Fostering Resilient Communities

  • Virgil Henry Storr
  • Stefanie Haeffele-Balch
  • Laura E. Grube
Part of the Perspectives from Social Economics book series (PSE)


Entrepreneurs, as we discussed in chapter 2, recognize and pursue opportunities to change the world. For instance, they bring new products or services to the market, such as offering an automobile that has a bundle of features other cars do not have or starting a landscaping business in an area currently underserved, in the hope that potential customers will find these new products or services valuable. Similarly, entrepreneurs start social enterprises in an attempt to solve social problems, such as opening an after-school program for troubled teenagers or organizing a petition to change a city ordinance to prevent the dumping of trash in a particular area. They undertake these social enterprises in the hope that the lives of community members will improve and potential donors and volunteers, who are also concerned about these problems, will believe these social enterprises are helping to solve them. Given that the future is unknowable, an entrepreneur’s hopes could prove to be overly optimistic, in which case his enterprise will not succeed. If an entrepreneur’s hopes prove to be well-founded, however, she will provide goods and services that people actually desire, she will earn profits and/or receive donations, she will attract employees and/or volunteers, her organization will thrive, and she will advance broader social change. Purchasing landscaping services might allow working parents to spend their Sunday afternoons engaging with their children rather than caring for their lawn. Participating in an after-school program might alter the life of a disadvantaged student, increasing the likelihood she will obtain a college education and pursue a career she previously believed was beyond her reach. Entrepreneurs are, thus, social change agents who, despite the radical uncertainty we all necessarily confront in the world, notice, cultivate, and exploit opportunities to bring about economic, social, political, institutional, ideological, and cultural transformations.


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  1. 2.
    There have been several studies contrasting the effectiveness of monocentric versus polycentric orders in solving community-level problems. See, for instance, McGinnis (Polycentricity and Local Public Economies: Readings from the Workshop in Political Theory and Policy Analysis (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1999b)) on domestic policing in the United States; Olowu and Wunsch (Local Governance in Africa: The Challenges of Democratic Decentralization (Boulder: Lynne Rienner Publishers, 2004)) on governance in Africa; Sproule-Jones (Governments at Work: Canadian Parliamentary Federalism and its Public Policy Effects (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1993)) on Canadian federalism; Sabetti (Political Authority in a Sicilan Village (New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 1984)) on governance in Italy; and Bogason (“The Fragmentation of Local Government in Scandinavia,” European Journal of Political Research 30, no.1 (1996): 65–86) on governance in Scandinavia.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
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    Monocentric systems also reduce the likelihood that the potentially diverse preferences of community members are catered to. As V. Ostrom and E. Ostrom (“Public Goods and Public Choices,” in Polycentricity and Local Public Economies. Readings from the Workshop in Political Theory and Policy Analysis, ed. M. McGinnis (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, [1977] 1999): 79–80) note, “Where a good is characterized by jointness of consumption and nonexclusion, a user is generally unable to exercise an option and has little choice whether or not to consume … Furthermore, individuals may be forced to consume public goods that have a negative value for them … Yet, the structure of institutional arrangements may have some effect on the degree of choice that individuals have. Councilmen representing local wards would, for example, be more sensitive to the protests by local residents about how streets are used in those wards than councilmen elected at large.”Google Scholar
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    Importantly, the way disaster victims perceive government’s ability and intent to provide disaster assistance influences their decisions and actions after a disaster. Chamlee-Wright and Storr (“Expectations of Government’s Response to Disaster,” Public Choice 144, no. 1–2 (2010b): 253–274) find that when citizens are optimistic about the government’s capability but pessimistic about its intent to provide relief, they will pursue a mixed strategy that includes self-directed recovery as well as appealing to the government for resources and reforms. However, this mixed strategy, which includes investing time and effort in engaging with the political process, can lead to “meeting fatigue” or “Katrina burnout.” Such activities can slow recovery, since each day spent engaging in the political process means less time spent actually rebuilding.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
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    Rodin (The Resilience Dividend: Being Strong in a World where Things Go Wrong (New York: Public Affairs, 2014)) created a framework based on successful efforts by communities, organizations, and individuals that focuses on awareness, adaptability, diversity, integration, and self-regulation. She emphasizes the importance of leadership and entrepreneurship for community resilience.Google Scholar
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    Paton et al. (“Disaster Response: Risk, Vulnerability and Resilience,” Disaster Prevention and Management 9, no. 3 (2000): 173–179) and Paton (“Disaster Resilience: Building Capacity to Co-exist with Natural Hazards and Their Consequences,” in Disaster Resilience: An Integrated Approach, ed. D. Paton and D. Johnston (Springfield: Charles C Thomas Publisher, 2006): 3–10) argue that there are four general characteristics of resilient communities. Resilient communities, Paton (2006: 9) argues, must possess the following: Firstly, communities, their members, businesses and societal institutions must possess the resources (e.g. household emergency plans, business continuity plans) required to ensure, as far as possible, their safety and continuity of core functions in a context defined by hazard consequences (e.g. ground shaking, volcanic ash fall, flood inundation) that can disrupt societal functions. Secondly, they must possess the competencies (e.g. self-efficacy, community competence, trained staff, disaster management procedures) required to mobilize, organize and use these resources to confront the problems encountered and adapt to the reality created by hazard activity. Thirdly, [t]he planning and development strategies used to facilitate resilience must include mechanisms designed to integrate the resources available at each level to ensure the existence of a coherent societal capacity, and one capable of realizing the potential to capitalize on opportunities for change, growth and the enhancement of quality of life. Finally, strategies adapted must be designed to ensure the sustained availability of these resources and the competencies required to use them over time and against a background of hazard quiescence and changing community membership, needs, goals and functions. 9. See, for instance, McEntire (“Why Vulnerability Matters: Exploring the Merit of an Inclusive Disaster Reduction Concept,” Disaster Prevention and Management 14, no. 2 (2005): 206–222) and Geis (“By Design: The Disaster-Resistant and Quality-of-Life Community,” Natural Hazards Review 1, no. 3 (2000): 151–160).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
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    A large literature examines the psychological, social, and economic factors of community resilience and offers recommendations for how to foster resilience through infrastructure investment, community cohesion, and collective preparedness efforts (see Cohen et al., “The Conjoint Community Resiliency Assessment Measure as a Baseline for Profiling and Predicting Community Resilience for Emergencies,” Technological Forecasting and Social Change 80, no. 9 (2013): 1732–1741; Kulig et al., “Community Resiliency: Emerging Theoretical Insights,” Journal of Community Psychology 41, no. 6 (2013): 758–775; Norris et al., “Community Resilience as a Metaphor, Theory, Set of Capacities, and Strategy for Disaster Readiness,” American Journal of Community Psychology 41, no. 1-2 (2008): 127–150; Adger et al., “Social-Ecological Resilience to Coastal Disasters,” Dealing with Disasters 309, no. 5737 (2005): 1036–1039; Paton et al. (2000)).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
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    Not surprisingly, entrepreneurship and adaptive capacity have been linked (see, for instance, Kirzner, Competition and Entrepreneurship (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1973); Etzioni, “Entrepreneurship, Adaptation and Legitimation: A Macro-Behavioral Perspective,” Journal of Economic Behavior and Organization 8, no. 2 (1987): 175–189; Dernell et al., “The Economics of Strategic Opportunity,” Strategic Management Journal 24, no. 10 (2003): 977–990; Harrison and Leitch, “Entrepreneurial Learning: Researching the Interface between Learning and the Entrepreneurial Context,” Entrepreneurship Theory and Practice 29, no. 4 (2005): 351–371).Google Scholar

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© Virgil Henry Storr, Stefanie Haeffele-Balch and Laura E. Grube 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Virgil Henry Storr
  • Stefanie Haeffele-Balch
  • Laura E. Grube

There are no affiliations available

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