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Resilience, how to make the concept operational ?

The research project RCO (for “Resilience, from Theory to Practice”), aims at improving the understanding of resilience as a concept used in practice by different types of risks practitioners (experts, engineers, researchers, risks managers, territorial managers) on the scale of a departmental territory. Our main objective is to understand how these specific actors (located in the French Département of Isère) concretely use the concept of resilience, and to identify if and how the issue of resilience might influence their practical work experience. Our project considers all kinds of risk (industrial, environmental, natural, health, etc.) existing on the territory of Isère.

Our major assumption is that resilience remains for now mainly an abstract concept for risk practitioners, which raises many interrogations about their own definition of risk management without necessarily helping them to improve it. We have identified two different types of issues related to resilience in practice : First, resilience highlights the acute importance of the risk practitioner’s capacities to daily manage risks and resolve small scale crisis in ordinary situations, whereas most of the risk and crisis management approaches on the institutional or corporate level remain oriented toward the prevention and the management of disaster of extraordinary high scale. There is therefore a need to better identify and highlight these ordinary capacities of the risk practitioners.Second, the concept of resilience suggests a delegation of the risk management prerogatives from the State actors to the local public authorities, the private sector and the civil society, while this responsibility shift remains difficult to apply in reality for institutional (legitimacy, legislation, regulation) reasons as much as for practical (means, finance, time) ones.

Along a period of 36 months, we will then set up workshops (three workshops/year) involving academics, experts and local risk managers to discuss and debate these specific issues. The expected results are a better recognition of the practical knowledge developed through the concept of resilience in the field of risk management, a better understanding of the role played by the practitioners in the dissemination of the concept of resilience, and eventually a better identification of the impediments preventing the development of resilience in practice.

The project is developed in partnership the PARN and different other local institutions involved in risks management in the French Département of Isère.

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