October 2017 - Resilience December 04 2017


Resilience refers to the capacity to withstand or bounce back after a challenging circumstance. Individuals may be resilient and so too can systems, such as a family or economic system. Why are some resilient while others are seemingly not? Is resilience a constant capacity or does it fluctuate?

Dr. Ann Masten, a leading expert in resilience research from the Child Development Institute at the University of Minnesota, studies children and families who do well in the face of adversity. In the first video below, Dr. Masten describes the concept of resilience.

Researchers have found families can enhance resilience in children by using available resources in particularly effective ways, for example, combating malnutrition by adding available small shrimp and/or sweet potato greens to children’s meals. Identifying those families in a community that flourish despite the same risks and determining what they are doing differently that contributes to their success is a ‘positive deviance’ approach to addressing the issue.

In the second video, Agostinho Mamade, former Program Manager/Senior Education Officer, Aga Khan Foundation, Mozambique, shares an example of positive deviance in Cabo Delgado, Mozambique. He explains that only a very small portion of the grade five students were in the right grade for their age. Researchers investigated and found five supports for academic progress that distinguish these students from the others. For example, having an adult who can help with schoolwork and access to books in the home. Can you speculate about what other supports these researchers identified?

Are you aware of examples of positive deviance in your community or region? If so, are there lessons that can be extrapolated from those examples to support other children and families?