SPL’s project on Postconflict Resilience is an interdisciplinary, multi-institutional, and cross-sector effort to generate a stream of research aimed at identifying key metrics of adaptive capacity in local communities, organizations, governments, and societies overcome by security challenges such as armed conflict and catastrophic disasters.

Recent challenges in stability and reconstruction operations highlight the need for a full understanding of a nation’s resilience to withstand the hardships of armed conflict.

The same holds true for local communities impacted by natural or man-made disasters. Resilience research across multiple disciplines (social sciences, engineering, and biology) holds practical applications for inter-agency planners to conduct analysis and develop strategies aimed at restoring critical functions of governance and rebuilding civil society.

This research will provide a deeper intellectual understanding of what makes communities “bounce back” (or not) after a significant disturbance, and culturally sensitive metrics for measuring resilience of local populations that can be used for planning response, and rebuilding. The knowledge gained in this collaboration will also find immediate application in other fields with high uncertainty including emergency management and disaster response planning.

Research Objectives

  1. Identify and define the attributes / variables that contribute to the resilience of complex, adaptive social systems.
  2. Operationalize these attributes / variables across multiple contexts and develop metrics that will allow researchers the ability to measure the capacity of social systems to adapt to stress and external shocks.
  3. Facilitate multidisciplinary scholarship that uses the data and experience of the U.S. government in post-conflict and disaster afflicted settings for creating viable solutions to critical national and international security challenges.
  4. Implement new methods and resources for teaching this important concept in higher education and professional training.

Research Questions

  1. How do social systems (families, communities, organizations, governments) become resilient? How can resilience be operationalized such that metrics can be developed and tracked across different cases?
  2. Which resilience attributes / indicators are most critical to a social system’s ability to cope with conflict or catastrophic events? To what extent are these indicators interrelated? Are there readily identifiable thresholds through which, if exceeded, result in system collapse?
  3. How can resilience research (a) enhance existing U.S. interagency planning methodologies, and (b) better inform policy makers the requisite need for operational capacities to effectively respond to local and international disasters and crises?


  • Building Resilient Communities: A Preliminary Framework for Assessment.” Patricia H. Longstaff, Nicholas J. Armstrong, Keli A. Perrin, Whitney May Parker, and Matthew Hidek. Homeland Security Affairs, 6 (3). September 2010
  • “Building Resilient Communities: Tools for Assessment.” Patricia H. Longstaff, Nicholas J. Armstrong, & Keli A. Perrin (2010).
  • “Peacekeeping and Post-Conflict Stability Surprises: A Resilience Approach.” Patricia H. Longstaff & R. Megahan. PKSOI Working Papers. Peacekeeping and Stability Operation Institute, US Army War College, Carlisle. PA (2009).
  • “Resilience in Stability, Security, Reconstruction, and Transition Operations.” Nicholas J. Armstrong  (2009).
  • Resilience in Post-Conflict Reconstruction and Natural Disasters.” Patricia H. Longstaff, Ines Mergel, & Nicholas J. Armstrong (eds) (2009).

2009 Resilience in Postconflict Reconstruction Workshop

Measuring Resilience and Adaptive Capacity for Local Populations After Armed Conflict or Natural Disasters

Syracuse University | January 16-17, 2009

ISPL hosted an interdisciplinary workshop gathering scholars and practitioners in the fields of international development, emergency management, and defense with interest in the topic of resilience in conflict and disaster settings. The workshop is a vital first step in a larger effort to understand the underlying causal factors that impact society’s ability to recover from a major conflict or disaster. The inherent complexity of these societal problems spans across many traditional disciplines, demonstrating a need for an interdisciplinary approach to the advancement of knowledge on this pressing topic.

  • Patricia Longstaff  (Moderator)
  • Catherine Gerard  (Group Facilitator)
  • Christina Merchant (Group Facilitator)