By David Boan
As Micah prepares for the upcoming Triennial on the theme of resilience, it may be helpful for us to prepare by considering some questions about resilience. In this article I will start with the question of whether there is any evidence for resilience, or if it is mainly an abstract idea or theory. I limit my discussion to recent research, which will also provide some sense of where this topic is heading.
One group of studies focuses on resilience and its effect on disaster recovery and trauma. If resilience means resisting and recovering from harm, such as from a disaster, and if disaster preparedness can be assumed to help a community better resist harm, then several studies show the factors underlying preparedness, and hence resilience.
For example, Hoffman & Muttarak (2017) show that high social capital, in addition to education and disaster experiences, motivates people to prepare for a disaster. What is meant by social capital in these studies varies, but it generally means active participation in the life of the community, including developing connections or relationships across the community. For example, Cui and Han looked at which people maintained their preparedness after a disaster. They found that people with strong community bonds did not show the typical decline in preparedness following a disaster, while people with low community bonds showed a significant decline in preparedness. Their way of measuring bonds emphasized social cooperation and engagement, which is a type of social capital.
A different approach is illustrated by researchers such as Ogtem-Young (2018) who questioned the approach of linking resilience to disasters and trauma. His view is in the tradition of many social scientists who argue that a disaster-oriented approach leaves out the many cultural and local community elements important to understanding resilience. He describes how resilience develops from everyday experiences and particularly how everyday faith plays an important role in resilience. Using in-depth interviews, he showed how people encounter loss, discrimination, crime, and other hardships, and how their ability to cope with these events is an important example of resilience. Further, religion was an important resilience factor for many but not all subjects. The role of religion depended on other factors, such as education, culture, and economic status.
The importance of these studies is that they show how we are clarifying the underlying constructs that lead to resilience. They show that resilience is not a single or homogenous trait, but rather a collection of actions (ongoing social interactions) and traits (bonds, awareness, strategies) that broadly lead to a variety of conditions that we association with healthiness, including the ability to respond to harm. Importantly, a number of authors are describing how those important actions and traits are not just those associated with disasters, but are part of the fabric and everyday life. This is important for many reasons, not the least of which is because of how difficult it is to keep people focused on disaster events that may never occur.
Finally, this work is important for the connection to faith and church, both of which appear often in discussions of resilience. This leads us to an intriguing question that I will take up next: Is there support for the idea that Integral Mission leads to greater resilience?
Hoffmann, R.; Muttarak, R. (2017) Learn from the Past, Prepare for the Future: Impacts of Education and Experience on Disaster Preparedness in the Philippines and Thailand. World Dev. 96, 32–51, doi:10.1016/j.worlddev.2017.02.016.
Ögtem-Young, O. (2018). Faith resilience: Everyday experiences. Societies, 8(1), 10-10. doi:10.3390/soc8010010
Cui & Han (in press) Does social capital determine disaster preparedness and health consultations after the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake and Nuclear Power Station accident? IJERPH