Tuesday 6
Resilience assessment in practice : a dialogue to share insights from case studies and evaluate assessment approaches
A. Quinlan, P. Ryan
› 15:45 - 16:40 (55min)
› Antigone 1
From resilience theory to on-ground action: lessons from Australian regions applying resilience to natural resource management.
Paul Ryan  1@  , Graeme Moss  2@  
1 : Interface NRM
2 : Northern Rivers Catchment Management Authority  (NRCMA)

Session Title

Resilience assessment in practice: A dialogue to share insights from case studies around the world and to explore future opportunities

Session Chairs

Allyson Quinlan & Paul Ryan 



A new paradigm for managing natural resources is emerging in Australia. Drawing on resilience theory and using social learning principles to guide organisational and community participation, the new approach has been used to develop regional (mostly water catchment) scale plans that guide public and private investment in managing natural resources. At the core of the new approach is a resilience assessment process adapted from the Resilience Alliance workbook. The process identifies points for intervention that is aimed at retaining or attaining a desired regional ‘identity'. This approach is a significant shift away from the previous ‘asset based' model for determining investment priorities. To date around one third of regions in Australia have developed plans based to varying degrees on this new paradigm.

 A number of important lessons have emerged from the repeated efforts to apply the new paradigm, in particular regarding the relationship between resilience assessment, organisational and social change and strategic planning. The task of getting all these dimensions working in unison to deliver a plan for action that has legitimacy with all stakeholders, identifies the required systemic changes, is achievable within the constraints, is true to resilience concepts and scientifically rigorous is a major challenge and, based on experiences in Australia, will not be successful in all cases.


Important factors for consideration in the process of using resilience assessment to identify and implement actions for managing complex social-ecological systems that have emerged from our experience include:

  • Planning and managing the paradigm shift: applying a resilience-based approach is a paradigm shift requiring careful planning of the engagement, organisational learning and change management processes.
  • Understanding and ‘tuning' for context, culture and capacity: the biophysical and socio-political context and issues, the culture of the organisations and communities involved, and the institutional and community capacity are critical considerations in designing a tailored resilience-based approach.
  • Identifying key points for intervention: assessing and managing for resilience requires identification of thresholds, feedbacks and controlling variables, a process that requires high level expertise and data not widely available and determining social derived thresholds requires different processes.
  • Managing for system resilience: The difference between, and importance of, specified and general resilience in planning and managing for total system resilience is not usually recognised by people without resilience expertise.
  • Going beyond business-as-usual: overcoming the current system status quo and moving towards deeper, transformative change may require different processes to that engendered by the current resilience assessment process.

These challenges and possible approaches to overcoming them will be discussed, drawing on work with more than 20 case study regional resilience planning processes and some 250 workshops, training days and planning meetings with regional agency staff, scientists, farmers and other land managers.

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