by Martyn Link, Executive Director, Resilience First

Over the past few years we have all become very familiar with vaccines and most of us have taken part in the largest vaccination programme ever known to humankind. Faced with a global threat scientists, healthcare professionals and many other practitioners came together to develop lifesaving technology for millions of people.

The concept behind a vaccine is to introduce a tiny fragment of a dangerous virus, bacteria or similar foreign entity into the body, which then induces an immune response. The second time the person encounters this pathogen (this time the real thing!), there is a much quicker and stronger response due to the body’s residual memory of the pathogen via the vaccine. In this way we strengthen our body’s natural immune system and expand the range of pathogens it is able to handle.

In some ways a country can be compared to the human body – it is incredibly complex, multi-layered and suffers from attack in diverse ways. Some shocks are acute and take us off guard, others more gradual and prolonged. Whether acute or chronic risks are considered, the concept of strengthening the immune response can be applied at the country level. Indeed, this idea is at the heart of the UK Government Resilience Framework, if we can understand and prepare for shocks and stresses more intentionally, we can mitigate some of their impact, and ensure recovery is quicker and less costly.

If the concept is straight forward, the execution is incredibly difficult. Improving an entire country’s ability to prepare for, respond to and recover from extremely challenging events is a monumental task. Some preparation is generic and can be treated as risk-agnostic – for example creating efficient lines of communication, which can be utilized no matter the threat. However, there are other threats that require deep expertise, such as cybersecurity and require eternal vigilance.

From a business perspective this framework is very welcome and sounds the call to action for business to take resilience seriously at the board and C-suite level. Whilst risk management professionals have collated and assessed many different types of risk, there is a danger of dealing with each risk individually and not doing the hard thinking of how resilient is our organisation, and what can we do to strengthen our resilience to these threats?

Even harder for business is understanding and improving the resilience of the eco-system they operate within. Recent responses from the business community to Covid-19 and the climate crises show collaboration in areas of mutual benefit is possible. However, resilience is a feature of an organisation’s competitive edge, so it becomes much harder to share the data, ideas, tools, and resources that create organisational resilience. This is where, and why, the government is needed – to create the environment and incentives for businesses to work together for the common good.

It was heartening to see excellent engagement and collaboration across all five working groups at the joint event with PA Consulting in November. These groups were: Partnering for whole of society resilience; Incentivizing resilience; Community Resilience; Skills & Competencies; Harnessing data & digital for resilience. These working groups were broadly aligned with the six action areas within the National Resilience Framework. A report summarizing the main recommendations from the workshop is being released soon, you can find out more by attending a webinar we are hosting on 31st January 2023 – for more information click here.

I believe the business community is ready to engage local communities, the voluntary sector and government to shape a better, more resilient future for all. Much has been achieved over the last few years since the Integrated Review; much remains to be done, but this is a farreaching, ambitious and well thought out approach to the challenges facing us. If we can achieve the goals for business set out in the framework, it would certainly be an encouraging shot in the arm.