Mike Jones held a half day Conservation Campus at IUCN WCC in September to introduce members to resilience assessment as a tool for dealing with complex and unpredictable situations. The event was sponsored by the Commission on Ecosystem Management as part of their contribution to building a better understanding of resilience in maintaining ecosystem services. Earth system scientists are promoting resilience based transformational change as a way of coping with global warming, biodiversity loss and population growth.

The course presented the core models of resilience thinking that define the process of change in social-ecological systems (such as systems in which humans use wild resources): the adaptive cycle, Panarchy and thresholds. These models describe how systems can recover from disturbance and how disturbance creates opportunity for evolution. Participants were introduced to the use of resilience models in an assessment process that provides decision makers with a model of thresholds of undesirable change (such as planetary boundaries). The model enables managers to choose between either enhancing the resilience of an existing system state, or transforming the system. Information gathered during the assessment identifies actions for adaptive management and social learning about the system being managed.

Twenty-one people participated in the event and feedback from those who completed the course questionnaire, suggests that it went over quite well. Some highlights of the course were its interactive nature and use of a short film (http://www.gaiafoundation.org/galleries/videos/kamburu-story) together with one of the stars of that film to give participants a taste of what resilience theory means in the real world.

Learning to think resilience is a continual process that may require a personal shift in cognition, as the brain adapts to a different way of perceiving and thinking about biological processes. Experience working with other groups suggests that it takes about three days of applying resilience concepts and the assessment process to cases with which the participants are familiar to bring people to the point where they feel confident to do an assessment. In comparison, a Master’s level elective takes about 30 hours over eleven weeks.

The CEM is forming a Resilience Working Group with the intention of creating a network of resilience practitioners among IUCNs commission and programs. SULi has just started a complexity analysis and modeling group that will provide critical support for other resilience based endeavors.* Thoughts about what comes next with regard to training include working with the Commission on Education Communication on an e-version of the course that addresses requests for more examples and describes a resilience assessment process in more detail. Depending on demand and availability of funding, it might be worthwhile to develop and deliver three day live courses to members of the IUCN community.

*Editor’s note: For more information on this group please contact David Lusseau at d.lusseau@abdn.ac.uk