The Reality of Resilient Regions in the COVID Economy & Beyond

View from Lithgow contryside town in NSW Australia

Given the disruption being experienced across Australia, any region or community that might assert that they are resilient must first test their understanding of a new definition of resilience - beyond bouncing back from shocks to resume ‘business as usual’.

The new definition of resilience is to ‘change ahead of change’. Investment in any other strategy exposes regions to a waste of precious resources and the risk of lost opportunity.

Prior to 2020, exponential disruptive change was an already volatile mix of automation, digital saturation, energy chaos, a new future for work, social change, sclerotic government, immense domestic and sovereign debt and the inability of political leaders to actively respond in a timely way to climate change.

If that reality wasn’t enough to wake-up those responsible for community-based strategy, the current pandemic (there will be more) rapidly devastated ‘business as usual’. It also fast-tracked change that was already waiting in the wings (e.g. accelerated digital saturation, remote work, tele-services) and generated, at lightning speed, a whole new economy – the COVID Economy.

Within the world as it was pre-COVID, many communities and organisations were unconsciously in a state of M.A.D. (Managed Adaptive Decline) whereby they were adapting to ever-declining conditions, albeit in well-managed manner, and exponentially failing to generate sustainable value.

The Boiling Frog Sydnrome is a classic example of MAD
The Boiling Frog Sydnrome is a classic example of MAD

For those already in MADness, the coronavirus pandemic was the final straw. They now have a name that describes them well – ‘zombies’ – the walking dead.

Equally, for those communities and organisations able to continually pivot in sync with the CVD-19 disruption and formulate strategies consistent with this fast-emerging new reality, the COVID Economy provides ample opportunities to both survive and potentially thrive.

The disruptive upheaval to the social-economics of communities has been broad and deep and will continue to manifest as the world adapts socially and economically to new ways of being in COVID Normal. This will last for at least well into 2022.

Recognising the new COVID Economy and acting accordingly is the first step in ‘changing ahead of change’ to shape a resilient region.

The ultimate challenge is to develop a COVID Economy strategy that can be actioned over a two-year period and directly links to and lays the groundwork for life and work in the REAL CLIMATE Economy.

Over the next five to ten years – 2025 to 2030 the REAL CLIMATE Economy will rapidly emerge. In some ways, this economy will be a choice for those who are prepared. However, for most, the reality of the REAL CLIMATE Economy will be determined by the inevitable disruptions derived from our past failure to ‘change ahead of change’ in times when the emergent environmental and subsequent social-economic conditions surrounding climate change were known, but largely ignored.

From this point forward, the ‘ultimate challenge’ must be front and centre for regional Australia. Responding and adapting to the REAL CLIMATE Economy will be most effective and efficient when led, developed and implemented at the regional and local community level.

The time from now until 2030 will be complex, uncertain and chaotic. Making impactful decisions about the future in that context require a ‘whole-systems’ approach to local strategy that identifies the conditions behind the interdependence of key systems (social, economic, environmental, transport, energy, built form, etc.) and robustly reveals the opportunities that may be pursued, and risks to be mitigated.

Given the pace of change and the convergence of multiple forms of disruption, governments at state and national levels will not be able to act to create meaningful impact at the local scale in an effective, efficient and timely manner.

Coming to terms with this new reality is the first step for regional leaders to begin the urgent process of asserting a new form of resilience through ‘changing ahead of change’ to leverage disruption to generate sustainable value for people, communities and organisations.


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