About Resilience

Is there a good example of resilience programming in practice?

Yes! USAID’s resilience work in Kenya, the Partnership for Resilience and Economic Growth (PREG), is an excellent example. This work recently won a USAID CLA Case Competition

Is USAID’s definition similar to how other development actors define resilience?

Yes, USAID’s definition of resilience is similar to that of other development organizations. Here are some other definitions of resilience used by other development organizations. 

  • DFID -  Disaster resilience is the ability of countries, communities and households to manage change, by maintaining or transforming living standards in the face of shocks or stresses - such as earthquakes, drought or violent conflict – without compromising their long-term prospects.

  • OECD - Economic resilience can be strengthened by implementing policies aimed at mitigating both the risks and consequences of severe crises.  In the case of risks this implies being able to monitor home-grown vulnerabilities; coping with the consequences means identifying policy settings and mechanisms that can be put in place ex ante so as to help absorbing the impact of a severe downturn.

  • Farming First - Agricultural resilience is about equipping farmers to absorb and recover from shocks and stresses to their agricultural production and livelihoods. Some shocks are short-term, others long-term.  Some come suddenly while others are predictable. And some are more severe while others slowly erode farmers’ ability to farm.

  • Infrastructure resilience - Infrastructure resilience is the ability to reduce the magnitude and/or duration of disruptive events. The effectiveness of a resilient infrastructure or enterprise depends upon its ability to anticipate, absorb, adapt to, and/or rapidly recover from a potentially disruptive event.

I’m new to resilience at USAID. Where do I start?

1. Watch our introductory videos: Why resilience? (short version) and longer version 

2. Take our introductory online training to understand how to incorporate resilience approaches into your work 3. Read USAID’s Policy and Guidance on Building Resilience to Recurrent Crisis (2012)

4. Read our 2017 Resilience Evidence Forum Report 

5. Take our online training courses:

  • Resilience and Sustainable Poverty Escapes
  • Resilience and Livelihoods Diversification
  • Measuring Resilience


What are the differentiating characteristics of USAID’s resilience-building approach (a.k.a. How is resilience different from business as usual at USAID)?

Building resilience is not simply good sustainable development.  What differs in USAID’s resilience-building approach is the following:

Developmental focus on people and places subject to recurrent crisis (previously a perpetual humanitarian risk)

  • initially where recurrent crises = repeat, large-scale emergencies
  • growing recognition of broader utility of resilience to Ending Extreme Poverty and Feed the Future, and sustainable poverty escapes

Shocks and stresses more explicitly recognized as perennial features (not anomalies).

Concurrent investment: 

  • to reduce/manage risk, build adaptive capacity, facilitate inclusive growth
  • with flexibility to proactively respond when shocks occur (e.g., drought/shock cycle management)

Joint humanitarian and development analysis, planning and implementation (across sectors, systems thinking in an ear-marked world)

  • resilience an analytic, programmatic and operational framework
  • sequencing, layering and integration of HA/DA programs

Resilience is not an outcome in and of itself, rather it is a set of absorptive, adaptive, and transformative capacities needed to achieve and sustain a well-being outcome of interest

What’s the Agency’s definition of resilience?

As stated in USAID’s 2012 Policy and Program Guidance on Building Resilience to Recurrent Crisis, USAID defines resilience as “the ability of people, households, communities, countries, and systems to mitigate, adapt to, and recover from shocks and stresses in a manner that reduces chronic vulnerability and facilitates inclusive growth.”

Put simply, resilience is the ability to manage through adversity and change without compromising future well-being. 

About the USAID Center for Resilience

How do I contact the Center for Resilience?

To contact the USAID Center for Resilience, please email: [email protected]

What is the Center for Resilience?

The Center for Resilience is part of USAID’s Bureau for Food Security, soon to be the Bureau for Resilience and Food Security.

Building resilience to recurrent crisis emerged as a USAID priority in the wake of large-scale humanitarian emergencies in the Horn of Africa and the Sahel in late 2011 and early 2012. Recurrent crises, such as widespread food insecurity in the Horn of Africa in 2017 or in the Sahel in 2012 - both prompted by drought - cause loss of life, livelihoods, dignity, and aspiration; negatively affect national and regional economies; and are extremely costly in terms of recurrent humanitarian spending. 

USAID is committed to helping build the resilience of vulnerable communities in areas subject to recurrent crisis, increasing their ability to manage through crises without compromising their future well-being.

Who we are

Management: Christine Gottschalk, Director

Country support for West Africa: Andre Mershon

Country support for East Africa: Jami Montgomery

Country support for Southern Africa, Haiti, Democratic Republic of Congo, policy: Shawn Wozniak

Knowledge management/training: Courtney Meyer

Resilience M&E and strategic analytics: Lynn Michalopoulos

Resilience and GFSS: Jami Montgomery

Resilience and conflict/fragility: Jessica Anderson

Social protection and insurance: Lara Evans