The National Consortium for Societal Resilience [UK+] has held its first national conference at AMBS with delegates from local resilience partnerships joining senior government figures to discuss societal resilience at a two-day event.
Keynote speaker Colin Payne, Head of Strategy at the Resilience and Recovery Directorate at the Department of Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, said the event was a very timely and topical conference. “We have been through an unprecedented series of events in recent years. We are living in a world of increasing complexity, technological change and climatic change, and this is going to present real challenges going forward.”
He said the word resilience was going to become increasingly important and not just because we have had a pandemic. “There are much wider technological and environmental drivers which are making this really important. There is a shift that we want to drive about broadening the mission and remit of Local Resilience Forums and how we think about resilience away from risk-based planning (which we still have to do) to building the underpinning resilience of our communities.”
He added that it was really important that government engaged with business on the subject too, not just nationally but regionally and locally. “Businesses of all sizes are so important and instrumental to their communities. Not only are they affected by risk and manage their own risk, but they are also part of the support network of their community.”
And there was also a major role for academia to play too. “The evidence base we have for resilience, and especially the more nuanced and sophisticated ideas, is incredibly weak. Anything the academic sector can bring in terms of evidence would be powerful.”
Fellow keynote speaker Mary Jones, Director of Resilience at the Cabinet Office, also offered some candid reflections from the centre of government on how it was approaching the whole subject of societal resilience.
“I joined this role in September last year and I have never been in a government job where there has been such a degree of consensus and support for the overarching objective of my role. Everyone agrees on the nature of the problem in the context of increasing volatility, the interconnectedness of risks, geopolitical and geo-economic shifts, advancement in technology and the impact of climate change. However, the challenge is in breaking down this challenge into the actions and steps we can take to improve our resilience to these risks."
She said that the creation of the new Resilience Directorate ensured that we are able to focus on building the systems and addressing the priority risks and vulnerabilities that need government attention. "Building resilience at home and overseas is now a major priority. What we have been trying to do at the centre of government is to make sure we have the systems in place to genuinely allow us to make an impact and turn the dial.”
Delegates enjoyed this unique opportunity to collaborate through the consortium’s work and make a real difference.
Lesley Speedie from Blackwood and Kirkmuirhill Resilience Group, said: “I found the conference inspiring and encouraging. It was great to hear so many people from across industry, the third sector, and local authorities all talking about the same concept. Namely, how do you strengthen communities, how do you work with local communities and get that voice heard, and how do you strengthen societal resilience?”
Robyn Knox from VCS Emergencies Partnership, added: “I was enthused by an incredible couple of days. The energy and groundswell we feel being amongst Local Resilience Forum colleagues and other partners of NCSR feels incredibly positive and we’re on the cusp of really getting into the detail now.”
And Dave Norris from East Sussex Fire and Rescue Services added: “We are, as you’d expect, well embedded in local resilience but that tends to be through the response lens. The conference challenges us to think more broadly about how to bring partners in earlier, sustain that relationship in the longer term, and contribute towards societal resilience.”
NSCR+ co-founder Duncan Shaw, Professor of Operational Research and Critical Systems at AMBS, said the success of the conference showed the enthusiasm among local government partners for collaborative working to enhance societal resilience.
“The NCSR+ is well placed to be at the heart of that effort by providing strategic support to operationalising societal resilience as a local resilience capability. National government has set a clear vision of a whole-of-society approach to resilience. Now the NCSR+ and The University of Manchester look forward to working with local government and others to translate that into effective practice to further enhance the resilience of the most vulnerable in society. Central to this will be bringing everyone up to the same level in this endeavour and helping resilience partnerships to integrate local resilience capabilities so that individuals, community groups, businesses, organisations, and voluntary sector can all play a meaningful part in building the resilience of local society”.
Watch the video from the conference below: