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Invitation to a Scoping Dialogue

Advancing resilience thinking and practice to

support sustainable transformations in southern Africa

4‐5 August 2016

Stellenbosch Institute for Advanced Studies (STIAS)

& Sustainability Institute

Participation by invitation only


We have entered the “Anthropocene” – a new period in Earth’s history where humanity has become a major force shaping the planet1. There is growing consensus that attaining human development for all, as laid out in the Sustainable Development Goals2, requires a substantive transformation of our economies and societies at local to global scales. Fostering and navigating such a transformation requires the capacity to deal with complex, interacting social, economic and ecological shocks and changes, some of which are fundamentally unknown and unpredictable. Meeting these challenges requires new ways of thinking, and new transdisciplinary approaches and tools for understanding and acting in the world.

The notion of resilience is one approach that is drawing increasing attention in the scientific, policy and practice arenas as a means of facilitating sustainable development and transformation. A diversity of approaches are being piloted and explored, many of which are strongly based on the broader emerging paradigm of complexity thinking. Building resilience of communities, cities, landscapes and systems is increasingly seen as one substantive way of enhancing our capacity to deal with change, especially unexpected change – and beyond that, to facilitate transformative change towards more sustainable development pathways. However, much work remains to be done on advancing the theoretical understanding of resilience, and how to operationalize and use resilience thinking in practical settings, including the development of new tools and approaches.

The objectives of this dialogue are to bring together leading thinkers and practical users of the concept of resilience to reflect on, interrogate and explore the concept of resilience, how it is being practically applied in a range of settings to advance sustainability, and how resilience thinking and practice can be supported and advanced in future.


  1. Foster a deeper understanding of resilience and resilience thinking
  2. Explore and share how resilience ideas are being used in practice
  3. Scope the possibilities and needs for building a regional community of practice on resilience
  4. Develop an agenda for how resilience concepts and practices can be used towards realising transformative sustainable development pathways in Africa.


Around 25 scientists, policy‐makers and practitioners actively engaged in the development and application of resilience assessment and practice, with the goal of fostering transformative change towards more sustainable development pathways.


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