Reflections on resilience & adaptive capacity.

Sonja Blignaut
2 min readFeb 11, 2022


I have been revisiting some of my older blogs and came across a series I wrote several years ago on resilience. I am blessed with a very diverse network, which includes, among others, many thought leaders and scientists in the field of social-ecological systems. While most of my work is in the corporate world, I have the privilege of collaborating with natural scientists and conservationists now and again. For example, here are two co-authored articles on complexity & social-ecological systems.

I have always felt that many learnings from the social-ecological world are more widely applicable, especially now that we use ecological metaphors more often to describe organisations.

Resilience has long been an area of interest in social-ecological sciences. They define a resilience approach as a sustainable focus on building capacity to deal with unexpected change. I call this capacity change resilience or adaptive capacity, and it is as essential in business and government as it is in ecologies.

In the book “Principles for Building Resilience: Sustaining Ecosystem Services in Social-Ecological Systems” published by Cambridge University Press (2014), the authors present a set of seven principles they consider crucial for building resilience in social-ecological systems. I believe the same principles apply in business. Ironically, I wrote the first blog post in 2015, and much of the critique I wrote back then remains true today.

The 7 principles are:
1. Maintain diversity and redundancy
2. Manage connectivity
3. Manage slow variables and feedbacks
4. Foster Complex Adaptive Systems thinking
5. Encourage learning
6. Broaden participation
7. Promote polycentric governance systems

These are too rich to explore in a single post. I’ll publish my reflections on these principles in a series over the next few weeks.



Sonja Blignaut

Exploring our relationship with uncertainty. Enabling future fitness. Complexity nerd, Waysfinder, Artist, Scientist.