Measuring social resilience: Trade-offs, challenges and opportunities for indicator models in transforming societies

Samantha Copeland*, Tina Tina Comes, Sylvia Bach, Michael H. Nagenborg, Yannic Schulte, Neelke Doorn

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

27 Citations (Scopus)
153 Downloads (Pure)


More than any other facet of resilience, social resilience raises the inherent tension within the concept between identity or persistence, and transformation. Is a community the people who make it up, or the geography or physical infrastructure they share? What about the resilience of communities that transform, as a result of a sudden disaster or over time? In this paper, we explore the impact of this tension on how social resilience indicators can be developed and used. Beginning with a close look at the ways in which our concepts of resilience and our use of indicators interact, several points are raised. First, that how we identify a community and frame its resilience conveys particular conceptualisations of resilience, which in turn have normative implications for the communities themselves. In part, this is because of the difficulty in capturing important adaptations and transformative actions within and by those communities. Further, measuring and comparing the resilience of communities, and aspects of quantification that go along with selecting, aggregating and comparing indicator values, ensure that the decisions made about how indicators ought to be used carry normative weight. Through this exploration, we identify several normative implications of choices in indicator design and application. We conclude with recommendations for moving forward with greater transparency and responsibility toward those communities whose social resilience we hope to measure in order to improve.
Original languageEnglish
Article number101799
JournalInternational journal of disaster risk reduction
Early online date13 Aug 2020
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2020


  • Social Resilience
  • Indicators
  • Normativity
  • Transformation
  • Decision-making
  • Adaptation
  • UT-Hybrid-D


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