Conceptualising community resilience to natural hazards – the emBRACE framework

Based on case study research in five countries – Germany, Great Britain, Italy, Switzerland, and Turkey – this academic article outlines how ‘community resilience’ to disasters and crises can be measured. It introduces the ‘emBRACE framework’ for understanding, explaining and assessing community resilience to place-based hazards. It could be drawn on to help with Covid-19 recovery plans, as well as other urban shocks and stressors.

Date added 17 February 2021
Last updated 17 February 2021

Based on case study research in five countries – Germany, Great Britain, Italy, Switzerland, and Turkey – this academic article investigates ‘community resilience’ to disasters and crises, which the authors define as, “the abilities of populations toanticipate, absorb, accommodate or recover from the effectsof a hazardous event in a timely and efficient manner” (p. 2321). The article begins by assessing how ideas of what is actually meant by both 'community’ and 'resilience’ is contested and has changed over time; for example, whether resilience involves a 'bouncing back’ to a prior stable state; or instead, involves transforming to a new dynamic and potentially improved state.

Given these ongoing debates, the researchers undertook an extensive review of the literature around resilience; conducted case study research in five European countries that had experienced a range of crises, such as alpine hazards, earthquakes, floods, and heatwaves; workshops with community stakeholders; and discussions with resilience experts, to develop a new framework for measuring and assessing community resilience - The emBRACE framework - as summarised below.

The emBRACE framework for community resilience

The framework includes three core components, which inform a local community’s capacity to build resilience and recover from place-based hazards and crises:

  1. Resources and capacities- protection of ecosystem services; public services; access to jobs and markets; citizen participation; networks and relationships; financial resources; knowledge-sharing; physical infrastructure; and community wellbeing.
  2. Actions- civil protection; social protection; adequate resources for citizens; building preparedness to potential hazards; future mitigation efforts; and funding for community endeavours.
  3. Learnings- understanding and awareness of future disaster risk; critical reflection of experiences; experimentation and innovation during recovery; disseminating knowledge throughout the community.

These three core aspects are further impacted by the governance, laws, policies and responsibilities of stakeholders beyond the community level, as well as broader social, economic, political, and environmental factors impacting urban resilience.  

The paper concludes by outlining how the framework can be used in practice, drawing on examples from research in Turkey, explaining how metrics and methodologies could be created and applied to each of the core areas of the framework, to measure community resilience levels within and across places, including to the Covid-19 pandemic.