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Community Resilience Mapping: How To

Good climate resilience strategies that keep community members safe - this is the outcome of Community Resilience Mapping. The activity aids the exploration and understanding of a specific area's risk to climate impacts. It identifies the residents most at risk, where a community's has strong climate resilience, and where the gaps are in its climate impact readiness.

Read on for more on community resilience mapping and how to map your community's climate impact preparedness.



Inspired by the Climate Resilience Project and its encouragement of community resilience mapping, the Act on Climate collective attempted this activity at a local community event. The response was one of great enthusiasm, participation, and outcomes, so the collective now has a vision of this process being repeated all across the state.


Why Community Resilience Mapping?

What can communities gain from it? It leaves community members with a good understanding of who will be most impacted in their community and how. They will gain knowledge of what is already in place to keep them and others in their community safe. It also helps with the pinpointing and prioritisation of climate adaptation solutions that will reduce the specific impacts faced by those most at risk.

The outcome is for community members to go home with clarity around the now unavoidable local climate impacts. However, rather than feeling powerless, we want community members feeling informed about what has already been done and what can be done. They will leave feeling heard and empowered to make a difference in their community and ready to actively help promote and develop the solutions inspired by the activity.

The activity provides communities with a voice to express their fears, frustration, knowledge, and lived experience of local climate impacts. In addition, it provides the chance to brainstorm for themselves the solutions needed and wanted. It is a good first step in engaging people on the topic of climate adaptation, creates an emotional connection between the group, and can lead to motivated community members that are proactive and committed.


What is Community Resilience Mapping?

Community Resilience Mapping is an activity used to ensure good climate resilience strategies that keep community members safe. It captures how climate risk and vulnerability interact in a specific community. Resilience maps that effectively aggregate environmental, physiological, socioeconomic, and experiential data de-silo adaptation efforts and help mitigate compounding risk factors, particularly for those who are most impacted.

They also highlight the sources of strength and adaptive capacity that communities have to draw upon. Knowing these assets helps to inform practical, community-led solutions and identifies resilience initiatives of which locals can feel proud.

The focus is not just on vulnerability. Climate mapping also explores examples of how a community is already responding to and is prepared for locked-in climate impacts. And, through highlighting the gaps - what an area is unprepared for and who is not safe - the necessary climate adaptation solutions can be envisioned and realised. 

It can be used to look at all the climate impacts a community is experiencing and at risk of, only some, or just one. For example, a resilience map may just consider the impact of heatwaves on their community. 



How is Community Resilience Mapping Facilitated?

A resilience map is created through community members brainstorming four areas: 

  1. Exposures: exploring various climate impacts
  2. Sensitivities: who/which areas are most at risk
  3. Assets: what is already in place to respond to and reduce impacts
  4. Adaptive Capacity: where are the gaps

If the group is less than six people, we recommend brainstorming all together. If there are more, split up participants into groups of four to six people to discuss and document each aspect. It helps if each of these groups has a facilitator familiar with the process, or there can be one or two floating facilitators. Following the separate discussions, ask group members to “report back” to create an overall record that captures all the information.

The activity takes at least 1.5 to 2 hrs, but can be spread out over many more hours, and revisited or repeated on separate occasions.

Begin by explaining to everyone in the room what community resilience mapping is, the aims, and the process, including what to consider in each section and how to document it to provide feedback. This process can differ depending on the number of people and the resources available. It can be as formal or informal as you wish. It can be done using butcher's paper, whiteboards, an easel, or a printout of an actual map of the area to document thoughts and begin bringing the map to life. Alternatively, it can be facilitated online using an editable Google Doc or Miro Board and an image of an online map.


1. Exposures

Begin by clarifying which exposures you are going to map, if they are being limited, or by giving examples of the climate impacts affecting the region that should be considered. These can include, but are not limited to, temperature, bushfire threat, sea-level rise, flood risk, drought, and air quality.

Information on the climate impacts faced by your specific community can either be researched before the resilience mapping event and shared with participants before they start mapping the sensitivities, or they can be crowdsourced and documented on the day. 

The magnitude, frequency, and duration of present and anticipated climate risks should be considered, including both major shocks and slow, simmering stressors.


2. Sensitivities

Next, ask each group to talk about the sensitivities - who and which parts of the community are most at risk? Vulnerability is not distributed equally across communities, geographically and socially. People who are already facing challenges based on their economic position, systemic disadvantage, or compounding circumstances will be disproportionately impacted by climate impacts.

A note on vulnerability: It is vital to view vulnerability as a consequence, not a condition, to avoid victimisation. “Vulnerability is not a characteristic or condition of a group of people, it is a circumstance or consequence of the ways social groups have been historically and systemically marginalised and excluded from opportunity. Rather than being viewed as victims to be protected and saved, vulnerable communities should instead define, develop, and drive the solutions.” (APEN Mapping Resilience Report)

When mapping these sensitivities, prompt the groups to consider (below info from Climate Resilience Project):

  • Demographics: race/ethnicity, linguistic isolation, poverty, elderly (and living alone), children, disability, incarceration, citizenship status
  • Socioeconomics: unemployment, educational attainment, income inequality, health insurance coverage, food insecurity, voter participation
  • Housing and infrastructure: tenure (% renters), affordability (% housing burdened), air-conditioning, quality of housing, energy burden, prisons
  • Health: asthma, cardiovascular disease, diabetes
  • Occupations: outdoor workers, workers impacted by violations of rights, protections, and safety
  • Geography: urban heat islands, industrial/hazardous sites, impervious surfaces, nearby bodies of water, monocultures


3. Assets

Next, ask each group to discuss local assets - what is already in place that reduces the impact? This can include infrastructure, natural and manmade, people, organisations and initiatives.

When mapping these assets, prompt the groups to consider (below info from Climate Resilience Project):

  • Demographics: folks who speak multiple languages (including ASL), age diversity, experiential diversity
  • Socioeconomics: community cohesion and engagement, cooperatives, local businesses
  • Housing and infrastructure: community spaces (with industrial kitchens), buildings with energy storage systems, community-based renewable energy systems, local food growing and distribution systems, circular waste management systems
  • Occupations: medical professionals, doulas, herbalists, elder care providers, cooks, domestic workers, educators, facilitators, organisers, mental healthcare providers, informal care workers, carriers of ancestral wisdom
  • Geography: tree canopy, porous/vegetated surfaces, gathering spaces, areas surrounded by defensible space, freshwater sources, gardens, plant medicine, biodiversity


4. Adaptive Capacity

Lastly, look at what you've documented. Note how prepared your community is and where the gaps are - what is lacking that needs to be addressed to ensure that everyone is as safe as can be?

Answer the following:

  • Who is not being protected and what assets are needed to protect them?
  • How could these gaps be addressed?
  • Who could/should address these gaps?

When considering a community's adaptive capacity, also think about things like vehicle and transit access, medical facilities, mental health care, cooling/evacuation centres, emergency services, telecommunication access.


We've created a Community Resilience Mapping Facilitation Guide for anyone to use to assist the spread of this climate adaptation activity across the state. Download it and facilitate one yourself, or ask your council or a local organisation to host an event for your community.


Supporting Climate-Impacted People & Mental Health

An activity like this may cause climate-related anxiety to surface. This is especially true of people who have experienced a climate-related disaster. Psychology for a Safe Climate's Climate Feelings website and the Active Hope Training course can be provided to participants as places to go to help work through any feelings that arise during, or after, this activity.

Bushfire Survivors for Climate's Lived Experience Guide introduces concepts, practices and guidelines that can be used by those working with people with lived experience of climate impacts and ensure you have a trauma-informed approach.

Also, it’s recommended that you make a plan to reconnect as a group to keep the conversation going and to work on one, or some, of the climate adaptation initiatives that developed in your brainstorm. A connected community is vital for resilience, so this in itself is a climate adaptation solution. And, action is an antidote to despair!


Want help making this happen in your community?

Still feeling uncertain about running a Community Resilience Mapping session in your community after reading this? We're happy to help! Contact us, either Aleesha Hanczakowski on [email protected] or Vicky Ellmore on [email protected], and we can answer any questions and walk you through running the event yourself, or we can come facilitate it ourselves, if possible.



Stay tuned for further updates from Friends of the Earth's Act on Climate collective as we campaign for community-led climate adaptation by signing up for campaign updates here.

If you haven't already, please add your name to the call for a Victorian Community Climate Adaptation Fund. We need community-led climate adaptation that is continuously and adequately funded. This funding will enable communities to fulfil their plans to build resilient communities in a changing climate and keep those most at risk safe.


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