Resilience in the face of multiple crises

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12th – 14th December 2022, Dessau-Roßlau, Germany.

Resilience in the face of multiple crises – Pathways and obstacles toward a resilient sustainability transformation.

Table of Contents



European societies have faced a series of fundamental challenges throughout the last years. The financial crisis some years ago and the Covid-19 pandemic already had deep impacts on people's daily lives, just to be overshadowed by reinforced existential insecurities resulting from Russia's war in Ukraine. Meanwhile, several regions have been severely hit by climate change impacts, for example in Germany by the flooding taking place in 2021. All of these events have revitalized a discourse on how societies, in general, can be designed in such a way that they are more resilient in the face of multiple crises and enabled to adapt to a changing climate. The German strategy for strengthening resilience against disasters exemplifies a recent attempt to systematically implement resilience on a political level in Germany.

At the same time, especially the impacts of Russia's war in have clearly demonstrated that Western lifestyles are highly dependent on fossil fuels and that this dependency constitutes one of the root causes leading to the currently unfolding crisis. Paradoxically, political measures foreseen to build a more resilient society in reaction to the current situation often come along with increased resource and energy demand too, again significantly relying on fossil fuels. In consequence, their intention to respond to a variety of risk scenarios may increase energy dependency and thus risk further fragilizing societies' abilities to cope with future threats in the mid- to long-term. Furthermore, fossil energy use to build resilience might simultaneously increase threats associated with climate change, highlighting a potential conflict between resilience and sustainable development.

Furthermore, crises such as wars, natural disasters like floodings and droughts, or pandemics do not only impact people on a material level, but exert direct stress on a psychological, interpersonal, and organizational level too. Technological innovations, political strategies and governance measures alone are hence not sufficient to respond to the multiple effects of crises and do not provide a comprehensive resilience strategy integrating the various dimensions on which these effects unfold.



As TES Academy, we are convinced that the multiple crises humanity is facing require a fundamental transformation of human relationship patterns with the more-than-human world. We think that this transformation cannot merely be considered as intellectual enterprises but may involve or even require a transformation of human modes of thinking and relating, behavioral patterns, and underlying mindsets. Furthermore, we consider transdisciplinary perspectives and collaboration key to developing solutions to the pressing sustainability-related challenges of our time, including developing an integrative vision of a resilient and sustainable future.

Therefore, it was our aim to create a space that allowed for mutual learning, relating, and collaborating. We wanted to invite participants to meet and connect at eye level, dive into new perspectives, and let novel, integrative approaches emerge that can ideally inform future specific projects and actions. Therefore, the schedule of our event was not fully determined and did not foresee the delivery of specific contents prepared in advance. Instead, we held that bringing together people with rich and diverse expertise constituted a unique opportunity to develop something genuinely new that cannot fully be planned beforehand.

Against this background, the TES Academy invited 25 international experts from different professional contexts (including resilience and sustainability researchers, mindfulness teachers and psychologists, as well as representatives from the civil society like ecovillage movement and environmental organisations, the German development cooperation, the German Ministry for the Environment, The German Environment Agency) to work on “resilience in the face of multiple crises” at the German Environment Agency in Dessau-Roßlau from 12th until 14th December. This composition has allowed us to approach the topic from a rich variety of viewpoints and think about resilience and sustainability transformation in a way that goes well beyond disciplinary boundaries.

The pedagogical design of the event was inspired by principles of Theory U1. Instead of hastily entering into a problem-solving mindset, we wanted to understand the threats associated with the multiple crises not only intellectually but experience them emotionally and with all our senses. For this purpose, we dedicated the opening hour of the event to getting to know each other, before spending another hour sharing personal stories illustrating the participants’ personal relations with the topic of resilience. The first day was rounded with a 4D mapping of a specific project aiming at transforming an urban region in Western Germany toward a more resilient and sustainable future. While the mapping prompted a discussion as to whether this activity would reflect the real scenario at stake, it was successful in emotionally relating the participants to the workshop topic and preparing the affective ground for the remainder of the event.

The second day began with a case clinic. The case clinic has its origin in the framework of Theory U. It allowed participants to look at specific challenges related to the broader topic of resilience and collectively develop new perspective on these challenges. We looked at a variety of cases, ranging from vulnerable and irregular settlements in South Africa, to tensions between personal resilience and the vision of sustainability, to questions of resilience in the educational sector. 1 Scharmer, O. (2018). The essentials of Theory U: Core principles and applications. Oakland: BerrettKoehler Publishers. The case clinic was followed by a vision walk, during which participants imagined a resilient and sustainable future in their professional field. An open space, finally, gave the participants the opportunity to work on self-determined topics in self-organized groups.

On day three, the working groups shared and discussed the results of the open space, before we closed the event with a final feedback circle.

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 sustainability  transformation  TES Academy  environment