Designing, planning, and governing for resilience remains a critical challenge facing organizations, networks, cities, regions, and nations. Research on resilience is an inter-disciplinary pursuit. Resilience as a concept can be seen as an attractor – drawing multiple theoretical and applied perspectives. Physicists and engineers study the concept of resiliency, so do social scientists from organizational theorists to sociologists and urban planners. The notion of resilience even attracts the interest of ecologists, meteorologists, and others involved in environmental sciences. The Metropolitan Institute serves as a collaborative platform for researchers to study resilience as it applies to the design of organizations, communities, cities, and nations. We take a holistic view of the study of resilience that embraces economic, social, structural, organizational, and governance elements.
Our research has examined salient issues such as the design of early warning systems to predict crises, public and private responses to slow-burning challenges, virtual crisis centers, resilience of political dissenters during case of color revolutions, design of resilient information organizations, simulation and modeling of resilient networks (e.g. terrorist networks), and linking regional stresses to alternative resilience frameworks. Currently, we have several projects on resiliency.
A theoretical examination is underway to look at issues of designing resilient organizations in the face of shrinking time horizons to take advantage of opportunities, pressures to be lean and have no, or very minimal, slack in systems, and the high-degree of interdependencies among resources, systems, and organizations. The goal of this project is to arrive at design guidelines for building resilient organizations, while exploring fundamental questions such as how do we measure resilience, what are the ideal levels of resilience given the nature of threats (and opportunities), and what does it mean to be resilient (return to a prior equilibrium state, identification of a new equilibrium state, or something more radical such as the a redefinition of the nature and spirit of the entity).
Another project is studying the design of resilient networks. In this project, we are drawing on advances in computer science, electrical engineering, and physics to help us advance the design and management of socio-technical networks. Specifically, we are looking at how networks, especially public sector and public-private collaborations, should be governed for resilience. We are interested in studying how the nature of resource distribution, governance capabilities and responsibilities, network structure, goal alignment, and environmental dynamism affects the design and operations of organizational networks.
Resiliency in the face of incremental threats is another area of interest. Incremental threats mature over time and work to slowly destroy an entity’s ability to be resilient (undermine the capabilities, collection of resources, lock-them into a pre-defined paths, etc). Looking back in time to see how others have responded to incremental threats has proven useful in uncovering how responses are crafted and how effective they are in light of longer-term and incremental threats. In one related project, we examine how industrial Midwestern regions of the United States responded to the incremental threats of economic restructuring during the 1980s and beyond. This project investigates the significance of regions, what constitutes resilience in the face of these challenges, and what factors help to build and sustain regional resilience.