Colloquium on brings together insights on resilience and development with over 150 participants from all over the globe. Stockholm Resilience Centre/A. Perl

Gwen Meyer, photographer, explains her exhibition on resilience of Ethiopian food systems at the Resilience and Development Colloquium in Johannesburg, South Africa


An overview: The Colloquium on Resilience and Development

From 8-10 May 2017, a colloquium on resilience and development co-hosted by the GRAID programme took place in Johannesburg, South Africa

Story highlights

  • The 8-10 May in Johannesburg, South Africa colloquium focused on resilience as a key approach to meeting development needs while maintaining our planetary life support system
  • Event brought together over 150 researchers, practitioners, and students from Africa, Europe, Oceania, and North America
  • Keynote speeches held by SRC researchers: Oonsie Biggs (also the Colloquium’s Chair), Belinda Reyers, and Michele-Lee Moore

In the Anthropocene, humanity needs to deal with increasing turbulence, in both social and environmental settings. Resilience has been identified as a strategy that could help advance development across multiple, sectors, scales, and regions. As a forum to convene on these topics, the Colloquium on Resilience for Development: Assessment Methods and Transformative Practices was created.

From 8-10 May 2017, Stockholm Resilience Centre’s GRAID programme, the Centre for Complex Systems in Transition at Stellenbosch University, South African Council for Science and Industrial Research (CSIR), and the South African Program on Ecosystem Change and Society (SAPECS) jointly hosted the colloquium in Johannesburg, South Africa. The event aims to convene on how resilience can contribute to doing development differently, from both research and practical perspectives.

“The colloquium was designed to maximize opportunities for dialogue and critical discussions and building collaborations between researchers and practitioners. Much of the colloquium was centred on dialogue and mini-workshop sessions, interspersed with talks to maximize communication between participants,” says Oonsie Biggs, the Colloquium’s Chair organizer.

The colloquium was completely booked, and attracted over 150 researchers, practioners, and student from Africa, Europe, Oceania, and North America. It was designed around seven central themes, aimed at maximizing opportunities for discussion:

  1. Resilience assessment, monitoring and evaluation
    2. Creating transformative spaces
    3. Urban resilience and infrastructure
    4. Indigenous and local knowledge for stewardship and resilience
    5. Science-society partnerships for building resilience and transformation
    6. Addressing inequality and human wellbeing through ecosystem services
    7. Human rights in the Anthropocene
    8. Achieving the SDGs in Africa

An eventful 60 hours

The two-and-a-half-day colloquium hosted a number of sessions of short and long talks, ranging on topics from complexity and resilience thinking; social-ecological regime shifts; and human rights and food systems; and also, what resilience thinking and social-ecological systems can say about doing development differently.

During the event, three plenary sessions occurred, and was captured via livestream, with a number of keynote speakers: centre researchers Oonsie Biggs, Belinda Reyers, and Michele-Lee Moore, as well as Busiso Moyo (Sonke Gender Justice), Lorenzo Fioramonti (Centre for the Study of Governance Innovation, University of Pretoria) and Nathanial Matthews (Global Resilience Partnership). Each plenary concluded with a discussion, including a final panel hosted by GRAID’s ReThink Assistant Editor, Marika Haeggman.

The colloquium also highlighted art-science collaborations, such as the collaboration between ecological artistic Hannelie Coetzee and researcher Sally Archibald, who together create ecological images while studying controlled fire management. A photo exhibition by Gwen Meyer, Picturing Resilience in Northern Ethiopian Foodways, visualized how food acts as a source of resilience in Ethiopian communities.


As the colloquium came to a close, it was clear that it had been an informative and meaningful for many of the participants. As one of the participants reflects, “Many researchers are working in parallel, but not necessarily communicating,” while other participant says, “that this event created a space where I could connect with colleagues I want to continue speaking and collaborating with.”

Biggs also highlights the positive reactions she received about the colloquium. “The event was a great success! I’ve heard positive feedback from a number of attendees, and from a number of people who were following the event online.”

While this colloquium has only been planned as a one-off event, the organizers hope that a number of meaningful connections were made at the colloquium, which will help to further advance discussions on resilience, development, and dealing with turbulent social and environmental challenges in the Anthropocene.

Published: 2017-06-07


Oonsie Biggs is a researcher at both the Stockholm Resilience Centre and the Centre for Studies in Complexity at Stellenbosch University. She was the chair of the Colloquium’s organizing committee.


Latest news