You are here

What Lies Beyond Social Capital? The Role of Social Psychology in Building Community Resilience to Climate Change

Publication date: 

30 Sep 2019




Ntontis E, Drury J, Amlôt R, Rubin GJ, and Williams R

Publication type: 



Climate change is increasing the prevalence and impact of extreme events, which may have severe psychosocial aftereffects for the people and communities who are affected. To mitigate their impact, governments advocate developing community resilience. Most approaches to community resilience employ the concept of social capital, suggesting that communities with more dense preexisting networks of trust and reciprocity are more likely to prepare for, respond to, and recover more effectively from disasters. Notwithstanding its benefits, we argue that social capital cannot account for microprocesses of disaster behavior such as groups that emerge in absence of any preexisting ties and provide social support. We propose a new conceptualization of aspects of community resilience based on the social identity approach in social psychology and grounded upon the principles of collective psychosocial resilience—the way that shared identification allows groups to emerge, coordinate, express solidarity, and provide social support. We argue that our approach overcomes the limitations of social capital, because it can explain the processes of group behavior in disasters, acknowledges people’s propensity to organize collectively, promotes bottom-up approaches to community resilience, recognizes emergent communities, and suggests evidence-based recommendations for policy and practice. Finally, we propose an agenda for future research. Keywords: community resilience, social capital, climate change, social identity, group behavior