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Resilience: Outcome, Process, Emergence, Narrative (OPEN) theory

Astier M. Almedom (Based at the Copenhagen School of Global Health, University of Copenhagen, Copenhagen, Denmark and Lund University Centre for Sustainability Studies, Lund, Sweden)

On the Horizon

ISSN: 1074-8121

Article publication date: 25 January 2013




The purpose of this paper is to synthesize coherent theory that identifies and links the cognitive and structural elements in both the psychosocial and organizational dimensions of resilience.


The approach takes the form of the author's review of and reflections on the dynamics of resilience in living systems in general, and in humans in particular, drawing on seminal scholarly publications across trans‐disciplinary fields of scientific research.


Human resilience is recounted and documented in narrative form across spatial and temporal gradients: retrospectively – in historical perspective; introspectively – in the immediate aftermath of traumatic events and/or experiences; and prospectively – in anticipation of crisis. Measurements or assessments of human resilience vary according to the research questions being addressed. The variables may relate to resilience as an outcome or a process. Resilience is also assessed as an emergent attribute of individuals and communities who may have undergone post‐traumatic growth, and/or transformation associated with self‐organized and self‐governing systems. Complex systems where key functions and core identity and integrity are sustained may be examined under an integrated explanatory theoretical model that allows for systems' resilience to be measured as an Outcome; monitored as a Process; identified as an Emergent property; and Narrated – hence, OPEN theory.

Practical implications

Decision makers faced with contemporary questions of how best to embark on the fast‐moving sort of “runaway train” concept of resilience may find OPEN useful as a tool for identifying, understanding and promoting human resilience – a basis for sustainable futures.


This conceptual paper offers original insights with a pragmatic analytical tool that coherently links the cognitive and structural elements of human resilience.



Almedom, A.M. (2013), "Resilience: Outcome, Process, Emergence, Narrative (OPEN) theory", On the Horizon, Vol. 21 No. 1, pp. 15-23.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2013, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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