SYRI: How to strengthen social and environmental resilience as a prevention of systemic risks?

CzechGlobe researchers are part of a national research consortium investigating the impacts of systemic risks on society and the economy.

SYRI (National Institute for Research on the Socioeconomic Impact of Disease and Systemic Risk) is a virtual scientific hub that brings together experts from Masaryk University, Charles University and institutes of the Czech Academy of Sciences. It was created in response to the realization that current challenges (including epidemics, conflicts, economic crises or climate change) cannot be solved by technology alone – even the most advanced technologies will not help where key societal and policy mechanisms are missing. It is precisely these that we can learn more about thanks to the experts from the social sciences (e.g. sociology, psychology, law, economics) that SYRI brings together. SYRI aims not only to focus on the impact of systemic risks, but also to offer related solutions and recommendations for policy makers and other societal actors.

CzechGlobe contributes to a working group focused on social and environmental resilience, i.e. the ability of society to respond flexibly to social and environmental change. This socio-ecological resilience is about striking a balance between resisting negative impacts and discovering ways to learn from change and find the most advantageous ways to adapt to it. For example, when our home is repeatedly threatened by flooding, our social-ecological resilience is at its lowest if we have neither the ability to defend our home against flooding nor the ability to move elsewhere. However, both of these pathways often depend on factors that are not obvious at first sight, e.g. whether we live in a society that has a wide range of defence mechanisms (physical in the form of flood barriers, economic in the form of finances to cover possible damages, social in the form of solidarity and mutual assistance, etc.). However, it also plays a role whether our society is able to combine the knowledge and experience of different members of society (from experts to local citizens) or whether it is able to draw on the experience of past floods and other natural disasters. Last but not least, it is crucial whether society, authorities and decision-makers are flexible enough to adjust their functioning in response to emerging situations. In this respect, the ability to think and plan ahead (the anticipatory approach) and to think about the full range of possible futures (futures thinking) is crucial.

Considering all these mechanisms and trying to put them into practice is often summarised as “resilience thinking”. This is the focus of the CzechGlobe research at SYRI, which is exploring ways in which resilience thinking can be strengthened in different government structures.

More information on SYRI’s activities is available on Twitter @institutSYRI, facebook and the institute’s website.

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