Resilience & Community Health

What is Resilience?

Resilience… You’ve probably heard this word a lot lately. Especially now that Pittsburgh has been named one of the Rockefeller Foundation‘s 100 Resilient Cities.

But what does it mean? Well, there are a lot of different kinds of resilience. Psychological resilience. Ecological resilience. Social. Physical. Economic. Climate.

Being resilient generally means being prepared for anything, and having the proper mechanisms in place to not just respond, but improve and move forward through their response. It’s about bouncing forward instead of being set back by something. Resilience is being proactive, rather than reactive. It deals with both shocks and stresses.

Community resilience, which is mostly what we’re talking about here, deals with the ability of communities to respond, withstand and grow in the face of trying situations. It addresses both long term stresses (such as population decline) and short term shocks (such as a natural disasters).

How is it related to community health?

Community Health and Resilience are very much related to each other. At GTECH, we believe that a  healthy community is a resilient community, and that to be resilient, a community must be healthy.

But what does that really mean?

At GTECH, our vision for a healthy community is one where people know their neighbors, and residents are engaged and feel empowered to create real change in the places where they live and work. A healthy community is a safe, livable, resilient and verdant.

How does that fit in with GTECH’s work?

A lot of GTECH’s work is intended to build things like community capacity and increase individual empowerment, both components of a healthy, resilient community. Our methodology -Investigate, Act, Connect, Sustain – is the process through which we work to build community health & resilience.

Resilience is measured differently, depending on who you talk to. The Rockefeller Foundation, for example, lists 12 drivers of urban resilience, which are used as indicators to measure the capacity of a place to respond to shocks and stressors.

ReClaim McKeesport is just one example of how our work incorporates these principles of resilience. Below are 5 of the 12 Rockefeller indicators of urban resilience that our work in McKeesport exemplifies.

  • Promotes cohesive and engaged communities
  • Enhances and protects natural and man made assets
  • Promotes leadership and effective management
  • Empowers a broad range of stakeholders
  • Fosters long term and integrated planning


Our ReClaim McKeesport Ambassador program is a year-long education program that assists community members in implementing change on vacant land. Informed by an investigation, which can be found here, in October 2014 our cohort of community Ambassadors in McKeesport began attending educational sessions and workshops, learning about the ways that vacant lots impact the community as well as thinking about ways to transform vacant properties in a way that benefits everyone. After seeking input from community members and publicly presenting their ideas in early spring 2015, Ambassadors received micro-grants to implement their project, and throughout the spring and summer of 2015 worked with their friends and neighbors to make their ideas come to life.

Below are some photos of the evolution of one of our Ambassador’s projects, a trail garden, along the Great Allegheny Passage.

To get involved with the City’s resilience planning process, watch for details about the upcoming deliberative democracy sessions in mid-November. One will be held in East Liberty at the Presbyterian Church and one in the Southside at the Market House.

Stay tuned for the next Resilience Blog in late October – A look at what’s happening nationally


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