New Issue of DAI Journal Focuses on Resilience

December 09, 2013

On November 7, typhoon Haiyan tore through the central Philippines. The latest in a series of high-profile disasters and increasingly severe weather events, Haiyan has drawn relief and development practitioners’ attention once again to the concept of resilience.

But the resilience agenda is about much more than just disaster recovery and preparedness. Resilience programming, properly considered, involves enabling vulnerable people, households, communities, and nations to become more robust and adaptable in the face of diverse sources of stress and crisis. And as DAI’s Del McCluskey makes clear in his recent article on how to “build back better” after Haiyan, effective programming for long-term resilience in the Philippines—as elsewhere—crosses sectoral and disciplinary boundaries and bridges the divide between relief and development in a way that calls for an integrated approach.

It is in this spirit that DAI launches the latest issue of its Developing Alternatives journal, Resilience: Learning from Practice Across the Development Spectrum. Recognizing the multifaceted nature of the resilience challenge, the journal presents no single, overarching solution. Rather, says the journal’s technical editor Barb Lauer in her introduction to the volume, “These field studies, drawing from disciplines as diverse as post-conflict recovery, community empowerment, micro- and macroeconomics, environment and health, and mobile technology, suggest opportunities to borrow and adapt, in ways that enrich our programming across the spectrum of development work.”

“We hope that our field experience will spark discussion of how to build resilience in vulnerable communities,” says Lauer, “wherever they are and whatever challenges they face.”

Today we are publishing the first three articles in the collection. Alongside Lauer’s introduction, “Self-Examining Practitioners: A Guide to the Journal,” Vic Tanner takes stock of the controversies surrounding the resilience construct, beginning with disagreements on how it is defined and how donors should engage with it. Hunter Keith then juxtaposes resilience and fragility, using Libya as a backdrop to explore whether these two concepts are opposites, as is often implied, or whether they have a more complex relationship.

In the weeks to come we will publish more than a dozen articles “across the development spectrum,” including contributions by:

  • Keith Doxtater and Vishalini Lawrence—writing about Sri Lanka and Somalia, respectively—who explore how post-conflict reconciliation is affected by the community resilience developed during conflict;
  • Mark Gallagher and Eunice Heredia-Ortiz, who discuss how to measure macroeconomic resilience at the national level, principally by gauging the country’s fiscal and monetary space;
  • Zach Kaplan and Del McCluskey, who focus on urban resilience to climate change effects, taking Vietnam as a case study to discuss the role that public-private partnerships can play in developing climate-smart infrastructure;
  • Kathleen Kurz, who distills 10 lessons learned from DAI’s experience in Feed the Future programming on how to bolster nutritional resilience in the critical early stages of a child’s life; and
  • Jessica Heinzelman, who discusses the use of text messages to strengthen community resilience and resistance to inflammatory violence in Kenya’s recent elections.

By way of an afterword, Ambassador Rick Barton, Assistant Secretary of State for Conflict and Stabilization Operations at the U.S. Department of State, offers his own brief reflections on how we should approach the task of reconstruction and development with “modesty,” building on local strengths without distorting that resilience into a form of dependency.

The print edition of Resilience will be available early in 2014, and we will hold related discussions around the publication in Washington, D.C. and elsewhere. In the meantime, we invite you to check out the articles online and to follow #resilience on Twitter, where we will post links as new articles are posted.

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