Topic: What does community resilience mean to you? Results from a Delphi survey of experts in rural Scotland
KEYWORDS: Rural community resilience; Delphi method; transdisciplinarity
The concept of ‘rural community resilience’ is not always clearly or easily defined, both within the academic literature, and within rural development policy and practice, hence the term is used in a range of contexts with varying interpretations. Any approach taken to assessing community resilience will involve a series of subjective decisions at different stages, for example, in relation to defining descriptive and normative attributes of the concept (cf. Strunz, 2012, Ecological Economics). This paper presents findings from a transdisciplinary Delphi survey which sought to gather the views and experiences of those involved in community resilience actions across rural Scotland. The project aims to provide recommendations to the Scottish Government for how best to assess and support rural community resilience and empowerment. The Delphi method invited participants to collectively consider a complex problem through an iterative and inclusive communication process, designed to remove power imbalances between knowledge types (i.e. academic, policy, and practitioner). Twenty-two anonymous Delphi ‘panellists’ were interviewed with an iterative and progressive interview guide, developed following analysis of the previous interviews. The process also developed a series of reflective summaries and culminated in a final participatory workshop. The expert panel highlighted that resilience is a financial necessity for governments who must implement budget cuts. This can translate into a reductive survival-orientated paradigm of community resilience, which may be associated with a neoliberal agenda that pushes rural communities to become increasingly responsible for their own resilience. Whilst the dominant paradigm of resilience is ‘bounce-back’ (i.e. community-scale recovery), the panellists assert that there is a need to move towards ‘transformational resilience’, which involves building capacity for deep reflective learning and proactive approaches in the face of large-scale phenomena, such as climate change.