Social dynamics of community resilience building in the face of climate change: the case of three Scottish communities

I. Fazey*, E. Carmen, H. Ross, J. Rao-Williams, A. Hodgson, B. A. Searle, H. AlWaer, J. O. Kenter, K. Knox, J. R.A. Butler, K. Murray, F. M. Smith, L. C. Stringer, S. Thankappan

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Meeting global targets that maintain temperatures at 1.5 °C above pre-industrial levels while adapting to the growing impacts of climate change requires significant and rapid societal change. Within this context, there has been growing interest in building community resilience to shocks and stressors and as a forward-looking process. Yet while there has been extensive attention to conceptual aspects, there has been much less on how this can be achieved in practice. This research worked with three communities in Scotland (UK) regularly exposed to flooding and other integrated challenges to learn from action about community resilience building. A carefully developed four-tiered transdisciplinary approach was applied that included: relationship-building; enhancing capacities to work with interconnections; enabling processes; and supportive action-oriented research. The findings of the analysis of the system dynamics that were occurring during the resilience-building process highlight that it is a complex and messy social process. Yet, it also shows that if quality and sufficient quantity of support and time to help surface and deliberate on underlying assumptions about communities and change is provided, it can be possible to stimulate emergence of beneficial reinforcing social dynamics that begin to support collaborative and systemic action. To further advance know how about resilience building, much greater focus will be needed on the ‘how’ of resilience. This, in turn, will require new framings of, and approaches for, community resilience and new framings of research, knowledge and knowing.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1731-1747
JournalSustainability Science
Issue number5
Early online date9 Jun 2021
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We express thanks to the many different and often inspiring participants involved in the SBCRC project who made this work possible. The project was funded by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation Climate Justice programme. We thank two generous reviewers who helped improve this manuscript.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021, The Author(s), under exclusive licence to Springer Japan KK, part of Springer Nature.


  • Action research
  • Capacity
  • Community development
  • Regenerative cultures
  • Resilience building
  • Social dynamics
  • Systems
  • Vulnerability

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