Congratulations! You have begun to make personal behaviour changes in order to ensure a bright future for the planet! You have faced the psychological barriers that came up and implemented new regimes into your lifestyle. But the idea of so much change seems scary, and there are also big changes happening beyond your control. So, you might have begun to ask yourself:
Is it possible to maintain identity, despite big changes?
Why do some people seem to go through change with more ease than others?
What impacts our ability to learn and grow as a result of experiencing change?
Am I strong enough to bounce back from difficult situations?
The answer is resilience
If you maintain your identity and ability to function when you experience change…
If you have systems and supports in place to prevent the experience of change from harming you…
If adversity stimulates your creativity…
If you can acknowledge change and adapt to your new reality…
…then you are resilient!
We see examples of resilience everywhere, in human beings and other living things, but also within entire ecosystems. So, as humans begin to consider changes on a global scale, how do we respond to these changes with resilience?
Research by the Stockholm Resilience Centre with Stockholm University provides us with 7 principles for building resilience in social-ecological systems based on the aim to build capacity to deal with unexpected change.
Principle 1: Maintain diversity.
Whether it’s types of species, people or knowledge, one of most important components of resilience is diversity. Diversity builds resilience by bringing together different ways to problem solve. If you feel like you are in a bubble or echo chamber where everyone has the same frustrations, maybe it’s time to hear a new perspective – what could we learn from a different knowledge source or from nature itself?
Principle 2: Manage connectivity.
The Stockholm Center explains that resilient connections come from identifying, restoring and optimizing important interactions. This principle is not necessarily about making more connections (because overly connected systems also have susceptibilities), it’s about fostering a true sense of belonging. It’s about asking yourself, how well does my community work together and how effective is our communication?
Principle 3: Manage feedbacks:
Feedback loops have the ability to reinforce the systems and behaviours we want. So, can we identify loops that are reinforcing unsustainable practices and replace them with systems that encourage the behaviour we do want to see? Clear and intentional protocols with appropriate rewards and consequences can help us ease into change.
Principle 4: Foster complex systems thinking.
Can we suspend our blame, shame and guilt long enough to see that both social and ecological systems are complex, and their interconnections even more so?! Once we start to think about connections and interdependencies, we then start to expect and account for change and uncertainty, recognize barriers and build resilience. It’s about objective thinking here people!
Principle 5: Encourage learning.
Experimentation, risk taking and learning outside your comfort zone can build confidence and connections. How well do we understand the depth of the ecological systems on which we depend? Can we do a better job of sharing knowledge? Once we deeply understand our ecological and social systems, we can better address their sustainability.
Principle 6: Broaden participation
Have the right people involved! Dealing with unexpected change involves trust, understanding and unique perspectives. Who are the natural leaders? How can you build capacity among participants? How can you ensure all voices are heard?
Principle 7: Promote polycentric governance systems:
Finally, principle 7 brings it all together through collaboration and having the right people in the right place at the right time. What kind of rules and governance do we have in our society? Social-ecological resilience involves all levels of society, not just the individual. Effective governance, guidelines and communication between institutions enables swift responses and collective action.
The only constant
As we move forward as individuals and communities living amongst natural ecosystems, we may wish to start to expect the unexpected. But change doesn’t have to be so scary. With effective communication, diversity and an openness to learning, change can evoke wonderful opportunities for creative alternatives!
Are you a resilient person?! What strategies have you developed for dealing with unexpected change, and how can the global community apply that resilience thinking as we face a rapidly changing planet?