If a small village is subject to an external shock like a drought, a war, or a flood, its residents will likely suffer material and/or human losses, but hopefully rebuild and thrive. If that same village suffers from those shocks repeatedly, it begins to define who they are as a community.
Community resilience—the ability of communities to return to some kind of normalcy after a crisis—will become increasingly important in the future as a changing climate makes extreme weather more common. In order to effectively build community resilience, we need to better understand how communities are affected by external shocks.
In our latest project, Climate Interactive will be constructing system dynamics-based models that seek to do exactly that. Together with the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC), International Alert (IA) and the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre, we will be examining how repeated displacement impacts community resilience in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).
There may be no country more appropriate to study this phenomenon than the DRC, home to an estimated 2.6 million internally displaced persons.
Funded by the U.K. government’s Department for International Development (DFID), the consortium will use our modelling techniques to build theories on displacement and community resilience. These will help our partners identify potential pilot projects to test those theories. The outcomes of pilot projects, implemented by NRC and IA in the second and third years of the partnership, will provide feedback and improve the resilience theories.
“DFID is a funder that has really embraced resilience as a concept in a core way,” Climate Interactive’s Travis Franck says. “This project is a way for them to fund a consortium that really digs at these aspects of resilience and tests them in the field.”
Building tested, workable theories has widespread implications beyond the DRC. Odds are when you read our example of the “small village,” you pictured a community in a developing country in Africa or South Asia. But these disasters affect the developed world too—think fires in California and hurricanes along the Gulf Coast—and building theories of community resilience can be useful throughout the world.
“In the future, we expect there to be more frequent shocks from tornadoes and floods and wildfires,” Franck says. “We’re helping partners and decision makers deliberate and plan their communities better, hopefully reducing psychological impacts and losses to financial capital, human capital and social networks when disasters strike.”