Culturally Grounded Indicators of Resilience in Social-Ecological Systems

Eleanor Sterling et al.

Abstract

Measuring progress toward sustainability goals is a multifaceted task. International, regional, and national organizations and agencies seek to promote resilience and capacity for adaptation at local levels. However, their measurement systems may be poorly aligned with local contexts, cultures, and needs. Understanding how to build effective, culturally grounded measurement systems is a fundamental step toward supporting adaptive management and resilience in the face of environmental, social, and economic change. To identify patterns and inform future efforts, we review seven case studies and one framework regarding the development of culturally grounded indicator sets. Additionally, we explore ways to bridge locally relevant indicators and those of use at national and international levels. The process of identifying and setting criteria for appropriate indicators of resilience in social-ecological systems needs further documentation, discussion, and refinement, particularly regarding capturing feedbacks between biological and social-cultural elements of systems.

Keywords: biocultural indicators; indicator sets; Indigenous Peoples; local communities; resilience; sustainability; well-being

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.3167/ares.2017.080104

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