Bruce Elkins, a personal life coach, asked this incisive question in a comment on my article about Jamais Cascio’s essay on Resilience Economics:

Has anyone out there given any thought to differentiating between field-related “specific skills” (i.e. skills that apply to fields like golf or writing or bee-keeping) and higher-order, transferable “generic skills” (i.e. character skills or meta-skills)?

Skills such as resilience, patience, persitence, creativity…

This prompted me to do a quickie search on “resilience training.”

One of the reasons this subject fascinates me is that I have a history of making radical lifestyle adjustments and adapting to them. I was raised in a comfy middle class environment, then chose to live in a comparatively primitive environment for over a decade, then moved back into the mainstream and had to catch up financially while learning to develop a social life in the online world. I’ve lived for a couple years in close proximity to Guatemalan campesinos. I tend to think that I’m prepared for whatever changes the economy and climate can throw at me. And yet, I am cognizant of the stresses that all of those adjustments put on me as I went through them.

Could I, with my background, effectively train a group, an organization, a community how to become more proactively adaptive? This is a “skill” I’m currently developing.

My Google search brought up a few distinct variations on the practice of resilience training:

  • The University of Pennsylvania’s Positive Psychology Center has resilience training programs for both children and adults. The skills taught help people deal with depression and anxiety, which may develop in many people as economic and climate-related stresses rise. Skills taught include techniques for assertiveness, negotiation, decision-making, social problem-solving, and relaxation.
  • The U.S. Army is looking into resilience training as a method of reducing the degree and amount of post-traumatic syndrome in soldiers exposed to combat. This would be approached by “developing all the dimensions of a Soldier, including the physical, emotional, social, spiritual and family elements.”
  • My search brought up many offers of “executive resilience training,” which all claim to provide guidance to help execs become more flexible, react better and be better prepared for shifts in the global business community.
  • The Resilience Institute, based in Australia, claims that through its program, “Language, practical skills and creative frameworks become part of organisational culture.”

Somehow, none of these perspectives and approaches fit with my idea of local community resilience skills, which would call on more collective exposure to diverse thinking, ideas, histories and scenario planning. If resilience helps a community bounce back from impacts and regain its balance while adapting to new conditions, there will certainly be a need for resilient leadership – people who keep a cool head in the midst of disruptive change. But there will also be a need for collective preparation that looks ahead and plans for a spectrum of possibilities.

Perhaps, the community resilience training in this case will entail more widespread sharing and understanding of scenario planning, spanning local government and civic organizations.