The well-being of community resilience

In most of the literature, the goal of community resilience is maintaining and recovering the functioning of some community. This is undoubtably an important goal, but it is not an imaginative or normative one. The goal of resilience should go beyond functioning and ultimately be the well-being of different communities and their members. Norris et al. (2008) argues that well-being sets a higher bar than is common today and is an appropriate and necessary standard. Few of the many articles in the literature that I have seen have proposed the well-being as a core concept of community resilience. And few have researched the connections between well-being and other constructs of resilience–at least directly.


An example of where well-being is being incorporated into goals of resilience (vis-a-vis recovery) is in Canterbury, NZ in response to their 2010 and 2011 earthquakes. The New Zealand Ministry of Education is framing its social services for children and school staff in terms of well-being (the screen grab for this post, above). Their services focus on building the capacity for well-being. In contrast, the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority conducted an online survey to quantify and track the achievement of well-being after the 2011 earthquake.

These different approaches mirror the literature on well-being, theorizing it as either capacities (Nussbaum, 2003) or achievements (Ash et al., 2010). In other words, two people with equal capacity for well-being may  choose different achievements of well-being, which meet their particular idea of a quality life. As the Canterbury cases show, whether to define well-being for community resilience as the recovery of opportunity or the recovery of achievement, depends on the the particular aspect of community one is concerned about.

Comments are closed.