Some authors suggest that resilience as a term comes from ancient thinking (Bodin and Wiman, 2004). As the analytical term, it has been used first in mathematics and physics, where resilience was referred to the ability of a material or system to resist without breaking, and the speed at which it returns to equilibrium after a displacement (Aldunce et al., 2014a). The term entered into psychology and psychiatry in the 1940s to describe the ability of individuals and communities to resist and return to baseline functioning after external shock and disasters (Aldunce et al., 2014a). In 1960s and 1970s it was adopted and developed in the field of research on ecology. There are series of studies carried out by Holling (1961), Lewontin (1969), May (1972), and Rosenzweig (1971), and Holling’s (1973) seminal paper which are indicated as the conceptual basis of resilience in ecology and, more specifically, social-ecological systems theory. Within this framework, the complexity of socio-nature environments was recognised, and a systemic approach to research on disasters and disaster management was introduced (Adger et al., 2005; Berkes, 2007; Aldunce et al, 2014a). Since the climate crisis has become a burning issue in public and political discourses, resilience has become the focus of academic literature, both in natural and social sciences. The Covid-19 pandemic has catalysed transdisciplinary and cross-cutting works on the concept, its meanings, indicators, and ways of application into practice. Meanwhile, a critical discussion on the concept has been developed, especially on its normative character and misguided translation of resilience from ecology to society (Davoudi 2018).  

The stages in the evolution of the concept correspond to its three main meanings, clearly discussed by Davoudi (2012; 2018). Thus, resilience has been framed as persistence, adaptation, and transformation.   

  • Resilience as persistence and stability (from physics and engineering) denotes “the capacity to withstand external shocks and bounce-back to the prior stable equilibrium, which is considered as the state of “normality.” According to this engineering resilience, “the resistance to disturbance and the speed by which the system” returns to the original state are “the measures of resilience” and here, the measure of resilience is how long it takes for the system to bounce back (Davoudi 2012:300, Davoudi 2018: 3).  
  • Resilience as adaptation (from ecology) refers to “the magnitude of the disturbance that can be absorbed before the system changes its structure” (Holling 1996:33), thus the measure of resilience is “how much disturbance it can take and stays within critical thresholds” (Davoudi 2012: 301).  

Both definitions above are based on equilibristic and closed-systems theories. 

  • Resilience as the capacity for transformation - framed by the theories grounded on the principles of socio-nature complexity – assumes the systems (societies, communities, cities, organisations, etc.) to be complex, emergent, non-linear, self-organising. Here a clear distinction between social and natural elements has been dismissed. The role of unpredictable factors (“black swan”) and dynamic connections of ignorance and non-knowledge has been emphasised. Here, the prior state (before disruption) is considered as the state of undesirable “normality”, thus resilience doesn’t mean the capacity of bouncing back, but it is about capacity to break away and transform into new form of “normalcy” through the process of self-learning and recovery.  

Recent literature and strategic documents still reflect the mix of the approaches. For instance, in “UN Research Roadmap for the COVID-19 Recovery” (2020: 88), resilience is understood as “the ability to resist, absorb, accommodate to and recover from the effects of a hazard in a timely and efficient manner, including through the preservation and restoration of essential basic structures and functions” (the definition by United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR) has been applied). Both in scientific literature and political programs it is emphasised that the core of resiliency is the ability to learn (by people, organisations, communities, etc.) in the sense that disruptions give the opportunity for reviewing and critical thinking on the ‘normalcy’ before the crisis.  

Aldunce et al (2014a) present an interesting reflection on resilience present elaborated on a base of discourse analysis (both scientific publications and the interviews with practitioners). The authors distinguish three storylines about social/cultural factors hampering uses of resilience as a strategic concept: mechanistic/technocratic, community based, and sustainability.  

First, a mechanistic/technocratic storyline stresses the role of norms and regulations. According to the practitioners, the result of approaches focused on recovery and response are the situations when people are not being well prepared: in their opinion, the resilience approach requires better preparation, plans, rules in place, and disaster exercises (rehearsals). A central role has been assigned to government and public institutions, and the way to being well prepared for any future disaster is to have information and knowledge.  

Second, a community-based storyline, stresses the importance of community participation, engagement, ‘self-reliance’, and building social capital. Interviewees/practitioners noticed that the problem is “that communities are not taking sufficient responsibility for themselves and they argued that one of the main causes for the latter is based in governments and aid agencies that create dependency and take away people’s initiative to do things for themselves. Interviewees also attributed blame to the modern lifestyle that results in increasing individualism, provoking lack of social connections and capacity to assist each other, loss of interest in community values as a whole and not having a shared societal vision, or a sense of place and belonging” (Aldunce et al, 2014a: 5). However, a study by Sharifi based on literature review and presenting an analytical framework identifying several criteria for evaluating performance of resilience assessment tools, show that existing tools have failed to adequately reflect the dynamic nature of resilience. In many cases they operate over various geographic and temporal scales, neglecting cross-scale relationships and community resources, moreover, local communities are often being assessed as stand-alone and isolated entities (Sharifi 2016).  

Third, a sustainability storyline derives from an assumption that humans are part of nature. Here, resilience is blocked by disconnection of people from nature – people want to “regulate” and control nature, they do not accept the disasters as a ‘normal’ aspect of reality. This storyline stresses the need to learn to live in a unstable world and to accept uncertainty as part of ‘nature’.  

The analysis of the three storylines is concluded by the finding that self-reliance is a central issue in practitioner discourse on resilience, and that self-reliance is differently understood by practitioners and citizens (for instance, self-reliance as self-responsibility versus self-organization as self-management) and more attention needs to be paid to the tension that emerges between these two conceptualisations. “Thus, it is important to recognize the potential danger embedded in promoting values of self-reliance, if this is understood strictly as ‘not waiting for external help’”, say the authors (Aldunce et al, 2014a: 8). These findings go in accordance with Davoudi’s notion that “there is a close affinity between self-reliant resiliency and the neoliberal emphasis on individualization of responsibility” and that more attention needs to be paid to unequal power relations that can disrupt feedback loops and channels of communications (Davoudi 2018: 4).  

Existing tools (measures, indicators, etc.) for evaluation of resilient food/fashion systems could be used for cross-fertilization (see the table below: the list of eight qualities in resilient food systems elaborated on a base of analysis of 9 cases of food systems in US). 

A list of examples: implementation of resilience as a key concept into strategic programmes, mainly in housing, architecture, community management: Literature on Resilience Best Practices | 

Italia Hannaway’s clothing line, Italia A Collection, Slowing Down Fashion with Italia A Collection - Resilience 

Presentations on food issues  (examples , experiences from various cities) during the pandemic: presentation starting at 22 min.: Speaker Series #15 – Resilient Food Systems - Resilient Cities Network 

WASTE FEW ULL – a project aiming at mapping and substantially reducing waste in the food-energy-water nexus in cities across three continents: Europe, Africa and South America. The project has established four Urban Living Labs (ULLs) of stakeholders to a) map resource flows b) identify critical dysfunctional linear pathways c) agree the response most appropriate to the local context d) model the market and non-market economic value of each intervention and e) engage with decision makers to close each loop. WASTE FEW ULL | JPI Urban Europe ( 

a) Academic/peer reviewed 

Aldunce, P., Beilin, R., Howden, M., & Handmer, J. (2015). Resilience for disaster risk management in a changing climate: Practitioners’ frames and practices. Global Environmental Change, 30, 1–11. 

Sharifi, A, (2016), A critical review of selected tools for assessing community resilience. Ecological Indicators, Volume 69, 629-647.  

Davoudi, S., (2018) City & Community 17,  March 2018, 105. Just Resilience - Simin Davoudi, 2018 (  

Worstell, J., & Green, J. (2017). Eight qualities of resilient food systems: Toward a sustainability/resilience index. Journal of Agriculture, Food Systems, and Community Development, 7(3), 23-41. 

b) Other sources 

Literature on Resilience Best Practices | 

Resilient Food Systems: Co-Producing Knowledge and Environmental Solutions - York Environmental Sustainability Institute, University of York 

Resilient urban and peri-urban agriculture. A tool for social inclusion and urban regeneration (within RU: URBAN project a city of Rome was a leader, Krakow was one of the partners): Resilient urban and peri-urban agriculture | URBACT 

OpenAGRI. New Skills for new Jobs in Peri-urban Agriculture – I don’t know how it works in practice, but our colleagues from Milan would assess if it might be interesting for us as the case. (OpenAGRI | URBACT; OpenAgri - New Skills for new Jobs in Peri-urban Agriculture  | UIA - Urban Innovative Actions (