and confidence in the critical foundations that underpin free democratic societies and open competitive economies.
At the individual level, resilience involves identifying and nurturing the capacity to cope with the myriad stresses that life inevitably brings. At the societal level, resilience involves identifying and nurturing the capacity for governments, metro-regions, communities, and private-sector entities to understand and better manage increasingly interconnected and interdependent systems that elevate the risk of wide-reaching and cascading failures when placed under stress.
The Global Resilience Institute – 1st university-wide institute dedicated to advancing resilience
In 2016, the Board of Trustees at Northeastern University approved the launch of the Global Resilience Institute (GRI) as a major initiative to support the university’s 2025 strategic plan. Underwritten with a significant internal investment, GRI has over 20 full-time staff; nearly 100 faculty affiliates from all 9 of Northeastern’s colleges including the College of Engineering, College of Computer and Information Science, Business School, Law School, and College of Social Sciences and Humanities; and 18 eminent practitioners who serve as distinguished senior fellows. In March 2018, the institute launched the Global Resilience Research Network (GRRN) with the participation of 20 universities and research institutes from 14 countries around the world. This collaborative research and educational community shares a common commitment to work in close partnership with industry and public entities in developing and deploying practical tools, applications, and skills that bolster the resilience of individuals, communities, critical systems and networks, and societies.
-U.S. Presidential Policy Directive 21 (2013)
Safeguarding societal well-being and prosperity in the face of mounting risks of disruption and destruction depends on our individual and collective efforts to enhance resilience.
However, both experience and data suggest that meeting this critical imperative will require simultaneously overcoming five major barriers:
- There is widespread risk illiteracy and limited understanding of the new dependencies and interdependencies that pervade our increasingly connected lives;
- There are inadequate designs for embedding resilience into key systems, networks, and infrastructure;
- There are inadequate economic incentives for investing in proven resilience measures;
- There are inadequate governance frameworks and policy guidance to foster resilience;
- There is a lack of adequate interdisciplinary training and education programs to support the development and implementation of comprehensive capabilities for advancing resilience.
Successfully undertaking efforts to concurrently surmount these five barriers requires a sustained commitment to multi- and interdisciplinary-research, close coordination and collaboration with public-sector and private-sector practitioners, and developing new experiential education programs that will help prepare the next generation of leaders.
The Global Resilience Institute is organizing and leading external partnerships with the world’s top universities and research centers who share a common commitment to undertaking resilience-related research and education, as well as with national laboratories, public agencies, foundations, corporations, and non-governmental organizations.
Resilience Research Focus Areas
The Global Resilience Institute supports research and educational efforts in seven strategic areas that draw on the latest findings from network science, health sciences, coastal and urban sustainability, engineering, cyber-security and privacy, social and behavioral sciences, public policy, urban affairs, business, law, game design, architecture, and geospatial analysis:
- Tools and measurement: Research and development of risk-based models, visualization, and simulation tools and measurement methodologies to support urban planning; public policy; community development, public safety, security, and emergency management; and post-disaster recovery and adaptation.
- Design and engineering: Research on cross-sector design of infrastructure, systems, and networks that prepare for climate change and other disruptive hazards – both man-made and naturally occurring.
- Governance and incentives: Research on the role of regulations, standards, codes, and market-based incentives such as insurance, reinsurance, and financing that can advance early and widespread adoption of resilience best practices by public, private and non-governmental networked organizations.
- Individual and health: Research on the capacity for individuals to cope and respond to trauma and adversity, and to stay healthy while aging, including linkages between physical and emotional health.
- Social and community: Research on social interactions, networks, and communication to include the role of social media within communities; cultural resilience; inclusive well-being and prosperity for all members of a community; barriers that contribute to growing socio-economic inequality, racial and gender exclusion, and other forms of disparity in vulnerabilities and opportunities.
- Enterprise and Economy: Research on the ability for organizational and business functions and their supporting systems to withstand economic and operational disruption and to quickly recover with improved overall enterprise performance.
- Security and systems: Research on the role of resilience in response to transnational threats; conventional and cyber-physical attacks on critical infrastructure with the associated risk of cascading failures; and cyber, information, and communications security.
- Socio-ecological: Research on integrated ecological, socioeconomic, and cultural systems in the context of climate change, globalization, and other anthropogenic disruptions.