A Regional Economic and Social Resilience framework in the time of the Corona Crisis

We who work in organisations with the mission of regional development are affected by the corona crisis like everyone else. We deal with issues such as the safety of our personnel, how we ourselves minimise the risk of infection spread and how we should maintain our operations. In Sweden, we are also part of the same organisation as the health care system that has to deal with the spread of infection in society, the protection of vulnerable groups and the maintenance of capacity for care.

We now have to ask ourselves how to deal with the corona crisis in the sense of – sustainable regional development, that is, in a social, environmental and not least in an economic perspective! We also need to think about our role in this situation.

As a (proud) member of the Innovative and Resilient Regions working group in the Nordic Council of Ministers cooperation program for regional development and planning, I realise that one of our reports has become highly relevant in this context and could be a support to regions for how they are involved in the regional development mission can relate to the emerging corona crisis. I am referring to the report ”Regional Economic and Social Resilience”.

Although the main question in the report is: can resilience be built in advance?, the report also addresses the question – What is the role of regions (and their different actors) in… reacting to shocks?

To give you a quick guide, I highlight some of the key concepts and factors.

First, what does the concept of resilience mean?

Resilience refers to the capacity to cope with change and continue to develop.

Two possible ways of recovering from a shock or disturbance are: by bouncing back’ or by ‘bouncing forward’.

Resilience is thus about the ability to handle change and at the same time continue to develop. One perspective to include already when the crisis is developing is what we see can happen after the crisis. Is it about ‘bouncing back’ or ‘bouncing forward’ (or combinations of both depending on eg industries)? Should we focus solely on reducing the acute damage or is it also an opportunity for renewal of the economy?

Some principles for understanding and managing regional resilience are:

  • Preparedness
  • Learning / innovation
  • Thresholds
  • Responsivness
  • Diversity and Redundancy
  • Connectivity
  • Selforganisation
  • Inclusion
  • Social Cohesion

Factors affecting how to design a program to deal with resilience in a particular situation are:

  • What kind of crisis it is about. In this case, a co-varied crisis between pandemics and the economy.
  • Complexity and connectivity
  • Change
  • Uncertainty
  • Political Will
  • Power Dynamics
  • Timeframe

Resilience depends on three ‘capacities’ of the region:

  1. absorptive capacity, which signifies its ability to resist the negative impact of shocks;
  2. adaptive capacity, which signifies its ability to adapt to new conditions; and
  3. transformative capacity, which signifies its ability to change fundamental structures and alter impacts

(OECD, 2014).

The mere existence of regional assets does not guarantee their effective use in managing risks or enhancing wellbeing, yet their absence may tell us something about the region’s vulnerability (ODI, 2016). Therefore, these capacities may be related to what measures are in place, and how regional actors react to shocks and disturbances.

The current report is based on the ‘Guidelines for Resilience Systems Analysis’ (RSA) developed by the OECD (2014).

The authors of the report are Alberto Giacometti and Jukka Teräs at Nordregio  – The Nordic Council of Ministers Research Institute for Regional Development and Planning.


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