Community Resilience: Models, Metaphors and Measures
In this paper, we discuss the importance of community resilience for Aboriginal health and well-being. The concept of resilience has been used in developmental psychology and psychiatry to describe individuals’ capacities to achieve well-being and thrive despite significant adversity. Resilience is also a useful concept in ecology where it draws attention to the ability of ecosystems to adapt to environmental stress through transformation. The study of community resilience builds on these concepts, to understand positive responses to adversity at the level of families, communities and larger social systems. Despite historical and ongoing conditions of adversity and hardship many Aboriginal cultures and communities have survived and done well. In this review, we critically assess the various definitions of resilience as applied to individuals. We then examine resilience as applied to families, communities and larger social systems. We examine links between the concept of resilience and social capital. We then consider interventions that can promote resilience and well-being in Aboriginal communities. These include strengthening social capital, networks and support; revitalization of language, enhancing cultural identity and spirituality; supporting families and parents to insure healthy child development; enhancing local control and collective efficacy; building infrastructure (material, human and informational); increasing economic opportunity and diversification; and respecting human diversity. We also discuss methods of measuring community resilience, examining advantages and disadvantages to each method. Community resilience is a concept that resonates with Aboriginal perspectives because it focuses on collective strengths from an ecological or systemic perspective.
Community resilience, social capital, system dynamics, mental health promotion
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Aboriginal Health Research Networks Secretariat
Centre for Aboriginal Health
University of Victoria
Victoria, British Columbia, Canada