Research Themes

Complexity, Resilience, and Social Innovation


My work builds on research that has applied complex systems thinking to building resilience and fostering adaptive capacity within complex social–ecological systems. My work also integrates research that explores critical and reflective approaches to systems thinking (Jackson 2000, Midgely 2000). Work on critical systems thinking emphasizes the strong links between philosophy, methodology, and intervention.  In particular, my work focuses on fostering a steady stream of social innovations in order to build social-ecological resilience.  

We define social innovation as, “any product, process, design, program or initiative that profoundly changes the defining routines and laws, resource and authority flows, cultural beliefs and practices of a given social system. Social innovations, working over time, transform intractable problem domains.  Social Innovations have durability, impact and are cross-scalar” (Westley, 2008).  And resilience is defined as, “the ability of a socio-ecological system to absorb disturbance and still retain its basic function and structure” (Walker and Salt, 2006).