The following is draft language in NCAT’s Guide for Resilient Rural Communities to define resilience:


What is a Resilient Community?


The traditional definition of community resilience focuses narrowly on preparedness in the face of crisis and the ability of communities to “bounce back” from natural disasters, human-caused disruptions, and other shocks.


But as the pace of economic and technological shifts, environmental change, and climate disruption accelerates, a broader notion of resilience is taking root. Resilient communities develop the capacity to bounce forward by responding to challenges in ways that address the root causes of instability and disruption. Ultimately, the ultimate test of a resilient community is its ability to ensure the security and welfare of residents and communities in the face of disruptive change.


The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services[1] highlights the rising challenge:


Communities are increasingly complex, and so are the challenges they face. Human-caused and natural disasters are more frequent and costly. Factors like climate change, globalization, and increased urbanization can bring disaster related risks to greater numbers of people. Addressing these threats calls for an approach that combines what we know about preparing for disasters with what we know about actions that strengthen communities every day. Community resilience focuses on enhancing the day-to-day health and wellbeing of communities to reduce the negative impacts of disasters.


In the non-governmental sector, one of the nation’s most prominent supporters of community resilience specifically addresses the challenge in an era of a changing climate. To build resilience, the Kresge Foundation says, communities must simultaneously:

  • Lessen overall demand for energy and increase the proportion derived from renewable sources;
  • Anticipate and prepare for pressures and shocks that climate change will introduce or worsen; and
  • Foster social cohesion by strengthening connections among individuals and networks and advancing social inclusion.[2]


For the purpose of this guide, a resilient community is defined as one that: anticipates and adapts to stresses and disruptions by 1) increasing local self-reliance; 2) engaging citizens and strengthening social bonds around local solutions; and 3) collaborating with other communities to learn from and support each other.  A resilient community is one where you know your neighbor.  It’s one where local jobs are thriving and community pride is high.  It’s one where your kids can play in natural spaces that are safe, clean, and beautiful. 


Community resilience can be broken down into four inter-related dimensions: Economic, social, personal, and climate resilience.  Economic resilience entails a strong local job economy and circulating money within your community.  Social resilience is having a thriving youth population as well as an appeal to attract youth to reside there, including a welcoming atmosphere, high quality of life, and strong social ties between residents.  Personal resilience refers to an individual’s health and well-being as well as their capabilities to accomplish tasks and decisions independently.  It also refers to the ability to overcome the overwhelming feelings of despair in the face of challenges such as climate change, economic downturns, substance abuse and addiction. Finally, climate resilience deals with a community’s ability to withstand, adapt, and thrive in the face of environmental shocks and stressors.


[1] U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response,, accessed August 9, 2019

[2] Kresge Foundation, Pathways to Resilience,, accessed August 9, 2019