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Online Course

Transforming Development: The Science and Practice of Resilience Thinking

SDG Academy via edX

Overview

With concerns about climate and global environmental changes, extreme events, and increases in social, economic, and political shocks, the concept of resilience is proving popular across a range of sectors as a way to understand and respond to our surprise-riddled world. 

Resilience thinking includes the ability to persist in the face of challenges, adapt to new realities, or transform to fundamentally new paths for development. Resilience thinking is more than a theory, more than a set of tools. It is a way of seeing the world, offering a new perspective of how change in the world happens. Resilience thinking provides a new approach for building understanding and taking action in a complex world that is deeply interconnected and ever-changing. A world where controlled, planned approaches, existing knowledge and current solutions are not enough to effectively respond to the challenges in a highly dynamic and uncertain future. Addressing poverty, injustice, and inequality, and advancing human well-being remains a major ambition and challenge for the 21st century, and it now needs to consider that development will happen in a context radically different from the past. 

This course includes case studies and examples from practitioners who are working with resilience concepts in diverse contexts around the world. It is supported by strong scientific evidence and committed to being a platform to bring together and spark collaboration between individuals and organizations from around the world who are driven to transform development. 

This course is for:
  • Development practitioners, policymakers and managers within development agencies around the world, as well as those working in the field with an interest in resilience thinking as it relates to development policy and practice.
  • Students who are interested in the intersection of resilience, sustainability and development, and with a general interest in both local and global sustainability challenges
  • Anyone with an interest in development, resilience thinking, and sustainability

Syllabus

Module 1: Setting the Scene - Development in a changing world
We have entered the geological epoch of the Anthropocene, the age of humans. Humanity is now the largest driving force of change on the planet. What does this mean for development? In this new reality, development must be able to navigate slow and rapid change, complexity, and surprise. 

Module 2: Why does the world seem so complex?
In the Anthropocene, why does the world seem so complex? We define what we mean by complexity, and some ways to think about complexity in the context of development.

Module 3: Transformations and innovation for rethinking development practice
Development practice as we know it needs to be able to navigate uncertainties. However, the business-as-usual approach is not working in the Anthropocene. A new way of thinking about innovation and the capacity to transform is necessary in order to thrive in the face of uncertainty. This module defines transformation, outlines some of the science around transformation, provides examples of transformative development practice and reimagines the role of innovation.

Module 4: The journey from theory to practice
Modules 1-3 provide a strong foundation for why, theoretically, resilience thinking could help transform development practice in the Anthropocene. Module 4 highlights a number of approaches and tools that can help practitioners, policymakers, and others rethink their development interventions.

Module 5: Reconnecting the social-ecological-cultural for rethinking development practice
This module highlights the importance of seeing the social, ecological, and cultural as inseparable. It also emphasizes that for development to succeed in the Anthropocene, all of these dimensions must be considered together in development practice.

Module 6: Why the global matters for transforming development practice
This module explores how humanity’s actions in one place and time, can have surprising consequences for other places and times. This module explores why the global matters for local development and how changes at the local level can scale up and have global implications.

Module 7: Alternative futures for development practice
Knowing all this, where do we go from here? This final module uses “futures thinking” as an approach towards development practice. The different chapters present ways of thinking that can help us change the present for the better, through imagining positive alternative futures for development and indeed, for humanity.

Taught by

Johan Rockström and Michele-Lee Moore

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