Provost James Bean and GRI Founding Director Stephen Flynn hosted an event on April 11, 2017 at Northeastern University’s Interdisciplinary Science and Engineering Complex to celebrate the official launch of the Global Resilience Institute. The event included remarks from Provost Bean, German Deputy Consul General Helmut Landes, and Acting Deputy Under Secretary for National Protection and Programs Directorate at the Department of Homeland Security, Bob Kolasky. After the luncheon, Stephen Flynn gave an inaugural lecture about the imperative of building resilient societies in the face of 21st Century turbulence, followed by a panel discussion with experts from the public, private, and academic sectors moderated by the Dean of the College of Social Sciences and Humanities, Uta Poiger.

In a recent News at Northeastern article by Molly Callahan, Dr. Flynn defined resilience as “the ability to withstand changing conditions and to both recover rapidly and to adapt when disruptive events occur.” The launch event emphasized that building resilience is not the responsibility of any single college or sector, but rather must be an interdisciplinary effort to develop comprehensive solutions to today’s most pressing security challenges. As illustrated by natural disasters like Superstorm Sandy or Boston’s Snowmaggedon, persistent manmade threats to our global maritime supply chain system, and a myriad of other risks our communities face, our societies require coordinated and collaborative efforts to confront potential shocks to the systems we rely on.

Molly Callahan also writes that a consensus coming out of the panel discussion, was that no matter how hard we try, we will never reduce the risk to our critical systems to zero. In fact, Vice-Admiral Peter Neffenger, the former administrator of the TSA explained that in his line of work “crisis is the natural state of affairs.” The reality that we will always face disruptions and that risk will always be present is the catalyst behind the Global Resilience Institute’s mission to help communities learn from the past, adapt to changing circumstances, and prepare to the inevitable shocks to our lifeline infrastructure systems. Northeastern is uniquely positioned to carry out this mission thanks to its focus on user-oriented solutions, bringing world class academic research to the stakeholders responsible for managing emergencies. This is a goal shared by Germany’s Fraunhofer Institute, one of GRI’s international partners. As Daniel Hiller, the Head of Strategic Management described, all of their ideas and project proposals must include the end-users’ insights and needs; making sure all of the “key players” have a voice in the process.

Furthermore, GRI’s mission of cross disciplinary research must extend beyond Northeastern, and even beyond the United States. Dr. Flynn stresses that part of GRI’s mandate is “providing linkages and leadership to the top research centers and universities around the world—including the Fraunhofer Institute in Germany and others—who are doing cutting-edge research in specific areas of resilience. Northeastern is committed to building a research network that allows lessons to be shared across national borders. The only way we can meet this urgent global imperative is to take it on globally.” In an ever more interdependent world, the challenges that nations face do not respect national borders and shocks to one country’s systems are often felt around the globe.

Additional Readings


Resilience in the 21st Century – News at Northeastern