Insights in Resilience: Local Government and Adaptation

We reached out to Aleka Seville, our Director of Community Adaptation, and asked her about what makes a resilient community.
Aleka’s responses speak to the intersections between public planning, hazard response, and the measuring and reporting the effectiveness of adaptation solutions. Learn more about how we are partnering with governments to build resilience and prepare for the impacts of climate change from our partner page.
1) What makes a community resilient?

While our shared definitions of resilience are typically quite broad, one of the factors that I see as a major enabler of resilience is the “mainstreaming” of adaptation planning – accounting for climate change impacts in nearly every public planning process, from hazard mitigation to general and capital planning.

Communities that commit to assessing climate risk within existing planning processes are able to build on existing frameworks and, sometimes, tap existing budgets, to mitigate these risks. Incorporating resilience goals and metrics into current planning processes sets the stage for critical cross-agency coordination when implementing adaptation solutions.

Local Resilience

2) Where should a community start when developing an adaptation plan or resilience strategies?

At Four Twenty Seven, we talk about the “Adaptation Learning Curve” when deciding how we can best assist a community or organization in building resilience. Key to this discussion is an understanding of where the community is starting from and where they’d like to go based on their unique vulnerabilities, climate risk exposure, and adaptation goals. It’s difficult to make progress or prioritize resilience building without first understanding and raising awareness about the problems at hand. Therefore, we often begin by offering customized training and education activities to help communities engage key stakeholders and build support for action from the very start.

3) How can you tell if a community is making progress in building resilience?

Resilience is indeed a journey – one that looks different for every community. Given jurisdictional responsibilities and limitations, cities, counties, regional agencies and states all have a role to play in creating stronger, more resilient communities. The hard part is effectively coordinating those efforts. While a specific community could be making progress towards their unique resilience goals, if these goals are not informed by the efforts of other local agencies, this is a real risk of investing in maladaptive efforts. We challenge the communities we work with to think beyond their own jurisdictions when developing resilience goals. Those goals can then be informed by metrics that reflect not only what is happening within that community, but how those efforts contribute to resilience on a broader scale.