The dictionary defines resilience as an ability to recover from or adjust easily to misfortune or change and in systems thinking, the meaning is similar.

The Resilience Alliance ( adopts a definition of resilience as the capacity of a social-ecological system to absorb or withstand perturbations and other stressors such that the system remains within the same regime, essentially maintaining its structure and functions. It describes the degree to which the system is capable of self-organization, learning and adaptation.

As part of our programmatic design, we have a number of Resilience Support Initiatives (RSI) that aim to institutionalise resilience-building in the region. These have been developed to support AWARD and sub-grantees in systemic, social learning processes.

Our Resilience Support Initiatives:

  • The Municipal Support Initiative (dealing with land-use planning and service delivery that are sensitive to biodiversity, water and climate change)
  • Agricultural Support Initiative (dealing with sustainable practices and networks for food production)
  • Civil Society Support Initiative (dealing with building resilience within civil society)

Guidelines to keep in mind when building resilience:

  • Diversity but not overlapping in function (e.g. if NGOs and government offer an extension service and one of these sources fails to deliver, the system can remain resilient)
  • Connectivity and flow of information into an otherwise isolated system can help with change.
  • Feedbacks if things start going wrong, for corrective action; or in positive situations, for continuation. Slow variables (like the effect of education) can take a long time for feedback.
  • Complexity of systems and help in understanding that the world around us is complex.
  • Learning at all levels in a way that encourages the discussion of options, experimentation and mistakes.
  • Participation even across dissenting boundaries or “siloes”.
  • Polycentric governance or a healthy multi-level network of governance (not only government).