Communities have the potential to function effectively and adapt successfully in the aftermath of disasters. Drawing upon literatures in several disciplines, we present a theory of resilience that encompasses contemporary understandings of stress, adaptation, wellness, and resource dynamics. Community resilience is a process linking a network of adaptive capacities (resources with dynamic attributes) to adaptation after a disturbance or adversity. Community adaptation is manifest in population wellness, defined as high and non-disparate levels of mental and behavioral health, functioning, and quality of life. Community resilience emerges from four primary sets of adaptive capacities—Economic Development, Social Capital, Information and Communication, and Community Competence—that together provide a strategy for disaster readiness. To build collective resilience, communities must reduce risk and resource inequities, engage local people in mitigation, create organizational linkages, boost and protect social supports, and plan for not having a plan, which requires flexibility, decision-making skills, and trusted sources of information that function in the face of unknowns.
Norris, Fran H., and Susan P. Stevens, Betty Pfefferbaum, Karen F. Wyche, Rose l. Pfefferbaum. 2008. "Community Resilience as a Metaphor, Theory, Set of Capacities, and Strategy for Disaster Readiness." American Journal of Community Psychology (March): 127-150. http://www.springerlink.com/content/1421626545438270/fulltext.pdf