Proceedings of the

The 33rd European Safety and Reliability Conference (ESREL 2023)
3 – 8 September 2023, Southampton, UK

The Limits of Organisational Resilience

Jacob Taarup-Esbensen

Emergency and Risk management, University College Copenhagen, Denmark.


This paper explores the limits of organisational resilience and introduces an alternative conceptualisation through the concept of `temporary adaptive capacity'. The proposition is that networks of loosely coupled socio-technical systems can unite under a joint governance structure to increase their combined capacity to protect themselves against a time-limited common threat. This conceptual framework differs from contemporary approaches to organisational resilience by utilising networks of systems, contrary to what has traditionally been an organisational-centric understanding of resilience. The conceptual shift is found in the ability of otherwise unrelated socio-technical systems to combine their resources, management, and governance systems to increase their overall capacity to identify, manage, and recover from what would otherwise be a disastrous event. The proposition is that such an approach maintains the initiative during an event, as it can adapt when norms and practices no longer have agreed outputs. To illustrate the utility of such a network approach, an example from Greenland where six communities face a possible catastrophic landslide and tsunami event. While the communities, from a traditional resilience perspective, would be considered vulnerable, they do display temporary adaptive capacity that they can operationalise during a disaster. They develop solutions and workarounds using existing knowledge and resources to achieve desired results.

Keywords: Adaptive capacity, Resilience, Tsunami, Arctic, Socio-technical systems.

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