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Social Resilience Project

2020 Climate Change and Social Resilience Report

In 2019, the Climate and Health Program and the Oregon Community Health Workers Association held a series of listening sessions in Hood River, Medford, and Portland. In these sessions, we asked community health workers and leaders about their perspectives on social resilience and how climate change is affecting their communities. This report synthesizes the themes from these conversations and identifies actions and investments that governmental agencies can take to strengthen social relationships in communities and increase climate resilience.

Social Resilience, Community Connectedness, and Adaptive Capacity

While working with partners to develop the 2017 Oregon Climate and Health Resilience Plan, there were many discussions about the social factors that influence a community’s resilience. Several partners highlighted ‘social networks’ and ‘community connectedness’ as key contributors to a community’s capacity to prepare and respond to disaster, navigate change, and adapt to new normals.

This conversation expanded our thinking about resilience and led to a lot more questions...

  • How do you measure a community’s social resilience?
  • What are effective strategies for building social resilience?
  • And what is the public health system’s role and capacity to build social resilience within the communities we serve?

It turns out we weren’t the only ones asking these kinds of questions. A growing body of research indicates that social resilience (such as a community’s level of social cohesion or social capital) are key protective factors, enabling a community to effectively prepare, respond and adapt to climate stressors (as well as non-climate stressors) in healthy and innovative ways.

When it comes to building resilience and adapting to climate change, there is no doubt that certain hard infrastructure improvements will need to be made (e.g. higher bridges, deeper wells, etc.), but what about the “soft” stuff? How do we invest in our social infrastructure? That’s what we set out to better understand through two research projects.

Below is a summary of our findings from two projects completed in 2018.

Social Resilience Indicators Project

This project, led by the Program Design and Evaluation Services in partnership with the Environmental Public Health Tracking program, helped us take a closer look at how we might measure social resilience. The project included a literature review across several fields of study including sociology, community psychology and disaster preparedness and the development of an annotated bibliography and a “menu” of indicator categories, measures, and potential data sources.


View the Annotated Bibliography

View the Menu of Measures

NOTE: If you are considering using one of these measures, we would like to hear from you. Please contact:

Next steps

A second phase of literature review was recently completed to assess the cross-cultural factors that might influence the validity of potential resilience measures. This additional research helped to guide a series of listening sessions with community health workers who work with different culturally-specific groups in Oregon, made possible through a partnership with the Oregon Community Health Workers Association. These data will further inform refinement of the existing list of measures and provide stories and examples that can be used to illustrate social resilience concepts within a culturally-specific context.

The project team is also exploring the development of a Story Map tool that would feature some of the Social Resilience measures paired with qualitative stories of building social resilience across the state. The Environmental Public Health Tracking team is exploring whether future phases of the new Environmental Public Health Tracking Portal could also include social resilience indicators.

Social Resilience and the Role of Our Public Health Workforce

This project, in partnership with researchers at Oregon State University (OSU), has helped us better understand how public health practitioners in Oregon are currently thinking about the concept of social resilience. We conducted a survey of local and state health department employees to assess their familiarity and confidence in using social cohesion strategies, and what opportunities they have identified for building social resilience within the communities they serve. Study findings helped to inform key informant interviews and a “Working Meeting on Social Resilience” in 2019. These additional discussions helped to identify priorities for workforce development efforts that can advance social resilience strategies within Oregon’s public health system.


View the Social Resilience Study Brief

View Infographics that illustrate the social resilience concept

Next steps

The project findings intersect with a number of other public health initiatives underway and the team is exploring how we can best partner and align efforts. A second "Working Meeting" may be convened to ensure that the program's next steps are responsive to partner and community priorities. Future work will likely include workforce development activities with State and Local public health officials.

NOTE: If you have ideas about partnering on this work, we would like to hear from you. Please contact: