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Reacting to Change


Students recently met with members of the Greater Carlisle Project steering committee to kick off a community research project to measure community resilience in Carlisle. Photo by Carl Socolow '77.

Dickinson and Carlisle team up as the first in the world to use new framework to measure community resilience

by Tony Moore

Everything has been in flux forever. Literally. And a lot can be learned by observing how people react to the constant and inevitable flow of change that washes over them, across hours, across decades. Whether people adapt or struggle boils down to resilience—the ability to cope with, manage and adapt to change in ways that enable individuals and communities to meet their needs and even thrive.

Resilience might be something that seems immeasurable, but with the City Resilience Index (CRI)—a framework developed by Arup International and supported by the Rockefeller Foundation—there are metrics by which a community’s ability to withstand change can be gauged. Dickinson and Carlisle recently teamed up to use the beta version of the online CRI, becoming the first college and community in the world, respectively, to use the tool.

“Measuring community resilience in Carlisle presented itself as a good research project for my course Building Sustainable Communities,” says Neil Leary, director of the Center for Sustainability Education (CSE), who spearheaded the joint effort between the college and community, “one that would provide a valuable learning experience for the students while also serving a community need.”

That need came to light when the borough of Carlisle decided to update its comprehensive plan and asked various constituencies to suggest priority issues to address. Increasing community resilience made the shortlist, and Leary enlisted the steering committee of the Greater Carlisle Project and members of the Carlisle Borough Council to take part in his cooperative approach. 

With many aspects of community resilience falling under the sustainability umbrella—the ability to be financially healthy, the wellbeing of its citizens, climate change and infrastructure concerns—the measure is now part of the UN's Sustainable Development Goals. And the new CRI is helping Dickinson and Carlisle reach the community's own goals.

“For Carlisle to be effective at building resilience, a better understanding and measurement of community resilience is needed,” Leary says, noting that students and community stakeholders will meet at the end of the semester to validate the students’ research findings and begin a conversation about strategies for building resilience in Carlisle.

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Published September 13, 2016