4. Assessing resilience

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Defining, assessing and comparing resilience are the first steps in resilience management. In the context of community resilience, for instance, the ability to measure the concept is increasingly being seen as a key step toward disaster risk reduction.

Assessing and comparing are needed in order to, for instance, estimate baseline resilience and measure progress toward resilience. Comparing different entities could be a motivator and one could follow the progress over time. Best practices could be highlighted and serve as guiding examples. Outside of moments of crisis, the assessment of resilience is also useful in order to capture the essence of resilience, and to examine the factors that contribute to (or undermine) resilience. The identification of such factors is important in order to identify the most effective measures to actually enhance resilience and reduce brittleness. It also provides effective markers in order to monitor and assess resilience during the management of crises.

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4.1. Assessing community resilience to understand and develop its capacity to manage crises

The assessment and monitoring of community resilience prior to, during and after the occurrence of crises allows policy makers to establish interventions and plans in collaboration with community leaders and members, in order to ensure communities will be better able to manage and recover from future events.


  • Initial resilience assessment to identify the weaknesses and strengths of the communities under their responsibility and implementation of subsequent intervention plans, followed by new assessments in order to identify the impact of the intervention plans on the community
  • Monitoring an assessments to understand the impact of the emergency situation on the community members
  • Measuring community resilience after the emergency situation to understand the long term impact of the emergency, as well as the recovery process


  • Measuring CR during routine time in the pre-emergency period enables to create a “baseline score” which is presumed to be useful as a reference point for comparison during a crisis period
  • Monitoring readiness and measuring the resilience prior to, during and after the emergency situation, reflects the internal resources of the community.


  • Better understanding of the community’s capacity to adapt to crisis events.
  • Enabling maximisation of the community's ability to cope better with extreme situations and reduction of the impact of crises and disasters.
  • Strengthening of the community as a functioning system active in crisis management.

Decision makers have to integrate community resilience assessment in working programs and budget allocation during routine periods.


4.2. Identifying sources of resilience: learning from what goes well

One of the aims of Resilience Engineering is to learn from the everyday performance and from successful operations, rather than by only through lessons learned after failures. In line with this, identifying Sources of Resilience means investigating the mechanisms by which organizations successfully handle expected and unexpected conditions. Such mechanisms (e.g., strategies, processes, tools) allow the organization to adapt, perform and deliver required services in spite of the variability and complexity they experience in their operations. This adaptive capacity can be recognized by looking at the work-as-done, both in daily operations and unusual or exceptional scenarios, in order to identify sources of resilience and to learn from what goes well.

Identifying successful resilience includes answering a number of triggering questions in relation to different aspects of crisis management: work-as-done/daily operations, goal trade-offs, adaptive capacity, coupling and interactions.


  • Providing a deepened understanding of everyday performance, in order to learn from not only failures but also from successful operations.
  • Learning from what goes well during normal operations in safety critical work as well as incidents and crises can lead to better preparedness and learning and thus increased resilience.


  • Build knowledge of crisis situations as well as of everyday operations.
  • Enhanced resilience based on amplified sources of resilience.


  • Organizations need to have an open view on flexibility and adaptation related to use of procedures focusing on understanding challenges and strategies.
  • Organizations need to invest in the understanding of everyday operations in order to be better prepared for crisis situations. Resources for building up and maintaining this understanding need to be allocated, an investment with the purpose of retaining, enhancing or amplifying the organization's (or, organizations') resilient capabilities. This means among other resources that time needs to be available from experts to share their views on the functioning of the system, as well as facilitators or analysts (possibly experts on resilience management) that are able to analyse and compile this knowledge so that the organization may learn from it in a methodological manner.
  • It may generally be easier to analyse and understand the properties that make systems resilient of more tractable systems, meaning systems (organizations, networks, domains, etc.) with known functioning that do not change faster than it takes to describe them. More persistent organizations such as in Air Traffic Management and Health Care are complex and dynamic, and therefore never fully tractable, but these may be easier to analyse than for example ad hoc on-site disaster relief organizations on the disaster site, which may both be created and changed very quickly.


4.3. Noticing brittleness

The interventions proposed here aim to support organisations to identify sources of brittleness in order to invest in their correction.

Brittleness is experienced in situations of goal conflicts and trade-offs, or when there is a competition for resources and a need to establish priorities under time pressure. Other difficulties emerge when an organisation struggles to manage functional interdependencies between different parts of the same organisation, or when there is insufficient buffer capacity to provide additional resources. Noticing brittleness also means observing operational variability and comparing work-as-done with work-as-imagined, so to reveal how the system might be operating riskier than expected. In addition, brittleness manifests itself when the organisation is unable to learn from past events, such as near misses and accidents.


  • Development of actors’ resilience-related knowledge and skills to notice how brittleness occurs in certain conditions
  • Implementation and conduction of phase-specific activities within organisation to probe for and/or notice brittleness


  • Reading groups, workshops and similar activities help operators and managers develop the skills to notice and discuss brittleness.
  • Scenario-based, game-inspired methods allow for the gathering of various perspectives about brittleness and potential solutions.
  • Methods and tools to collect information during crises allow for their analysis after the fact.


  • Improved capability to identify and discuss factors that make the organisation brittle in certain conditions, for all phases of crisis management, based on input from actors at all levels.
  • Better identification of potential measures to reduce brittleness, thereby enhancing resilience.
  • Improved preparedness and prevention of crisis situations.


  • The organisation is willing to invest resources to understand and address pitfalls, even if they have not yet manifested in catastrophic outcomes.
  • Specific actors in the organisation serve as facilitators / champions in the process.
  • The organisation is developing a culture beyond traditional risk and safety management.