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The contributions of resilience to reshaping sustainable development

Abstract

We review the past decade’s widespread application of resilience science in sustainable development practice and examine whether and how resilience is reshaping this practice to better engage in complex contexts. We analyse six shifts in practice: from capitals to capacities, from objects to relations, from outcomes to processes, from closed to open systems, from generic interventions to context sensitivity, and from linear to complex causality. Innovative complexity-oriented practices have emerged, but dominant applications diverge substantially from the science, including its theoretical and methodological orientations. We highlight aspects of the six shifts that are proving challenging in practice and what is required from sustainability science.

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Fig. 1: Graphical representation of the SES school of resilience.
Fig. 2: Six interconnected and intertwined shifts move sustainable development away from commonly used linear approaches towards innovative approaches able to account for complex SES dynamics.

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Acknowledgements

This work was supported by the Sida-funded GRAID programme at Stockholm Resilience Centre, Stockholm University. Additional funding is acknowledged for B.R. from the Beijer Institute of Ecological Economics, Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, for L.J.H. from Swedish Research Council (grant number 2018-06732) and for M.S. from the Swedish Research Council (grant number 2018-06139) and the European Research Council (ERC) under the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme (grant agreement no. 682472 – MUSES).

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B.R., M.-L.M., L.J.H. and M.S. contributed to the conception, design and writing of the manuscript and its revisions. B.R. and M.-L.M. led the review, analysis and revisions. All authors discussed and contributed to the final manuscript.

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Correspondence to Belinda Reyers.

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Nature Sustainability thanks Emily Boyd, Ika Darnhofer and the other, anonymous, reviewer(s) for their contribution to the peer review of this work.

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Reyers, B., Moore, ML., Haider, L.J. et al. The contributions of resilience to reshaping sustainable development. Nat Sustain (2022). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41893-022-00889-6

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