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Resilience – a useful "one word answer" to the recent increase in crises? An integral approach

Karim Fathi

The presentation "Resilience – a useful "one word answer" to the recent increase in crises? An integral approach" during the IFIS Online Colloquium on November 30, 2016, was part of my ongoing reflections within the frame of my postdoctoral lecture qualification.

The purpose of this presentation was, first, to provide a brief overview over the very different contexts and systems levels the notion of "resilience" is currently used. Second, this presentation was and is an invitation to jointly and critically discuss the resilience concept in a transdisciplinary fashion. An open key question for me was in how far this notion could be transdisciplinarily applied as a "one word answer" to different types and contexts of crisis.

Brief summary of my presentation: Resilience can be defined as “… The capacity of a dynamic system to withstand or recover from significant challenges that threaten its stability, viability, or development.” (Ann Masten et al. 2013). There are different types of resiliency: Prevention (before the crisis), reaction (during the crisis) and bouncing back (after the crisis). Furthermore, this notion is applied to different system levels, like individual, organizational and societal resilience. Each level itself refers to very different resilience factors and crisis types, i.e. societal resilience may refer to natural disasters, cyber terrorism, economical crises, the refugee crises etc. One might rightly criticize that referring to resilience as a "one-word-answer" to all of these very different crises might be like comparing apples and oranges. However, in today's highly complex world one might argue that all of these different systems levels and crises contexts are interrelated requiring a cross-contextual concept.

Closing my presentation, I formulated the following three summarizing statements:

1. Against the background of a highly complex world and cross-disciplinary manifesting crises, there is an increasing (theoretical and practical) relevancy of a “broadly applicable” notion of resilience.
2. Resilience as an “umbrella-term” may be only useful in terms of a transdisciplinary approach, but should carefully distinguish between different sub-concepts and definitions of resilience.
3. The application of AQAL and other transdisciplinary approaches (including various concepts of systems thinking) leaves open questions for further research.

The subsequent discussion included a lot of contributions inspiring me for further research:

- What does resiliency mean with regard to the AQAL dimension Levels: Are there different development levels of resiliency? From a cybernetical point of view: the higher the level of complexity, the higher the competency to deal with complexity. But from the other hand, high development and complexity might also lead into higher and more complex vulnerability.
- Similar questions also with regard to development lines and states...
- What does resiliency mean with regard to the AQAL dimension: Types? Given the fact that contemporary resilience studies is highly Western-centric, it would be interesting to consider inter- and transcultural dimensions. I.e. Japanese and German organizations and the whole society proved to be highly resilient in the aftermath of WWII. However both societies appeared to show very different cultural patterns of resilience.
- With regard to the "panarchy of adaptive cycles" model contrasting the concept of evolutionary resilience: In how far can the resilience concept be related to already existing models of evolution and development? And in how far is this useful?
- What does a cross-disciplinary concept of resiliency mean in terms of "transformative science" (mode 3 science)? An aspect making this question very challenging is the fact that transformative science has ethical and normative implications, whereas this is not necessarily the case for the resilience concept (i.e. resiliency can also be inspired from and implied by amoral actors like the mafia or IS).
- What does systemic resiliency imply in a trans-anthroprocentric (or metaphysical) context? I.e. if humankind does not prove to be resilient and dies out in the face of an utimate crisis - what does this mean for the planet (and its resiliency) and the emergency of an adapted post-human species in terms of "evolutionary resiliency"?

With these and other reflections in mind, I came off the colloquium with more questions and inspirations than in the beginning of my presentation. Thank you all very much for the fruitful discussion and your highly enriching contributions!


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