Operationalising a framework for understanding community resilience in Europe

  • Philip RevellEmail author
  • Charles Henderson
Original Article


A growing movement of bottom-up community-based initiatives across Europe are taking action intended to support a transition to a zero-carbon future. A simple framework for understanding the contribution of these diverse initiatives to building community resilience could provide a useful tool for researchers, funders, policymakers and others to understand their current, and likely future, impact and how they might be better supported. It would also provide a useful basis for such initiatives to critically reflect on and assess their own activities and priorities. The ‘resilience compass’ (Wilding 2011) provides one such possible framework and has the particular merit of having been developed with active participation of community activists. In this paper, this approach has been tested by organising data on the activities of 63 hugely varied community-based climate action initiatives in six European countries. This has created a visual guide to enable a simple comparison of their likely potential to catalyse change and consideration of how the efforts of each might be better balanced to enhance their impact. Further, to support the appropriation of the framework by communities themselves, we report the development of a novel online tool for community initiatives to use for resilience self-assessment and a downloadable resource to support them to run participatory, community resilience workshops. We conclude that this approach has significant potential to advance the scientific understanding of community resilience, and so help create the conditions in which the transformational ‘bouncing forward’ to a low-carbon future can emerge.


Community Resilience Climate change Transition Transformation 



This work was funded by the European Commission (Seventh Framework Programme under Grant Agreement No. 603705).

Supplementary material

10113_2018_1390_MOESM1_ESM.docx (27 kb)
ESM 1 (DOCX 27 kb)


  1. Berkes F, Folke C (eds) (1998) Linking social and ecological systems. Cambridge University Press, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
  2. Berkes F, Ross H (2013) Community resilience: toward an integrated approach. Soc Nat Resour 26(1):5–20. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Boyd E, Folke C (2011) Adapting institutions: governance, complexity and social-ecological resilience. Cambridge University Press, CambridgeCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Brown K, Westaway E (2011) Agency, capacity, and resilience to environmental change. Annu Rev Environ Resour 36(1):321–342. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Cinderby S, Haq G, Cambridge H, Lock K (2016) Building community resilience: can everyone enjoy a good life? Local Environ 21:1252–1270. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Cretney R (2014) Resilience for whom? Emerging critical geographies of socio-ecological resilience. Geography Compass 8(9):627–640. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Davoudi S, Shaw K, Haider LJ, Quinlan AE, Peterson GD, Wilkinson C, Fünfgeld H, McEvoy D, Porter L, Davoudi S (2012) Resilience: a bridging concept or a dead end? “Reframing” resilience: challenges for planning theory and practice interacting traps: resilience assessment of a pasture management system in Northern Afghanistan urban resilience: what does it mean in planning practice? Resilience as a useful concept for climate change adaptation? The politics of resilience for planning: a cautionary note. Plann Theory Pract 13(2):299–333. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Duit A, Galaza V, Eckerberga K, Ebbessona J (2010) Governance, complexity, and resilience. Glob Environ Chang 20(3):363–368CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Emery M, Flora C (2006) Spiraling-up: mapping community transformation with community capitals framework. Commun Dev 37(1):19–35. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Fleming D (2016) Lean logic. Chelsea Green, VermontGoogle Scholar
  11. Folke C, Carpenter S, Walker B, Scheffer M, Chapin T, Rockström J (2010) Resilience thinking: integrating resilience, adaptability and transformability. Ecol Soc 15(4):20. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Freshwater D (2015) Vulnerability and resilience: two dimensions of rurality. Sociol Rural 55:497–515. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Gunderson LH, Holling C (2002) Panarchy. Understanding transformations in human and natural systems. Island Press, Washington DCGoogle Scholar
  14. Henfrey T, Maschkowski G, Penha-Lopes G (2017) Resilience, community action & societal transformation. Permanent Publications, Hampshire.
  15. Holling C (1973) Resilience and stability of ecological systems. Annu Rev Ecol Syst 4:1–23. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Hopkins R (2008) The transition handbook: from oil dependency to local resilience. Green Books, TotnesGoogle Scholar
  17. Magis K (2010) Community resilience: an indicator of social sustainability. Soc Nat Resour 23:401–416. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. O’Brien K (2012) Global environmental change II. Prog Hum Geogr 36(5):667–676. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Olsson P, Gunderson LH, Carpenter SR, Ryan P, Lebel L, Folke C, Holling CS (2006) Shooting the rapids: navigating transitions to adaptive governance of social-ecological systems. Ecol Soc 11(1):18. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Pfefferbaum R, Pfefferbaum B, Nitiéma P, Houston J, Van Horn R (2015) Assessing community resilience. Am Behav Sci 59(2):181–199. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Seyfang G, Haxeltine A (2012) Growing grassroots innovations: exploring the role of community-based initiatives in governing sustainable energy transitions. Environ Plann C: Gov Policy 30(3):381–400. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Skerrat S (2013) Enhancing the analysis of rural community resilience: evidence from community land ownership. J Rural Stud 31:36–46. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Smith A (2007) Translating sustainabilities between green niches and socio-technical regimes. Tech Anal Strat Manag 19(4):427–450. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Smith A, Stirling A (2018) Innovation, sustainability and democracy: an analysis of grassroots contributions. J Self-Governance Manag Econ 6(1):64–97. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Smith A, Hargreaves T, Hielscher S, Martiskainen M, Seyfang G (2016) Making the most of community energies: three perspectives on grassroots innovation. Environ Plan A 48(2):407–432. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Speth G (2012) American passage: towards a new economy and a new politics. Ecol Econ 84:181–186. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Steiner A, Markantoni M (2014) Unpacking community resilience through capacity for change. Community Dev J 49(3):407–425. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Steiner A, Woolvin M, Skerratt S (2018) Measuring community resilience: developing and applying a ‘hybrid evaluation’ approach. Community Dev J 53(1):99–118. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Walker B, Salt D (2006) Resilience thinking. Island Press, Washington DCGoogle Scholar
  30. Walker B, Holling C, Carpenter S, Kinzig A (2004) Resilience, adaptability and transformability in social–ecological systems. Ecol Soc 9(2):5. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Wilding N (2011) Exploring community resilience in times of rapid change. Accessed 16 July 2018
  32. Wilding N (2013) Toward the digital wilds: experiments in social learning with ‘fiery spirits community of practice’. PhD thesis, University of BathGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Scottish Communities Climate Action NetworkDunbarScotland
  2. 2.Climate FuturesEdinburgh Centre for Carbon InnovationEdinburghScotland

Personalised recommendations