How to prepare for a resilience assessment?
Doing such an assessment does not require advanced scientific skills but does require preparation as it both needs careful facilitation and a systemic view.
If you have never done a resilience assessment (RA) before, multiple workbooks can help you prepare for it. CEEweb is currently developing one; another one was published by the Resilience Alliance; you can also build on the matter with the Wayfinder workbook.
Doing such an assessment does not require advanced scientific skills, but does require preparation as it both needs careful facilitation and a systemic view that can understand a probably very complex system on the go. Below, a few steps that can help you prepare if you plan to implement a resilience assessment.
First, read a resilience assessment that was done by an expert somewhere else. You might not want to do the same, but it is good practice to look at an example. How would the result look like? How is it being used elsewhere? You can find a list of assessments on the website of the Resilience Alliance.
Then, do your homework: read everything you find about the place to be assessed. Stakeholders appreciate if you are prepared and, needless to say, the entire process runs smoother if you do not need a basic introduction to the landscape. Look at the map, make assumptions, let yourself speculate — do not take these aspects too seriously, but you need something to start with.
Moreover, talk to someone who knows the landscape. What are the main ecosystem services? How are people using the landscape? Make a list of all the relevant stakeholders who either use or manage the system. Most probably, there will be parties in conflict. This is normal: invite everyone.
Maybe you already see some challenges before the assessment takes place. Try to find similar cases worldwide. Try to see different outcomes, different management solutions, positive and negative results. Even if the example is from a quite different climate or culture, being familiar with a problem helps you to react in real-time — and this makes your workshop more enjoyable, speeds up the process, and gives some confidence. One resource to look at for a wide range of possible challenges is the Regime Shifts database.
Many people complain that these workshops only produce papers. Often, this is true, but you can design the workshop in a way that makes it more useful. Collect investment projects, government programs, ongoing or planned projects that impact the area — even seemingly unrelated projects. Collect a list of influential people or institutions. These are all sources of change in the system; thus, also points of intervention: make sure that the results can be channelled into these processes, tailored to these audiences. If it is needed, give some time to talk about this with the participants: how to explain the results?
Of course, it is not impossible to do an RA in one day: with an aggressive schedule and some luck, you might even get results, but our experience shows that the more time is given, the more it impacts its depth and potential engagement. Therefore, give yourself time to meet the people and understand the region. Visit the landscape, ask questions, get to know the stakeholders, and build a relationship. Having some time doing “nothing” can help you plan a workshop that achieves “something” more efficiently. In our experience, three days will bring positive results, and it is useful to have some time between the first and the final two days.