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May 2019

Principles and Approach

Principles and Approach

Building community resilience into policy and practice

Using joined-up methods

It is important that community resilience is recognised as not being the responsibility of one organisation alone, or of a single functional team within any organisation. All organisations which have a stake in building community resilience should be involved, and their responsibilities should be clearly defined. Within organisations, those services which have important roles are not limited to those with lead responsibility for emergency planning or resilience. For example, within a local authority, important contributions can be made by:

  • Social care and policy teams with an awareness of demographics, location of vulnerable people in the community and other socio-economic analysis, and a direct link to members of communities
  • Sustainable development teams which have a remit around climate change adaptation
  • Community engagement teams which have existing links with communities and a capacity building agenda
  • Geographical Information Services teams, often based in planning departments
  • Roads departments, which will have knowledge of gritting routes


There are potential roles for all emergency responder organisations to play in building community resilience. It is important that the approach taken is strategic and coordinated at the appropriate levels in order to ensure that the benefit of shared experience is maximised, and duplication avoided. It is recommended that responders consider the following roles, which are based on practice that has proved effective:

Scottish Government: Setting strategic direction, determining national policy, developing national resources and carrying out national level analytical work.

RRPs: Bringing together all the relevant organisations in an area to develop an effective approach to dealing with emergencies. They have robust plans in place to respond to all kinds of events. These plans are regularly tested in joint exercises and during real emergencies.

Local Authorities: Leading on engagement with communities, promoting and supporting community emergency planning, promoting resilience education through schools, supporting local training and exercising with community groups.

All responders (including voluntary sector): Contributing to public information campaigns, services aimed at household and individual resilience, initiatives such as first aid training, participating in education initiatives through schools.

It is as important to consider the source of a message as it is to consider its content and recipients. Responders should consider that they may not be the best source of information or advice and should consider working with voluntary sector intermediaries to ensure that the organisations that engage with communities are those which can do so most effectively.

This guidance advocates taking an approach to building community resilience which is based on the idea of community development. This means providing individuals and groups of people with the knowledge and skills they need to effect change in their own communities, through a process of engagement, education, empowerment, enablement and evaluation. When planning initiatives designed to improve community resilience it is helpful to consider the extent to which these “5 E’s ” are used.


the 5 E's: Engagement, Education, Empowerment, Enablement and Evaluation all contribute to Building community resilience.



Responders should ensure that individuals and communities feel empowered to take action. This may require some cultural change both on behalf of responders and communities. Communities should be aware of the risks that face them, the actions that they can take individually and collectively to prepare, respond and recover.

Critically, through engagement, encouragement and education, responders should foster a culture in which individuals and communities feel they have an opportunity and responsibility to take action.



Dialogue and engagement8 between responder organisations and communities is at the heart of this approach. Responders often play the role of experts, disseminating information to communities. Engagement means that they should develop an approach based on listening to individual and community concerns, and focus on helping to shape and influence their decisions.



Building more resilient communities involves cultural change. While there are things that can be done in the short term, it is also a long term project, in which learning plays a key role. Ready for Emergencies, Education Scotland’s online resilience resource for schools, provides the resources, including ‘Learning Journeys’, images and video content which teachers should use to integrate resilience into the Curriculum for Excellence. Educating individuals and communities about resilience should be embedded into their everyday lives and should connect with them. Education about resilience is most effective when it is linked to real life experiences – either emergencies which have been experienced by pupils or current news stories.



The involvement of the voluntary sector is crucial to ensuring the resilience of communities, and voluntary sector organisations will be supported to collaborate effectively and consistently with emergency responders. The Voluntary Sector Resilience Partnership brings together voluntary and public sector response organisations and encourages collaboration and improvement. The Resilient Communities Conference involves a broadspectrum of resilience stakeholders, working together on finding innovative solutions to common problems.



Resilience initiatives should be evidence-based in design, and routinely evaluated in order to identify best practice and key learning points, and guide future work. Good practice in evaluation is promoted with all initiatives with which we engage.


Integrated Emergency Management

Preparing Scotland doctrine on emergency planning and response is based on the principles of Integrated Emergency Management (IEM). The main principles and activities involved in IEM are described in detail in Preparing Scotland. These also apply to building community resilience. It is underpinned by five main activities:

  • Assessment
  • Prevention
  • Preparation
  • Response
  • Recovery



Resilience initiatives should be forward looking and based on a proportionate assessment of risk.

A sensible understanding of risks, which will encourage communities to take action, should be developed through a dialogue between local responders and community members.

Through engagement and education, individuals and communities should be encouraged to take ownership of the process by which they understand the risks which are relevant to them. This requires advice from responders, which can be a very valuable asset to individuals and communities, and an element of bottom-up analysis by communities which will be able to identify risks relevant to the community that may not be on a responder’s radar. Whilst not always “major” risks, these may drivers for action within a community.

Responders currently work together to analyse risk on a regional basis. The results of this analysis are published in regional-level “Community Risk Registers”. However these can be technical and consequently can seem remote from communities. They therefore have significant limitations as a tool for engaging or educating communities. To rely on these may run the risk of alienating the people responders are trying to influence. Community Risk Registers should be interpreted for communities by responders to clarify for them what risks have the potential to affect them, and what their impacts might be. Responders should use non-technical language, be clear about the geographical impact of risks in a way which communities will recognise.

Feedback from communities about how risks impact is essential in encouraging them to take action, and can be useful in identifying actions for responder organisations. For example, a recent community emergency planning process found that an electricity sub- station was located in a flood plain area. This intelligence from the community has fed into the repair and maintenance cycle of the electricity company who will in due course relocate the sub-station to a safer location. The Guide to Emergency Planning for Community Groups takes community groups through a community level risk assessment.



In line with Preparing Scotland, this guidance mainly focuses on building capacity to respond to and recover from the consequences of emergencies rather than preventing them from happening. However, there is significant scope to consider how improved community engagement can inform measures to prevent certain emergencies. For example, through encouraging and empowering communities to report blocked culverts and poorly maintained river banks to their local authority, or through dialogue with providers of other services, such as roads and utilities which might inform their investment programmes.



Preparation includes planning as well as training and exercising. Community resilience should engage as great a range as possible of individuals, community groups and private sector organisations in thinking about what action they can take to prepare for emergencies. Advice for members of the public on the measures which can be taken at individual, household and community level is available at Ready Scotland. Examples of good practice are also included in of this document.


Response and recovery

The success of response and recovery activities will be influenced by the preparations carried out in advance by responders, communities and individuals.

Response and recovery can include a range of diverse activities, often moving at different paces and frequently overlapping. Over time, the balance of activities is likely to shift from an initial focus on response to a longer term one of recovery, but it is important that recovery considerations are an integral part of the response from the beginning of an emergency.

Building a more resilient community is one of the outcomes which responders should seek to achieve from a recovery process by working with affected communities to ensure they understand and take what measures they can individually and collectively to help them cope better with future emergencies.


Principles of Integrated Emergency Management

Consequences not causes and adaptability

Should be the focus, with approaches to specific risks identified where appropriate

The motivation for communities to become involved in building community resilience is often a result of their having experienced a specific emergency, such as an extreme weather event or flood. A desire to protect against similar events can lead to a tendency for communities to want to plan for a repeat of the incident that they have most recently experienced.

While such experiences can be used as an opportunity to engage with the community on their priority, responders should encourage communities to take an approach which focuses on the consequences of emergencies rather than their causes. Flexible and adaptable arrangements will enable an effective joint response to any crisis, whether foreseen or unforeseen.

Community members may have detailed dynamic knowledge of: the geography of an area; community assets; and potential vulnerabilities, which are important advantages in achieving a flexible, adaptable response in an emergency.



Taking a strategic, Resilience Partnership (RP)level approach, with lead roles for local government and community based organisations.

RPs play a strong role in coordinating emergency planning, response and recovery activities in Scotland. Responder activities intended to promote community resilience may be most effectively coordinated at an RP level. This approach can ensure that activity is well informed by the risks faced in the RP area and will make the most of established networks and structures among responders, allowing resources to be used effectively and minimising duplication. Co-ordination and integration of resilience activities of voluntary sector organisations should be carried out at RP level. It should be recognised that different approaches, and paces of progress, may be used within a single RP area, particularly where these cover more than one local authority area, and depending on local risks, the characteristics of local communities, and varying priorities and institutional arrangements.

Because of their existing community engagement role, local authorities are often best placed with RPs to lead engagement with local community groups on resilience issues, particularly by supporting them in developing community emergency plans where they wish to do so. A number of good practice examples are available on page 18.


Integration and subsidiarity

Supporting community resilience should be a joined up, multi-agency activity. Building resilience should be carried out with communities in a spirit of partnership and mutual respect.

Local responders’ IEM arrangements are the foundation of dealing with emergencies with control of operations being exercised at the lowest practical level. The co-ordination and support of local activity should be at the highest level required and both principles should be mutually reinforcing. It is therefore important that responders consider how best to develop links with communities at a variety of levels. For example, by establishing clear lines of communication between local community groups and local authorities, and by considering how voluntary sector organisations can be integrated into RRP structures.

The Scottish Government wants to ensure that statutory and voluntary sector responders can work together effectively. Research and practical experience both point to the importance of prior engagement between organisations if they are to rely on each other during an emergency or period of major disruption. Integration depends on mutual understanding between responders and voluntary sector organisations. Voluntary sector organisations

need to know what is required of them and how their work can contribute to the “big picture” of emergency preparedness, response and recovery. Responders need to know what capabilities are available in the voluntary sector, and to have confidence that the sector can deliver during an incident. Relationships between responders and voluntary sector organisations can be formalised in a Memorandum of Understanding or Partnership Agreement.

Initiatives aimed at building community resilience will work most effectively where they are not seen as being imposed top-down by responders, but are based on a shared understanding of risks and assets with communities, and where communities have an understanding of the risks that face them and a desire to take action to improve their own resilience. Clear lines of communication between responders and the community are important. Communities may also require effective coordination by responders, and access to advice and specialist support. Responders should consider where there is scope for community and voluntary sector groups to be involved in joint training and exercising.



Building community resilience should be embedded in day-to-day preparation, response and recovery work.

The potential return on investment for responders in promoting community resilience is high, as they can unlock skills, knowledge and resources held by the entire community.

Similarly, it is not necessary to set up new community groups which focus solely on resilience. In most cases, the most effective approach will be to embed resilience in the day-to-day activities carried out by individuals, households and existing community groups. Groups that are already active and organised will ordinarily be able to sustain resilience activity over a longer term.

Achieving effective engagement may require a change in perspective for responder agencies and revised ways of working by some communities. This changes the objective of engagement from bringing communities into a plan or programme already defined by the emergency responders to one of providing support to help them build capabilities on their own terms, including through existing community engagement activities such as regeneration projects or new projects dealing with specific identified risks.


Evaluation and sharing experience

It is good practice to carry out appropriate evaluation of all community resilience initiatives.

This should include gathering and assessing feedback as the initiative develops in order to identify what’s working well, and what should be done differently. This type of evaluation should focus on process rather than outcome. This is similar to the “lessons identified and learnt” process used in resilience development.

Responders should also look retrospectively at the extent to which the initiative has achieved the outcomes that were intended, identifying lessons for subsequent initiatives. Where possible evaluation findings should be published and disseminated to relevant stakeholders.


8 The National Standards for Community Engagement, which provide best practice guidance for engagement between communities and public agencies, are available at:

The principles of the Standards are:

  • Inclusion: people and organisations that are affected by the engagement should be identified and involved.
  • Support: barriers to participation will be identified and overcome
  • Planning: the engagement has a clear purpose, based on a shared understanding of community needs and ambitions
  • Working together: all stakeholders should work effectively together to achieve the aims of the engagement
  • Methods: methods of engagement used should be fit for purpose
  • Communications: the people, organisations and communities affected by the engagement should be communicated with clearly and regularly
  • Accurate, timely information is crucial for effective engagement.

9 The principal structure which supports multi-agency co-ordination of emergency management activity is the Regional Resilience Partnership. Currently there are three such groups in Scotland, in the North, East and West. These groups serve to bring together all the relevant organisations in an area to develop an effective approach in dealing with emergencies.


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