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Strategies for resilience: A qualitative analysis of rural community leaders’ advice on disaster recovery

George A. Youngs, Jr., PhD, H. Katherine O’Neill, PhD


Resilience refers to the capacity to withstand, overcome, or recover from serious threat, such as a natural disaster. In small towns, community leaders are intimately involved with their towns’ response and recovery from a disaster and can see resilience processes, or their absence, virtually one person at a time. The authors interviewed 30 community leaders in two small towns along the Red River of the North, 7 to 8 years after a devastating flood. Responses to the question, “Based on your experience and observations (in your community), what advice would you give a similar community that was trying to recover from a major flood?” revealed a pattern of suggestions consistent with resilience strategies identified in the psychological literature. Specifically, the strategies of taking action, accepting help from others, engaging in self-discovery, maintaining a realistic long-term perspective, and fostering hope and optimism were mentioned repeatedly by the respondents. The authors also found rich subthemes within each of these general strategies. These findings support the applicability of psychological resilience strategies to a community’s disaster response and recovery processes.


resilience, recovery, leaders, rural

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