The Grassroots Fund defines Community Resilience as the sustained ability of a community to effectively integrate with and utilize available resources to consistently meet the ecological and social needs of its community members. Although community resilience allows communities to avoid, respond to, withstand, and recover from future adverse situations, true strategies for resilience also ensure that needs of community members are met today. We identify community resilience along two interconnected, but distinct frameworks:
- Ecological – the sustained ability of communities to both mitigate and adapt to the growing impacts of climate change and degradation/over-use of environmental systems while honoring the vitality and value of the people and places of that community. Place-based resilience can be as targeted as assessments and upgrade plans to drainage/culvert systems or as complex as diversifying the food systems while addressing equity and access for all populations.
- Social – the strength of the social fabric demonstrated by community members to come together to support and care for one another in the face of threats to a community. Examples of such social interconnected (or lack of) can be seen in examples of communities rapidly self-organizing and working together in the aftermath of extreme weather events.
Our grant making reflects our belief that strong, resilient, equitable communities require deliberate approaches at both levels, which inherently strengthen each level. And although these aspects of resilience are distinct, critical to community resilience is also rethinking how we define “community”, recognizing that although social and ecological boundaries may differ, they are inextricably tied together by the regional “sheds” that define the resources and systems that we all share. Resilience involves awareness of the “sheds” that link us together, whether they are watersheds, food sheds, energy sheds, or even economic sheds. Shed awareness is key to understanding the true boundaries (or lack thereof) of the community that we are striving to make resilient.
And although community resilience is often discussed in terms of preparing for or avoiding future events, we see community resilience as the day-to-day ability of a community to consistently meet the social and ecological needs of its constituents. We need to protect our wetlands, not just in the event of storm surge and flooding, but to maintain the ecosystem functions that we rely on every day. We need to ensure that all members of our communities have access to clean, healthy food - not just in the event of a natural disaster that cuts us of from imported produce, but now when we have neighbors going to bed hungry. We need access to clean energy for our community members - not just when the lights go out after a hurricane, but for children living near coal plants that struggle daily with asthma and for the hardworking families who must regularly choose between paying health care bills and keeping the heat on in the winter. A resilient community recognizes that, as a system, it is strongest when all of its components are strong, when the needs within the system are honored and supported and therefore the skills and values within it maximized. Resilient communities are regenerative as they support practices that foster abundance rather than scarcity. Community resilience is not a dire scaling back nor a fearful preparatory measure, but rather a positive movement towards a brighter future where natural and social systems inherently support health, wellness, equity, and justice.