Robert Hall, Executive Director, Resilience First

 

Resilience is an often over-used word that can attract a myriad of causes, and some derision. It's much like the word 'strategy'.

You can have resilience (or a strategy) for dealing with problems in the digital, environmental, infrastructural, economic, or physical space.

Resilience is a vast church within which lots of causes can be assembled.

This leads to confusion, both around meaning of resilience and how it can be usefully applied.

With such a basket of causes, where does one begin?

You could say that there is no point in being resilient to fire and floods while not being resilient to cyber-attacks and corruption - as the one thing that ends up happening may be the very one unaddressed.

Hence, if you are going to be resilient as far as possible then you need to manage all potential risks, as per a risk register.

If you can't afford to prepare for everything, then just concentrate on the most likely from past trends, even if those trend models are becoming redundant in an increasingly unpredictable world.

The other approach to resilience is not to focus on the causes, but to examine the consequences.

These are what we have to deal with, and are what our survival and sustainability depend upon.

If we are to 'survive and thrive' - a useful definition of resilience - then we need to know what priorities, resources and systems exist to overcome the dangers and damages.

This doesn't depend on a fine analysis of the cause: if one's feet are wet, then it doesn't matter if the water is coming from a burst water main or leaking roof, the task is to fix it.

That task should draw on a pool of common, holistic responses that serve as a universal tool guide for any danger, whether known or unknown.

By developing a generic plan it should be possible to avoid having to predict and prepare for precise dangers.

Resilience First is trying to develop a generic, consequence-based plan for local business communities which can be used by SMEs which do not have the capacity to develop a detailed risk register but want to be resilient to all threats.

Clearly, there will be specific features for specialist areas such as the digital world, but there will also be many features that can be applied across the risk board.

Even with specialisms, there is a common thread in the people within organisations and communities.

In cyber resilience, for instance, it is about people applying password procedures and software patches; they can together overcome 80% of the cyber breaches.

In the final analysis, resilience comes down to the ability of individuals and groups to find the inner strength, engagement and empowerment to rise to the challenges and overcome the difficult problems.

That inner strength can be both innate, through upbringing, and inculcated, through training.

Experience clearly plays a part but even children have an inner resilience which does not necessarily stem from worldly experience or skill sets.

Some people have more reserves that others and will shine through on the difficult days - and often the people who emerge as the most resilient in a crisis are not the appointed managers who deal with day-to-day matters.

Resilience in the face of (generic) troubles requires a cool head and clarity of purpose under pressure.

Rudyard Kipling gave another insight of resilience in his famous poem: 'If you can keep your head when all about you / Are losing theirs and blaming it on you, / If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you, / But make allowance for their doubting too; ....  '