How Can Local Governance Systems Strengthen Community Resilience? A Social-Ecological Systems Approach

Open Access Journal | ISSN: 2183-2463

Review | Open Access

How Can Local Governance Systems Strengthen Community Resilience? A Social-Ecological Systems Approach

  • Elizabeth Carabine Overseas Development Institute, UK
  • Emily Wilkinson Overseas Development Institute, UK

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Abstract:  At their core, donor-funded climate and disaster resilience programmes provide goods and services to help build assets and minimise the impact of shocks and stresses on people’s lives and livelihoods. Little is known, however, about the way local risk governance systems and the broader institutional arrangements, in which they are embedded, mediate people’s access to these services and therefore lead to improved resilience. Drawing on Social-Ecological Systems theory, we explore those characteristics of risk governance systems believed to be more favourable for building resilience at the community level in different developing country contexts. These include: diversity; polycentricism and connectivity; decentralisation and flexibility; participation and community engagement; and, learning and innovation. This review paper proposes a conceptual framework and assesses the evidence linking risk governance and access to the services needed to build resilient outcomes, drawing particularly on evidence from the Sahel and Horn of Africa. In doing so, we can start to understand where the entry points might be for strengthening resilience and the conditions needed for community-level initiatives to be brought to scale from the bottom up.

Keywords:  informal institutions; local risk governance; resilience; social-ecological systems; sub-Saharan Africa



© Elizabeth Carabine, Emily Wilkinson. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license (, which permits any use, distribution, and reproduction of the work without further permission provided the original author(s) and source are credited.