Building ‘Resilient Communities’ in the face of modern-day adversity

New York, Las Vegas, Paris, London: with every new headline and announcement of tragic and often violent incidents, there is a temptation for those within communities to close ranks and shield themselves from an increasingly commonplace reality.

How can communities build better resilience to highly disruptive events that are both unpredictable and increasingly frequent? How can communities, large and small, build against and grow out of the damaging setbacks caused by such events?

Threats to security and wellbeing are not limited to terrorist activities. Crises that affect individuals, communities, businesses and governments are wide-ranging. They include natural disasters (Hurricane Harvey), fire (Grenfell Tower), high-impact political events (Brexit), cyber-attacks, civil unrest and pollution.

Irrespective of the size or location of a community, risk is a fact of life. But what can be controlled is the extent to which that risk develops into a serious problem or crisis – and how those affected can be more resilient in dealing with events that threaten lives, assets and reputations. The degree of damage inflicted is linked to a community’s inherent resilience.

Individuals, enterprises and governments frequently ‘pull together’ when reacting to serious events, but not always in anticipation of those events. What undermines resilience is not the desire to solve problems and provide assistance, but more the lack of effectiveness and timeliness in planning for them and adapting behaviours that are important for long-term recovery.

Using the commercial sector as an example, businesses are often focused on finding an immediate solution to the problems that they face during times of hardship. Conversely, in times of prosperity, corporations can – to their peril – ignore the notion that they are likely to experience real events that threaten their livelihood or even existence. Changing the belief of ‘It won’t happen to us’ is difficult but necessary. According to the London Prepared initiative, 84% of managers agreed that having a business continuity plan helped reduce business disruption. Yet only 27% of SMEs have such a plan in place[1].

London First is a staunch advocate of community resilience. London First holds that true resilience involves initiative and proactivity in addressing threats and seeing serious events and crises as opportunities for improvement. The notion of community resilience is a function of effective collaboration. This concept is strongly supported through London First’s project ‘Resilience First’.

Collaboration amongst all levels of a local community is necessary for an effective and timely response to risks and crises. Resilience to threats and actual events comes not from isolated individual action but rather through learning from, confronting and mitigating problems as a collective effort. An example might be business and local communities involving offices, shops and residential areas working together and impelled by a shared vision of a sustainable and successful future. Some of the advantages of thinking as communities instead of as individuals are as follows:

  • Shared knowledge and experience enabling greater agility in the face of disparate threats.
  • Improved security and awareness through better vigilance and faster transfer of information.
  • Reduced ‘community stress’ through mutual support during crises.
  • Greater competitive economic advantage through faster recovery.
  • Better use of time and resources when organisations and people in the same space manage common issues together – essentially, economies of scale.
  • The creation of safe and secure environments that encourage shared interests and activities.
  • The combination of ‘hard’ solutions such as plans and procedures with ‘soft’ skills such as stronger leadership.

Sustainable resilience is a response to changing times by influencing attitudes to cope more effectively with future challenges. It requires a continuous analysis of threat developments and appropriate responses, in the knowledge that risks are dynamic and what is right for today may not be appropriate for tomorrow.

In conclusion, it is vital that we work collectively and as communities in order to ensure that we are as well prepared as can be to ‘expect the unexpected’ – and that we have a dynamic and adaptable plan to do so.


This joint blog was written by Adam Kay for Deverell Associates in conjunction with Robert Hall of London First. Robert can be emailed on:

London First is a business membership organisation with the mission to make London the best place in the world for business. We are focused on keeping our capital working for the whole of the UK. We have galvanised the business community to bring pragmatic solutions to London’s challenges over the years. The programme called ‘Resilience First’ is designed to help make business communities in local areas safer and more resilient. A mobile app is part of the programme.

Deverell Associates provides risk, governance and crisis solutions for business, families and governments. Our crisis preparedness plans and interactive workshops are based on first hand experience of risk mitigation over many decades. We have testimonials from CEOs from a range of sectors. Our work with clients can be summarised as creating “The Prepared Mind”, to ensure the agility and confidence to deal with all situations. John founded the business and can be contacted on