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Research Questions

  1. What can the UK, and Defence specifically, learn from approaches to societal resilience in other nations?
  2. What is meant by 'societal resilience' today and why is it important?
  3. How can the different approaches to societal resilience undertaken by different nations be categorised and what policy levers or initiatives do these involve?
  4. What lessons or good practice can be derived from the approaches of other nations, including the UK's allies, partners, and potential adversaries?
  5. How transferrable are these lessons or good practice to the UK context, given policy, social and cultural considerations?
  6. How might insights into measures for enhancing societal resilience be used by the UK to support its international partners and allies?
  7. What are the implications for UK Defence, including its contribution to cross-government efforts to enhance societal resilience through Fusion Doctrine?

Societal resilience, or the ability of societies to rebound from the shock of a crisis such as natural disaster or attack, has emerged as a key priority for governments in recent years. And all signs seem to indicate that these types of events will only increase in frequency, as climate change continues to progress and new and innovative methods of conducting cyber attacks proliferate and change hands. Recognising this trend, the DCDC commissioned this study through the Global Strategic Partnership (GSP) in order to understand lessons UK Defence might draw from other nations' approaches to promoting societal resilience, in order to support and enhance the credibility of the UK's resilience and deterrence posture in a competitive age. The study sought first to define societal resilience, understand why it is important, analyse lessons and good practice from other countries, and identify the lessons that are most relevant to UK Defence.

Key Findings

  • Though a consistent definition is lacking, at its core societal resilience appears to include the ability to absorb and bounce back from a crisis
  • Societal resilience consists of three distinct but overlapping phases: Prepare, Respond and Recover.
  • Resilience has both physical and psychological aspects. While Defence's ability to support physical resilience is clear, the nature of their contribution to psychological resilience is less so.
  • There is a dearth of consistently used, objective metrics to measure societal resilience.
  • Countries have structural differences that have led to their adaptation of different definitions and approaches to societal resilience.


  • Improve civil-military coordination and integration, including more clearly defined roles and responsibilities.
  • Work to build more effective long-term relationships between Defence and national, regional, and local level organisations to support societal resilience planning.
  • Enhance communication at all levels to strengthen trust and understanding between military, other government departments, civilian agencies and the general public.
  • Exercise routinely in different configurations with various partners at local, national and multinational levels.
  • Explore mechanisms of rapid mass and cross-sector mobilisation.

Research conducted by

This research was prepared for the Development, Concepts and Doctrine Centre (DCDC) within the UK Ministry of Defence (MOD) and conducted by RAND Europe.

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