Regional Economic and Social Resilience

Regional resilience has become a hot topic for policy-making, with assistance regarding social and economic transformation at the core of the debate. The Regional Economic and Social Resilience project focuses on identifying what shocks the Nordic regions are particularly vulnerable to and how to strengthen resilience, both to anticipate and react to these disturbances.

The growing concern over natural disasters and the fresh memory of the 2008-2010 financial crisis has lifted regional resilience high on the agenda at all levels of policy-making. The EU Commission has emphasised the need for helping citizens, organisations and regions to adapt to the profound transformations that our social and economic system are undergoing due to globalisation, decarbonisation and the emergence of digital technologies. Likewise, regional policymakers are questioning the ability of local populations to quickly recover from shocks and disturbances.

The project “Regional Economic and Social Resilience” builds on the priorities identified by the Nordic Thematic Group for Innovative and Resilient Regions:

• Economic and Social resilience

• Identify a Nordic model/approach to resilience

• Focus on both anticipating and reacting to shocks

• Identify components of regional resilience

During Phase 1, a review of the relevant literature has been completed and a preliminary report was presented to the thematic group in November 2017. This report will be published here as a draft by the end of January, to stimulate discussion and welcome feedback on our work.

In general terms, resilience is about the ability of a system to recover elastically from a disturbance or disruption. However, an evolutionary approach to regional economic and social resilience accentuates on the regions’ capacity to adapt to the everchanging conditions and reorient their structural organisation towards new economic, social and cultural paths. This approach assumes social and economic development to be complex, non-linear, dynamic and influenced by global, national and local events. In this context, resilience thinking becomes useful in order to prepare for the unexpected and for the uncertain.

Regional resilience is not static, it depends on context specific capacities of regions, as well as the nature and scale of shocks and disturbances. Shocks can be of numerous types, such as financial crises, natural disasters, demand driven, policy/regulation driven, those resulting from variations on commodity prices or even technological shocks, which happen when the emergence of new technologies make certain industries, organisations or jobs obsolete. Not all disturbances have shocking consequences. Indeed, there is always a landscape of disturbances, some are long term trends (stressors) that gradually weaken the regional actors and deepen their vulnerability, whereas others are abrupt and have immediate and potentially high destructive effects. Only when the cumulative effects of disturbances reach a critical point, or when a single event is of a certain scale, that their impact become widely visible or disruptive to the broader economic and social structure of the region. Yet, this critical point is closely dependent on the unique social, economic and physical structures of regions.

The remainder of the research will include regional case studies from all Nordic countries. The data collected will be analysed and combined with the findings of the literature and policy review to develop responses to the following questions:

• Which risks/shocks are the Nordic regions vulnerable to?

• What assets and capacities (e.g. skills, education, financial capital, institutions, trust, etc…) are important for regional resilience?

• What is the role of institutions and other actors for both, anticipating and reacting to shocks?

• How to recognise strong and weak signals of changing regional resilience?

The final report will be launched in late 2018 and will be followed by policy seminars in the Nordic countries. Please contact us if you want to know more about the project, have a reaction to the discussion paper or are interested in hosting a policy seminar in your region.

Discussion paper
The discussion paper explores regional resilience in Nordic countries by studying how regional authorities, companies and the society at large react and respond to economic and social shocks and disturbances. It also identifies what measures regional authorities are taking to prepare for shocks and unwanted developments.

To provide the feedback, please contact:

Alberto Giacometti

Download the discussion paper