RRI’s Resilience Strategy

TNC Hawai‘i Program divers conducting a resilience assessment along West Hawai‘i Island coast. Photo © David Slater

As climate change impacts increase, reef managers globally are recognizing that business-as-usual approaches are no longer sufficient to adapt to interconnected threats while accounting for uncertainty. This has spurred motion towards resilience-based management (RBM) as a pathway for rethinking local plans and policies.  

RRI partners with local managers to develop a resilience strategy that is innovative and integrated in its thinking and prioritizes implementing local short- and long-term solutions that will directly address the reef and reef community’s vulnerabilities. A key product of the resilience strategy process is a locally co-designed action plan which prioritizes the most pressing challenges faced by both the reef and its local communities (e.g., over-fishing, coral bleaching events, etc.). 

Resilience strategy discussion. Photo © Bec Taylor

Resilience strategy discussion. Photo © Bec Taylor

Resilience strategies developed in partnership with RRI share a common set of principles: 

  • Reflect the unique context of the local area, inclusive of community, governance, and the coral reef ecosystem 
  • Draw on broad, diverse, and representative stakeholder engagement 
  • Provide an accessible platform for reef resilience advocacy and education by communities and stakeholders 
  • Demonstrate commitment from reef management leadership and relevant stakeholders 
  • Include a clear implementation plan for priority resilience actions 
A resilience assessment provides an understanding of risk and prioritization of shocks and stresses. Photo © Hugh Whyte/Ocean Image Bank

A resilience assessment provides an understanding of risk and prioritization of shocks and stresses. Photo © Hugh Whyte/Ocean Image Bank

A Strategy in Five Steps

The resilience strategy process developed by RRI and its partners includes five steps:  

  1. Plan process and establish governance 
  2. Engage broadly 
  3. Assess resilience 
  4. Develop actions 
  5. Finalize the strategy  

Each of these five steps include general processes that can be applied to the local context and should be driven by local diverse stakeholder groups. 

Step 1: Plan Process and Establish Governance

The first step of the process is getting local partners organized and aligned on the purpose and process of developing a resilience strategy, as well as anticipating and planning for the work ahead. This includes creating a local steering committee for oversight and decision-making, as well as developing a workplan which responds to the unique context of the local area. Taking time to plan the strategy development process will help the local team maximize their efforts and leverage existing work to build reef resilience.  

Snorkeling on a reef in Belize. Photo © Marcus Alamina

Snorkeling on a reef in Belize. Photo © Marcus Alamina

Step 2: Engage Broadly

The aim of this step is to consider with whom and how a reef management agency seeks to collaborate to ensure their resilience strategy development process integrates the input and engagement of diverse, representative community stakeholders. 

Stakeholder engagement is key to grounding a resilience strategy in the lived experience of stakeholders, and in ensuring the actions developed in the strategy respond to stakeholder needs. Engagement objectives should be developed to respond to each site’s needs and histories. Effective stakeholder engagement can set the stage for achieving both objectives, serving to provide valuable information to planners and increase the robustness of the outcomes, as well as building trust and laying the groundwork for shared responsibility for actions. 


Stakeholder engagement is important throughout the process. Photo © Matthias Balagny

Step 3: Assess Resilience

The purpose of this step is to conduct a resilience assessment of the reef and local community, including key assets, current management challenges, shocks and stresses, and how the interdependencies between these attributes might affect the reef and reef community over time. There are many tools and methods to help managers conduct a resilience assessment.  

In consultation with global experts and resilience practitioners, RRI has developed a Microsoft Excel-based Reef Resilience Assessment (RRA) tool. The RRA tool provides a structured process for examining the resilience status of key systems in relation to shocks and stresses which may impact them. The RRA tool is currently in the pilot phase.For a copy of the tool, email resilience@tnc.org.  

It is important, regardless of the method used, to ensure that it is carried out using a combination of desktop review and stakeholder engagement, as well as scientific and traditional knowledgeacknowledging that the best understanding of the local system will come from a combination of inputs, both scientific and lived. 

Combining multiple sources of information acknowledges that both scientific and lived are necessary inputs. Photo © Paul Chabre

Combining multiple sources of information acknowledges that both scientific and lived are necessary inputs. Photo © Paul Chabre

Step 4: Develop Actions

The work done in each previous step of the process directly informs what actions managers and their partners will take to establish and maintain resilience against future disturbance. Actions that best meet the identified objectives given scarce time and resources also need to be prioritized. This step typically involves: 

  • Prioritizing resilience challenge statements  
  • Identifying desired outcomes 
  • Identifying actions 
  • Prioritizing actions 
RRI BecTaylor Oct22 0020 D4A07421

Resilience workshop in Western Australia. Photo © Bec Taylor

Step 5: Finalize the Strategy

The final step is integrating an inspiring and actionable resilience strategy that articulates a vision for the future of the reef system, translates the resilience challenges into goals, and is supported by actions to drive resilience outcomes. While there are common principles of resilience-based planning, outlined above, a resilience strategy needs to respond to the specific context, challenges, and opportunities of each reef and community. 


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