Tag Archives: Brian Walker

Stockholm Whiteboard Seminars

Fredrik Moberg from Albaeco and Stockholm Resilience Centre has developed a new video seminar concept with Sturle Simonsen called the “Stockholm Whiteboard Seminars”. He says:

The idea is to get away from seminars loaded with lengthy and flashy PowerPoints and go back to basics. So, take the opportunity to get a short and close encounter with a top scientist in the field of sustainable development, who uses the whiteboard to explain an important concept or recent research insight just for you! So, what is this Whiteboard Seminar concept all about? The criteria we use are:

• The scientist has a maximum of 7 minutes to present
• The presentation must be done in an as easy, clear and convincing way possible
• It should be related to people’s everyday life or a current topic in media/politics
• The presentation should evolve around a simple model or a drawing
• The presenter is only allowed to use a black whiteboard pen

The first two videos in the series are below the break…

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Habits of Resilient Organizations

EcoTrust‘s blog/web magazine People and Place first issue is on Resilience Thinking, and features a number of articles on resilience including a interview with Brian Walker.  One interesting article proposes Six Habits of Highly Resilient Organizations:

1. Resilient organizations actively attend to their environments.
2. Resilient organizations prepare themselves and their employees for disruptions.
3. Resilient organizations build in flexibility.
4. Resilient organizations strengthen and extend their communications networks – internally and externally.
5. Resilient organizations encourage innovation and experimentation.
6. Resilient organizations cultivate a culture with clearly shared purpose and values.

The authors write:

Most companies live fast and die young. A study in 1983 by Royal Dutch/Shell found only 40 corporations over 100 years old. In contrast, they found that one-third of the Fortune 500s from 1970 were, at that time, already gone.

What differentiates success and failure, resilience and collapse? The Royal Dutch/Shell study emphasizes shared purpose and values, tolerance of new ideas, financial reserves, and situational awareness.

More recently, Ceridian Corporation collected best thinking and strategies to publish an executive briefing on organizational resilience. They highlighted the paradox that successful, resilient organizations are those that are able to respond to two conflicting imperatives:

* managing for performance and growth, which requires consistency, efficiency, eliminating waste, and maximizing short-term results

* managing for adaptation, which requires foresight, innovation, experimentation, and improvisation, with an eye on long-term benefits

Most organizations pay great attention to the first imperative but little to the second. Start-ups often excel at improvisation and innovation but founder on the shoals of consistent performance and efficiency. About half of all new companies fail during their first five years.

Each mode requires a different skill set and organizational design. Moving nimbly between them is a tricky dynamic balancing act. Disruptions can come from anywhere – from within, from competitors, infrastructure or supply chain crises, or from human or natural disasters. The financial crisis has riveted current attention, but it’s just one of many disruptions organizations must cope with daily. Planning for disruption means shifting from “just-in-time” production and efficiency to “just-in-case” resilience.

A regional resilience assessment of the Goulburn-Broken Catchment

Earlier this month one of the first integrated assessments of regional resilience based on the workbooks developed by the Resilience Alliance was published in Ecology and Society.

Resilience, Adaptability and Transformability in the Goulburn-Broken Catchment, Australia, by Brian Walker, Nick Abel, John Anderies and Paul Ryan uses an approach that follows and also builds upon the workbook guide.

One important aspect of the approach used by Walker and colleagues was to deal with both specified and general resilience. After identifying ten thresholds in the Goulburn-Broken catchment the authors go on to consider the overall resilience of the social-ecological system and offer the following explanation and word of caution about responding solely to specific and known potential system shocks:

“Because of uncertainty about the specified thresholds, regions must be prepared for a wide range of disturbances. By building targeted resilience, regions may inadvertently be reducing other kinds of resilience. It is well known that in feedback systems (of which social–ecological systems are an example) increasing robustness to disturbances at a particular frequency range may reduce robustness to disturbances at another range. It was shown long ago that this is necessarily the case for linear, time-invariant systems (Bode 1945). This idea has been extended to more complex systems recently. For example, Carlson and Doyle (2000) illustrate that biophysical systems that become robust to frequent disturbances become necessarily less resilient to those that are very infrequent. Anderies et al. (2007) have applied these ideas to simple, nonlinear, renewable-resource management problems and illustrated fundamental robustness trade-offs to different types of disturbances. It is, therefore, sensible to consider, in addition to resilience to specified thresholds, whether general resilience is declining.”

Brian Walker’s Research Areas for Resilience Science

Brian Walker, the former director of the Resilience Alliance reflected on the future of resilience science in his introductory talk at Resilience 2008. In his talk Probing the boundaries of resilience science and practice, he identified seven important research areas for resilience science:

  1. Test, criticize and revise the propositions about resilience made in Panarchy: Understanding Transformations in Human and Natural Systems and Ecology and Society special issue – Exploring Resilience In Social-Ecological Systems.
  2. Develop models of social-ecological systems that can produce the key aspects of the rich behaviour of the world. In particular these models should be able to produce:
    i) dynamics in which systems cross multiple thresholds,
    ii) produce “backloop” dynamics, and
    iii) incorporate models of adaptive governance that incorporate leadership, trust, ‘shadow’ networks, sleeper links, and poly-centric governance arrangements.
  3. Extend resilience theory from local or regional scales to the global to address questions such as:
    i) Do we need new propositions for global resilience issues?
    ii) Over what ranges of scale can we apply existing theory?, and
    iii) How important are scale-dependent processes?
  4. Resilience theory needs to better understand the consquences of multiple simultaneous shocks, because transformative change seems to be often triggered by two (or more) simultaneous shocks. For example an environmental shock and an economic (or political) shock occurring at the same time.
    Resilience theory needs to understand what coupled or sequential shocks are likely, and how could we go about assessing resilience to them. An example of this is the current food crisis that developed from the coupling of agriculture, energy, and climate issues.
  5. What are the differences between transformational change, adaptability and resilience? Transformability is the capacity to create a fundamentally new system when conditions make the existing system untenable. In much of the world the need is to transform, not to make the existing system regime more resilient. What are the design principles of transformations?
  6. How can we assess the costs and values of resilience? What is the difference between general (broad spectrum resilience to many things) vs. specified resilience (to a few specific things)? How can we conceptualize the danger in ‘optimizing’ for specified resilience? How much should we spend (or forego) to increase resilience?
  7. How can the value of different regimes be assessed? The desirablity of a regime usually depends upon the perspective it is viewed from, and different people have different perspectives. Coping with these perspectives is a challenge. But more fundamentally, this requires not just assessing the value of different ecosystem services, but also understanding the identity of a system, and its ability to maintain itself.
  8. Non-mathematical approaches to resilience. While mathematics is beautiful to some, it is difficult to communicate and in some situations is insufficient. We need to increase our ability to represent resilience in a variety of forms. This presents a challenge to the humanities and arts community. At Resilience 2008 we saw contributions towards this understanding, but there is much more to develop. Can science and the humanities work together to provide the impetus towards a richer, more resilient world?

Novelty Needed for Sustainable Development – Resilience 2008

conclusions panel resilience 2008

The Stockholm Resilience Centre has released two press releases on the conclusion of Resilience 2008.

The first Novelty thinking key to sustainable development reports on the concluding panel of the conference in which Elinor Ostrom, Sverker Sörlin, Carole Crumley, Line Gordon and Buzz Holling reflected on the conference, lessons from the past and the answers for the future.

Buzz Holling, considered the father of resilience thinking, called for freedom and flexibility in order to generate multilevel change and novelty thinking. This is needed in a time when several crises are emerging, he said.

- This year a cluster of predicted crises have become aware to the public, such as the rise of food prices due to energy market changes and the collapse of the financial market. We see that small instabilities and risks spread to practically all developed countries in the world. However, globalisation also adds a great positive value because the individual or small groups can have an increasingly global effect, Holling said.

Resilience as an continuance of sustainability thinking
Sverker Sörlin and Carole Crumley both argued that we have moved beyond traditional discussions around sustainability and that resilience thinking is increasingly being embraced as an integrated part of sustainable development thinking.

- Resilience thinking will not replace the sustainability discourse, but we can use resilience to develop sustainability further, Sörlin said. He was followed up by Line Gordon who noted that the key approach with resilience thinking is that although we might have solutions for sustainable development, we will face challenges and we must be prepared for surprises.

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