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The Resilience Research Centre (RRC) brings together leaders in the field of resilience research from different disciplines and cultural backgrounds. Our partners across six continents (point at any dot on the map to learn more about each one) employ methodologically diverse approaches to the study of how children, youth, and families cope with many different kinds of adversity. The RRC’s focus is the study of the social and physical ecologies that make resilience more likely to occur. The research we do is looking beyond individual factors to aspects of a young person’s family, neighbourhood, wider community, school, culture, and the political and economic forces that exert an influence on a child’s development in challenging contexts.
Represented are experts from many fields including: social work, sociology, psychiatry, health statistics and measurement, psychology, medical anthropology, education, medicine, theology, child and youth studies, and epidemiology. Together, under the co-direction of Dr. Michael Ungar and Dr. Linda Liebenberg at Dalhousie University's School of Social Work, we are trying to understand both similarities and differences across cultures and contexts in how resilience is understood; and the ways we can intervene to help children and youth, who face significant levels of risk.
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Most commonly, the term resilience has come to mean an individual's ability to overcome adversity and continue his or her normal development. However, the RRC uses a more ecological and culturally sensitive definition. Dr. Michael Ungar, Co-Director of the RRC, has suggested that resilience is better understood as follows:
"In the context of exposure to significant adversity, resilience is both the capacity of individuals to navigate their way to the psychological, social, cultural, and physical resources that sustain their well-being, and their capacity individually and collectively to negotiate for these resources to be provided in culturally meaningful ways."
This definition shifts our understanding of resilience from an individual concept, popular with western-trained researchers and human services providers, to a more culturally embedded understanding of well-being. Understood this way, resilience is a social construct that identifies both processes and outcomes associated with what people themselves term 'well-being'. It makes explicit that resilience is more likely to occur when we provide the services, supports, and health resources that make it more likely for every child to do well in ways that are meaningful to the individual, his or her family, and the community. In this sense, resilience is the result of both successful navigation to resources and negotiation for resources to be provided in meaningful ways. You can read more about resilience from this perspective in publications by the Centre’s members.
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Though youth resilience is complex, we can make sense of the basic principles through metaphor (here we use a tree). We can support youth resilience by improving their environment, giving them strong supports, engaging them in the process, and then watch youth grow
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The Social Ecology of Resilience
See our publications page for more RRC titles
Associated Research Centres
National University of
The World Bank
Resilience Research Centre
School of Social Work
6420 Coburg Road
PO Box 15000
Halifax, NS, B3H 4R2, CA
Tel: (902) 494-3050
Building on our studies across many different countries of the social and physical ecologies (environments) that make resilience more likely, we define resilience as:
Resilience is the capacity of people to navigate to the resources they need to overcome challenges, and their capacity to negotiate for these resources so that they are provided in ways that are meaningful.
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