Measuring resilience

By Thames Menteth-Wheelwright, Communications Officer - on 15/02/2021

HACT is working with settle, Sovereign and whg to create an innovative framework for understanding and measuring the resilience of social housing residents. We are inviting the wider sector to contribute towards the development of a common definition and measurement approach.

Resilience as a concept has become a growing area of interest for both HACT and the wider sector for a number of years. HACT along with our partners, settle, Sovereign and whg recognise that now is a timely moment to further explore what resilience means in the social housing context in the face of the evolving challenges posed by the Covid-19 pandemic.

The pandemic has been a period of unprecedented crisis and worry for most of us. While the virus itself poses a risk to our health, the national lockdowns introduced to prevent its spread have had an enormous toll on our collective wellbeing, forcing us to significantly alter the way we work, socialise, shop and even have fun.

The social housing sector has been talking about resilience since the start of the pandemic. In March 2020, housing groups and government bodies in Scotland set up a social housing resilience group to help the sector respond to the outbreak as it developed and minimise the impact on social landlords as well as their residents.

Some social housing residents, such as younger residents, women and people with disabilities, have been particularly badly impacted by the pandemic and lockdowns, as research from Clarion Housing Group reveals.

Other research tells us that people from black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) communities, who are overrepresented in public facing industries where they cannot work from home, have been disproportionately impacted by the virus itself, as well as the economic consequences of lockdowns.

For these individuals, and many others, resilience has been a necessary survival strategy, or a way of drawing on their reserves of strength and resourcefulness to adapt to the unprecedented challenges of our times.

At a community level, too, there have been amazing displays of resilience in the face of unforeseen stress and adversity: neighbours, friends and local groups across the country have come together to mobilise resources to help the most vulnerable in their communities. Being able to withstand enormous social and economic stresses, and even take learnings from this period, is certainly a hallmark of resilience.

Yet resilience is not only the capacity to adapt to and recover from difficulties. The Resilience Research Centre has a broader definition:

“Resilience is both the capacity of individuals to navigate their way to psychological, social, cultural and physical resources that sustain their wellbeing and their capacity individually and collectively to negotiate for these resources to be provided in culturally meaningful ways.”

Resilience is not just about bouncing back therefore; it is also concerned with bouncing forward or being able to navigate life in a way that brings about meaning and reward.

From our initial review of the literature, we have also identified a number of key domains for resilience, including: financial wellbeing, physical and mental health, digital inclusion, community connections, social connections, education attainment, employment, coping/life skills, tenancy sustainment, access to transport and access to facilities and resources, amongst others. This is not an exhaustive list and will likely expand as we progress with the research.

To support our research, we are putting out a call for evidence to gather views and input from the wider social housing sector about how resilience is defined by social landlords, the different components of resilience for social housing residents as well as how it is measured within different organisations. These insights will be used to inform the development of the framework, which we envisage will include a common definition of resilience and approach to understand the impact of services and other activity on the resilience of residents.

We are inviting housing providers and partners to complete a short survey about how resilience is considered and measured within organisations and provide any supporting documents or research considering the resilience of residents and communities.

If you would like to contribute documents, internal research and comments or have any further questions about the resilience research initiative, please contact HACT’s Head of Research Frances Harkin.

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