What does community resilience look like in practice? How institutions see the role of communities in responding to heatwaves in the UK


The concept of resilience is well-established in policy, as well as popular and professional discourse. The notion of community resilience, though, is relatively new, and has only recently been taken up in policy (Cabinet Office 2011b; Defra 2012; 2013). Twigger-Ross et al (2011) define community resilience as an ongoing process of communities working with local resources – alongside local expertise – to help themselves and others to prepare for, respond to, and recover from emergencies. However, when regional and national policy documents mention community and voluntary groups – and local residents – the roles of these actors in developing and implementing resilience are not clearly explained. The documents tend to focus on infrastructure development and institutional emergency responses (Greater London Authority 2011; Defra 2013; UK Government 2013; Public Health England 2014b). In this context, community resilience seems to be something that is bestowed on passive communities by active local institutions; all of the local agency of Twigger-Ross’s definition is lost or missing. The challenge that policymakers face in trying to define the roles of communities in resilience raises various problems. Research and practice in a range of domains (and over a long period) highlights the limits of institutional responses, and emphasises that community-led action and other forms of public participation and engagement can effectively complement institutional responses (Arnstein 1969; INVOLVE 2005; Twigger Ross et al 2011; Cinderby et al 2014; DECC 2014). An active community with local agency could play a key role in preparing for, responding to and recovering from emergencies.

This paper was presented at a conference, Architecture and Resilience on a Human Scale, at the University of Sheffield on 11 September 2015.

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