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Searching for the ingredients of resilience

The Oxford Martin School today announced its receipt of a prestigious funding award to bring new understandings of strength and vulnerability in our highly interconnected world. The Rockefeller Foundation awarded the $300,000 grant to enable a new project to investigate the key structures and mechanisms that generate resilience for systems characterised by high interconnectivity as well as risks of internal failure or external shocks.

Dr Felix Reed-Tsochas, Director of the Oxford Martin Programme on Complexity, who will lead the project explained, “From instabilities in our global banking networks, to the disruption of major supply chains, the fragility of threatened ecosystems, and the reduction of the effects of poverty, there is much to be learned from a systematic comparison of how different systems respond to growing risks, and what ingredients can contribute to greater resilience.” He continued: “to do this, it is necessary to understand the subtle interplay between dynamic responses and structural arrangements that underpin different systems. What are the key characteristics of resilience and how can they be measured? When can we translate findings between domains? For instance, can our understanding of what makes ecological networks resilient inform how risk in financial networks can be better managed?”

The project will involve the development of two workshops. The first, Measures of resilience, will bring together experts and academics to explore to what extent different perspectives on resilience can be integrated, and to what degree measures of resilience in one domain work in another. The second workshop, Resilience in practice, will seek to engage policy-makers and practitioners to find out how adaptive strategies for resilience are currently implemented.Practical applications of resilience will be explored in a diverse mix of scenarios – including transport and supply chain systems; ICT networks; financial networks; ecosystems; and social communities.

“The Rockefeller Foundation is thrilled to support the Oxford Martin School in their work to deepen both our analytical understanding of the concept of resilience and its practical application,” said Rockefeller Foundation Managing Director Claudia Juech.  “In our increasingly interconnected world, a potential crisis can have a ripple effect across systems, sectors, and geographies – often with a disproportional impact on poor or vulnerable people.  We hope that through this work, we can gain new perspectives on how to strengthen resilience in times of increasing volatility and uncertainty.”

Said Reed-Tsochas, “Our aim is for the outcomes from these workshops to have a significant impact both on theory and practice, by integrating approaches that have arisen independently in very different domains.”

Oxford Martin School Director, Professor Ian Goldin added “The solution to many of the greatest challenges of the 21st century lies in more effective policies and institutions to manage connectivity and integration at all levels of governance. Without effective measures of resilience, systemic risks will overwhelm the gains of globalization. We hope that these workshops, funded by the generosity of the Rockefeller Foundation, will identify key principles to enhance resilience.”