If climate change wasn’t enough for us to stop and evaluate our societal level of resilience, maybe the coronavirus pandemic and upcoming national election will finally capture our much-needed attention. As a participant in a recent Colorado Emergence Series convening put it, “resilience was broken before the pandemic,” but maybe this crisis will finally give us enough impetus to build a more resilient future. Before I get ahead of myself, what exactly do I mean by resilience? 

There are countless interpretations and definitions of resilience depending on who you ask. One group of social-ecological researchers dedicated to studying resilience define it as “the capacity of a social-ecological system to absorb or withstand perturbations and other stressors…It describes the degree to which the system is capable of self-organization, learning and adaptation.” In other words, resilience means a community’s ability to prepare for, adapt to and create advantageous change. Defining a word is easy, but how do we actually build resilience?

When coronavirus reached Denver, The Alliance Center began to grapple with this difficult question. We quickly pivoted our programming in response, creating the Colorado Emergence Series and the Regenerative Recovery Coalition. The Regenerative Recovery Coalition is our latest adaptation strategy, which will implement the strategic ideas of the Colorado Emergence Series to create a more sustainable and equitable future for Colorado beyond COVID-19. Alongside this effort, the Best for Colorado  program has continued to leverage Colorado-based, value-driven companies that are adapting and demonstrating a commitment to serving their communities. I believe The Alliance Center’s strategic changes within these areas reflect how we can create resilient sustainable development. The Regenerative Recovery Coalition and Best for Colorado tackle two of the greatest vulnerabilities COVID-19 has exposed: our democracy and our economy. Without strengthening both, we’re left susceptible to shocks like the one we’re currently experiencing.

The Regenerative Recovery Coalition and Best for Colorado are in the process of both modeling and building resilience. First, they model resilience through their focus on Colorado. There will not be a “one size fits all” approach to building a more resilient, post-pandemic future. What works in California or New York won’t necessarily work in Colorado. This localized attention is valuable and often forgotten in the highly globalized world we live in.  Secondly, both of these efforts are extremely multi-faceted. They refuse to be pigeonholed, which is what makes them good models of resilience. For example, the Regenerative Recovery Coalition will work on a wide array of issues: climate change, economy, workforce development, food systems, agriculture, infrastructure, natural resource management, transportation and democracy. Likewise, the Best for Colorado program not only seeks to increase the number and impact of environmentally responsible businesses but also the number of businesses that are working on issues related to community, equity, democracy and other benchmarks. By focusing on addressing local vulnerabilities through a holistic lens, the Regenerative Recovery Coalition and Best for Colorado are leaders in imagining a more resilient future here in Colorado.

So, you’re interested in helping build a more resilient future? One way you can get involved is by joining the Regenerative Recovery Coalition. So far more than 80 individuals and organizations have joined the coalition and committed to implementing solutions in the state. Another way to get involved is to check out the upcoming Best for Colorado Virtual Awards Celebration on August 5 and 12. You’ll have a chance to hear from incredible business leaders and learn about their first-hand experience with resilience, economic revitalization and more. Reaching a resilient future will certainly be a challenge, but it’s not beyond reach. If we’re willing to learn, adapt and change, we can create the sustainable and equitable future we all know is possible.