Resilience as a process: The multiple meanings of a popular buzzword

Published on 7 December 2023

Ian Scoones

Professorial Fellow

Resilience is one of those buzzwords that seems to be everywhere. Every self-respecting donor project has ‘resilience’ in the title, and no doubt in the hallowed halls of COP28 ‘resilient’ climate development is being discussed right now. But what does the term mean? It’s been worrying me for a while.

I originally trained as an ecologist, and resilience was developed as a concept by the likes of Buzz Holling to explain how ecosystems recover after major shocks and stresses. Holling and team studied the effects of spruce budworm on Canadian forests, but it was a systems idea applied to many settings. The work of the Resilience Alliance took the concept further, linking resilience to cycles of recovery in socio-ecological systems. But since then, the concept has become more vague and much more widely used.

This article is from Zimbabweland, a blog written by IDS Research Fellow Ian Scoones. Zimbabweland focuses on issues related to rural livelihoods and land reform in Zimbabwe.

Read the full story on the Zimbabweland website

The views expressed in this opinion piece are those of the author/s and do not necessarily reflect the views or policies of IDS.


About this opinion


Related content