Change the world

Sustainability Research Unit George Campus

05/06/2014

Five members of the SRU formed part of the over 900 participants who attended the Resilience 2014 conference held in Montpellier, France from 4 – 8 May 2014.  The third conference sponsored by the Resilience Alliance, with the theme “Resilience and Development: Mobilizing for Transformation” explored the links between resilience thinking and development with the aim of identifying more equitable and sustainable development pathways in light of global change issues.

Moreover, the conference presented a platform for dialogue between not only the scientific research community, but also business and development communities beyond the academic sphere, to articulate and debate their specific paradigms, concepts and methodologies around the resilience discourse.  With this objective to voice these multiple perspectives, the conference was opened with a panel discussion between participants being leaders in defining and implementing resilience thinking in current policy for development at governmental and intergovernmental level.  Panelists presented their definition of the resilience concept and perspectives were further explored through six broad themes that ran throughout the rest of the conference.  The overarching themes ranged from highlighting the trade-offs and synergies related to the governance of social-ecological systems to the ethical and political challenges of achieving social justice in desirable outcomes and the framing resilience.  These themes were further outlined across sixteen pathways through 20 parallel sessions that varied in format from the more traditional talk to speed talks, discussion groups and even interactive role play games. Professor Christo Fabricius led an off-site session on Water, food and Social-Ecological Resilience and also contributed to a session on ecosystem change and society in southern and western Africa. Doctor Dirk Roux (SANParks) presented three talks at various sessions ranging in topic from Resilience and Interdisciplinary Research to Conservation and Social Capital.

Nearly one third of the conference participants were students and SRU members Abigail Crisp, Lisa Heider and Cara Nieuwoudt had the opportunity to not only meet up with fellow MAGIC project scholars, but also with a host of early career researchers from around the world.  The Student Organizing Committee (SOC) for Resilience 2014 organized a series of activities throughout the event to cultivate a community of young scholars.  This included a Master class for postgraduates that were led in discussion by Melissa Leach, Luca Allinovi and Brian Walker.  There was also a strong drive from the SOC for participants to take part in social media such as Twitter (see #Resilience2014) to facilitate dialogue and disseminate outcomes of the conference to those that could not attend.

A rather unusual feature, and one of the themes of the conference, was the addition of arts and performances to express and exchange views on the relationship between Arts and Sciences. Each day, various performances, exhibitions and workshops offered participants thought provoking perspectives on the resilience of social-ecological systems.  Set amid the historic heart of the beautiful French city, this made for a unique experience!