The Resilience Indicators Bank and the New Zealand Resilience Index

Joanne Stevenson, Ellie Kay, Chris Bowie, Vivienne Ivory

Resilience to Nature’s Challenge report, June 2019


Understanding and enhancing the disaster resilience of our communities is a national priority in New Zealand. There are efforts at the national, regional, and local scales to develop interventions that enhance communities’ resilience.

To track our progress toward achieving this priority, the New Zealand Government funded the creation of a resilience assessment tool.

The desired resilience assessment tool needed to be:

  • Capable of assessing disaster resilience at the sub-national level for all areas of New Zealand
  • Repeatable (i.e., based on a consistently available set of measures)
  • Sustainable for small and large communities (i.e., not cost or time prohibitive)
  • Useful for tracking variations in disaster resilience between places and over time

As a result, a composite indicator methodology was selected as the basis for the resilience assessment tool. Composite indicators are formed by compiling a set of indicators that capture different aspects of a multi-dimensional concept (e.g., resilience) into a single index.

Indicator selection for what has come to be known as the New Zealand Resilience Index (NZRI) was informed by New Zealand’s national and international resilience strategies, the National Disaster Resilience Strategy (The Strategy) and the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction, as well as international peer-reviewed literature exploring resilience theory and practice across numerous contexts. This review supplied a framework for the dimensions of resilience the NZRI should capture.

Determining the purpose, focus, and measurement parameters for the NZRI was a multi-step process, described in-depth in Stevenson et al. (2018). This short report focuses on the way the literature on resilience was systematically analysed to operationalise the complex social phenomenon of resilience into a set of observable components that can be consistently measured.

The first step in the creation of a composite indicator is to establish a clear theoretical framework. The theoretical framework shows which dimensions of resilience will be measured, how various dimensions relate to each other, and helps determine the criteria for the underlying variables of the index (Nardo et al., 2008). In our assessment of community disaster resilience, we examine the phenomenon of community disaster resilience as several linked dimensions. First, we break resilience down into seven community “capital” domains. Then, we identify a number of key “concepts” that capture the processes, assets, or characteristics that create resilience in communities. This leads to the specification of indicator “metrics” that can be used to observe and measure those resilience processes in New Zealand’s communities. These indicators have been combined into a bank (the Indicators Bank).

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