The development sector is increasingly interested in the concept of resilience, and the applicability of an interdisciplinary approach looking at whole systems rather than individual components. The impacts of global change are disproportionately affecting the most vulnerable people and regions of the world, making a further case for resilience approaches for building capacity to deal with change.

Resilience assessments as processes for applying resilience thinking

Resilience assessments can be viewed as participatory processes engaging actors to better understand their social-ecological system, to identify and develop management strategies dealing with change, and to navigate sustainable development pathways.

In the previous programme phase, SwedBio engaged in resilience assessments as an approach for exploring and operationalizing resilience thinking in various ways. Multi-actor dialogues involving practitioners, policymakers and researchers were organised together with partners. SwedBio contributed to organisations and initiatives such as UNDP and the Community Conservation Resilience Assessment Initiative for cases and methods development related to resilience assessments. It is also engaged in the co-creation of the Communities Self-Assessing Resilience process. Experiences from that work as well as research from the Stockholm Resilience Centre have been feeding in to the MOOC “Introduction to Resilience for Development”, launched by UNDP in October 2017.

A freely available tri-lingual resource on resilience assessments

The course is designed for policymakers and practitioners, it introduces key concepts of resilience thinking and different available frameworks and tools for assessing resilience. The course is hosted by UNDP in partnership with SwedBio at the Stockholm Resilience Centre, the Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity, Pronatura, ECOSUR, NBSAP Forum and The Nature Conservancy.

SwedBio has contributed to Part 1 of the course, “Understanding Resilience Thinking”, consisting of six self-paced online lessons, associated webinars, assignments and further resources on resilience thinking and assessments. The course is available in English, French and Spanish and can be accessed by creating an account at Late registration for Part 1 is open here.

In January 2018, UNDP will launch the second part of the MOOC, “Applying Resilience Thinking to National Biodiversity and Development Plans”. Building upon Part 1, it will discuss how resilience assessment tools can be used to inform the implementation of National Biodiversity Strategies and Action Plans, and to enhance Protected Area Management.

Course outline – Part 1

Week 1 How can we live well without depleting the planet?

Lesson 1: The Anthropocene

This lesson provides an overview of the challenges for humanity in the Anthropocene, and demonstrates how resilience thinking can be used as a response to global challenges driven by increasing human influences on the planet. It also explores how people are embedded in nature and part of integrated social-ecological systems.


Week 2 How can we put resilience thinking into practice?

Lesson 2: Resilience thinking

This lesson introduces resilience thinking as the capacity to persist, adapt or even transform into new development pathways in the face of dynamic changes. The lesson also introduces how the connected social-ecological systems, that we are all a part of, are complex and dynamic.

Lesson 3: Introduction to resilience assessments

This lesson introduces three broad steps to assessing resilience. It also reflects on guiding principles for engaging with diverse stakeholders and taking power dynamics into explicit consideration throughout an assessment.


Week 3 How do we conduct a resilience assessment?

Lesson 4: Defining and describing the system

This lesson focuses on the first step and provides recommendations to identify key actors and what is valued in the system, and highlights the importance of scale, drivers and trends in the resilience assessment. Essentially, defining and describing the system can be encompassed with the questions “resilience for whom, of what and to what?”

Lesson 5: Assessing systems dynamics and interactions

This lesson addresses how to deepen the understanding of “resilience to what” and introduces aspects of systems dynamics and interactions such as thresholds and regime shifts, adaptive cycles, cross-scale interactions, and traps. Scenario planning for exploring future development pathways is introduced.


Week 4 How do we act on a resilience assessment?

Lesson 6: Acting on the assessment

This final step focuses on synthesizing where the system under assessment is now and where it is heading, and deciding on whether to manage for adaptation or for transformation. It provides examples of adaptive governance and management interventions.