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Resilience and Covid-19

Resilience and Covid-19

21 October 2021

October’s reading session

The October session of NICRE’s Resilient Rural Reading Season focused on resilience in the context of the Covid-19 pandemic, writes Aimee Morse, PhD student at the Countryside and Community Research Institute, who runs the informal sessions based around short, topical readings with Bryonny Goodwin-Hawkins.

We were joined by Mags Currie, lead author of the recent report Understanding the response to Covid-19 - Exploring options for a resilient social and economic recovery in Scotland’s rural and island communities by SEFARI researchers at the James Hutton Institute and Scotland’s Rural College (SRUC)

Mags, from the James Hutton Institute, gave an overview of the report which considers the impacts of Covid-19 on rural and island communities, how resiliently they responded and the most effective ways forward for recovery. Through qualitative interviews (with key stakeholders and in case study communities) and spatial analysis, they were able to understand the specific factors which increased communities’ vulnerability, and also determine the capacities which made communities more resilient. They use their findings to recommend nine actions which would enable rural and island communities to thrive in the future.

Mags explained that whilst carrying out this work, it became clear that resilience research needs to be flexible and able to respond to events that occur during a funded period. Her team’s research was strategic, but responsive to the fast-changing Covid situation and mindful of the speed at which policy decisions were being made.

Policy decision-making

The ensuing group discussion raised several important points about resilience and policy decision-making. First, there are issues around how we measure resilience. These arise not only from a lack of accepted scale or framework, but also due to the different experiences and worldviews among communities, researchers and policymakers.

Second, qualitative approaches can be useful for understanding - rather than simply measuring - lived experiences. This can also help us to explore how individuals’ resilience connects to that of communities.

Third, policymakers should be aware of the difference between the resilience rural communities may develop for surviving long-term decline, and resilience in emergencies. We need to develop effective policies to support communities through crisis – but we also need to support communities through change. 

While we concluded that we don’t (yet) have the luxury of a historical perspective on resilience and Covid-19, we agreed that there needs to be greater onus on how resilience is experienced and how successful community transformations in the face of change can, and should, be used to influence policy. By developing a holistic understanding of resilience in rural communities, we can better support the capacities that enable them to adapt in the face of adversity, and transform for the future.

November’s focus – natural capital

If you’d like to contribute to the resilience discussion, and perhaps share what the concept means to you and in your work, please join us for our next session at 11am on Friday 12 November. We’ll be looking at resilience from an environmental perspective, examining the extent to which natural capital is the key to rural resilience - book your place.

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