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The Manchester Briefing on COVID-19 issue 35: Building local resilience capability

The work of academics across AMBS, the Humanitarian and Conflict Response Institute (HCRI), and The University of Manchester around building local community resilience has been referenced by the House of Lords.

Last week Duncan Shaw, Professor of Operational Research and Critical Systems at AMBS, gave evidence to its Risk Assessment and Risk Planning Select Committee which is looking at how the government can better mobilise the public as a resource to support national resilience, a concept which has become much more discussed in the wake of the pandemic with the committee also planning to produce a report on the subject later this year.

As he told the committee: “We need to take a strategic approach to supporting communities to prepare for and respond to emergencies. In the UK we have this notion of community resilience, but it is quite a difficult concept to pin down. Local authorities and national government are trying to understand what this means.”

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Community resilience

Professor Shaw talked to committee members about his and colleagues’ work around operationalising community resilience as a set of local resilience capabilities.

As he explained: “This brings together the capabilities of individuals, organisations in the communities, community groups, and associations and networks that are made up of all of these three groups. How can we reduce the likelihood of impacts and then enhance communities as they respond through cohesive coordinated action? We can do this by helping communities become aware of the risks, by helping them to help us to understand the vulnerabilities, and then help them develop resilient behaviours.”

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He added that it was also about communities providing two-way communication channels back up into government so that when something changes there is a surveillance mechanism to ensure that local knowledge can be pushed up into government and help identify those who are the most vulnerable in a crisis.

“Communities can also develop their own governance, processes, training and continuity plans,” he added. “They can also coordinate other community groups so that everyone is working together and neighbours can be empowered to act.

“Most of this has been happening during the Covid-19 crisis. Resilience partners now need to think about how they can sustain this effort in a way that will continue to reduce risks for other emergencies that might happen. However we don’t need everyone in a community to act in this way. We just need enough businesses, enough people to take some responsibility and action.”

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Global examples

Professor Shaw said that if you look around the world there are excellent examples of the public being responsible for their own resilience and being empowered by local government to take action. “Local government cannot do everything,” he said. “We now need a review of legislation around community resilience. Communities are there before, during and after emergencies. Community resilience as a capability is not regarded at the moment.”

The Manchester Briefing Issue 35

Meanwhile the latest Briefing from AMBS and the HCRI – which brings together international lessons for local and national government recovery and renewal in the wake of the pandemic – was published today.

In the latest issue there is discussion around how to improve social protection programmes so that they are disaster responsive, as well as an item on incentive programmes for volunteers who have offered their time, knowledge and skills to support response efforts.

There is also discussion around strategies to recover the tourism industry and local hospitality businesses, and around recovery and renewal plans for high street and town centre development.

If you would like to contribute your knowledge to the briefing contact

Professor Duncan Shaw and David Powell from the HCRI have written a blog that examines community resilience as part of our Original Thinkers Blog series.