Resilience Research Centre

About Us

Guiding the world in resilience research

Led by Dr. Michael Ungar, the Resilience Research Centre has collaborated with local, national and international institutions for more than 15 years to carry out innovative research that explores pathways to resilience across cultures. That work focuses on explaining how children, youth and adults thrive in family, school, workplace and community settings under stress. The Centre also provides resilience measurement tools and training in the form of workshops and conferences. Through its partnerships with researchers, policymakers and clinicians around the globe, the Centre has built a world-renowned resource hub of resilience expertise and tools to support individuals and communities on their path to psychological, social, cultural and physical well-being.

What is Resilience?

Most commonly, the term has come to mean an individual’s ability to overcome adversity and continue his or her normal development. However, the RRC uses a more ecological and culturally sensitive definition. Dr. Michael Ungar, Co-Director of the RRC, has suggested that resilience is better understood as follows:

“In the context of exposure to significant adversity, resilience is both the capacity of individuals to navigate their way to the psychological, social, cultural, and physical resources that sustain their well-being, and their capacity individually and collectively to negotiate for these resources to be provided in culturally meaningful ways.”

This definition shifts our understanding of resilience from an individual concept, popular with western-trained researchers and human services providers, to a more relational understanding of well-being embedded in a social-ecological framework. Understood this way, resilience requires individuals have the capacity to find resources that bolster well-being, while also emphasizing that it’s up to families, communities and governments to provide these resources in ways individuals value. In this sense, resilience is the result of both successful navigation to resources and negotiation for resources to be provided in meaningful ways.

What is Resilience Research?

Research involving children, youth and families looks at the health-enhancing capacities, individual, family and community resources, and developmental pathways of vulnerable children and youth, who against all odds, manage not only to survive unhealthy environments, but thrive. We support both quantitative and qualitative research, with an emphasis on mixed methods designs that favour understanding resilience as a culturally and contextually embedded construct.

Resilience Research

Our Approach

The RRC views resilience from a socio-ecological approach. Our definition reflects a more pluralistic understanding of the phenomena; where we cannot only focus on youth themselves, but have to account for the relationships that surround them; the communities in which they find themselves and the resources made available to them there. As well as the larger life worlds that effect the allocation of resources to communities, and the impact of global political economies on the wellbeing of families and communities. In this way, our understanding of resilience becomes a collective one.

Furthermore, we need to consider the interactions between the various players, and the capacity of youth and especially those that surround them, their broader communities, to negotiate for resources. In this way, our understanding shifts from a static state to one of processes and flux.

Finally, we need to understand the role of culture and context in these collective processes. Consideration of culture and context raises important questions regarding the appropriateness and relevance of resources, responses and interventions, and perhaps most importantly, in how we define health and doing well. In this way, our understanding of resilience is ultimately contextually and culturally bound.

Explore Our Work

Our Research Projects

Publications

Tools & Resources

Publications

Use the buttons below to navigate through our books & special issues, book chapters and peer reviewed journal articles.

Books & Special Issues

Book Chapters

Peer Reviewed Journal Articles

Daniel Blais

Research Assistant

Daniel Blais is a research and evaluation associate with the Resilience Research Centre and Wisdom2Action network. With an interest in cultural sociology and a background in youth care and advocacy, Blais has an interest in program evaluation that applies mixed methods research and evidence-based practices. While completing the written requirement for an MA in Sociology (forthcoming) from York University on the topic of professionalization, Daniel has worked with the RRC-ETI and W2A on projects focusing on youth program evaluation, public policy development, opioid addictions, and youth resilience.

Chantale Comeau

Research Assistant

Chantale Comeau received a Bachelor of Arts with Honours in Criminology from Saint Mary’s University, and has completed a Master of Arts in Criminology & Sociolegal Studies at the University of Toronto set to graduate in November 2018. Chantale will be returning to school to pursue a Masters in Public Administration at Dalhousie University in efforts to obtain the skills necessary for a career in justice policy.

Igor Pekelny

Research Assistant

Igor Pekelny is a research associate at the Resilience Research Centre, Dalhousie University and the Sociology/Criminology Department, Saint Mary’s University, with experience in mixed methods project evaluation, online survey design and implementation, and crime prevention program design and management. He holds a Bachelor of Arts in Criminology (Magna Cum Laude) and Psychology (Magna Cum Laude) and now pursuing his Master of Arts in Criminology, all from Saint Mary’s University.

Marlee Jordan

Research Assistant

Marlee Jordan has an academic background in Criminology; she received a BA (Honours) and MA from Saint Mary’s University with the majority of her work focusing on the forensic mental health population. Her MA thesis was written on experiences in supported housing of people found Not Criminally Responsible in Halifax, N.S. Her other research interests include community-based services for people with mental health issues, addictions, and criminal justice involvement; youth education internationally, and community development. She is currently focused on gaining experience in research and program evaluation, otherwise she can be found hiking with her dogs, reading, or planning her next big trip.

Rena Vanstone

Research Assistant

Rena Vanstone is a research assistant at the Resilience Research Centre. She is currently completing an Bachelor of Arts with Honours in Sociology at Dalhousie, with minors in Psychology and English. Her research interests include youth resilience and wellbeing, as well as arts-based methodology and interventions.

Brandon Mott

Communications Support

Brandon promotes content, shares stories, and facilitates conversation through audio visuals, event planning, and graphic design.  Brandon Mott is a communications specialist with a demonstrated history of working in the policy and research world, most notably at the Resilience Research Centre under the direction of Dr. Michael Ungar. Brandon is known for his knowledge sharing skills; crafting thoughts and ideas into digestible content. His degree in music marks a dedication to refining craft and an emphasized attention on creative detailing. This keen focus helps polish multimedia products, as seen in any of the numerous videos, reports, and websites he has produced.

Chase Kodejs

Communications Specialist

Chase combines his creativity and technical skills to produce digestible content for websites, social media and events, while adhering to Resilience Research Center’s brand strategy. Chase Kodejs is a communications specialist with a demonstrated history of facilitating projects in the private sector with numerous firms. A keen focus and desire to learn allows Chase to continue to be up to date with latest digital trends and deliver products that are refined for the end user.

Jan Höltge

Visiting Scholar

Jan Höltge is a postdoctoral research fellow at the Resilience Research Centre. Jan completed both his Bachelor in Psychology and Master in Environmental, Social and Clinical Psychology at the University of Vienna, Austria. He received his Ph.D. in Clinical and Positive Psychology at the University of Zurich, Switzerland. He has joined the Resilience Research Centre supported by the Early Postdoc.Mobility Scholarship granted by the Swiss National Science Foundation. Jan is passionately interested in how stressful circumstances can have positive effects on human life, especially resilience-enhancement, ranging from daily hassles to traumatic experiences. While taking a lifespan perspective, he has a focus on higher age, the long-term effects of early life stress and the positive effects of collective adversities on social values and behaviors. Additionally, he is interested in how the physical environment contributes to human resilience and wellbeing.

Haorui Wu

Research Fellow

Dr. Haorui Wu is Assistant Professor of Social Work and a research fellow in the Resilience Research Center at Dalhousie University.  His architecture-based interdisciplinary teaching, research, and emerging practice examine post-disaster reconstruction, recovery, and rehabilitation initiatives through the lens of environmental and social justice. He seeks to employ community-engaged planning and architectural strategies to strengthen built environment social missions, build social capital, enhance overall well-being, and advance community resilience in the context of global climate change, disaster, and other world crises. His research consists of (1) empowering local residents’ (especially the vulnerable and marginalized groups) leadership and supporting holistic well-being by advancing non-discriminatory civic engagement in community-based planning and architecture design; and (2) enhancing the humanitarian quality of post-disaster built environment to support community resilience and sustainability.

Paul McGuinness

Operations Manager

Paul McGuinness is the Operations Manager for the Resilience Research Centre (RRC). Paul has an extensive corporate background in Information Technology, Administration, Finance and Business Development. Paul provides leadership and operational management of the RRC and is a key interaction point between the RRC and internal and external grant and management programs. The Research Operations Manager works collaboratively with all university departments, building and maintaining strategic working relationships in the administration of internal schemes, as well as maintaining a network of external stakeholders to support national and international competitive and contract research opportunities.

Kathleen Murphy

Project Manager (RYSE)

Kathleen is the Project Manager for the RYSE Project based at the Resilience Research Centre. Kathleen has a diverse array of research, programmatic, policy, and project management experience, having worked in the area of positive parenting interventions, youth mental health, artificial intelligence and health, and Indigenous health research. She has a Biology degree from St. Francis Xavier University, and received her Master of Public Health at the University of Toronto, specializing in health promotion and public health policy. Her work has been local, national, and international in scope.

Simone Chia-Kangata

Project Manager (CYRRC)

Simone Chia-Kangata joined the CYRRC as Project Manager in May 2017. Simone brings expertise in research and evaluation, project design, implementation and management, business management, knowledge mobilization and marketing. Simone has a Master’s degree in Public Policy and Public Administration from Concordia University and a Bachelor’s degree in International Development Studies from McGill University. She has worked in the public sector and NGO sector in Ottawa, the UK, Kenya, Somaliland and Nova Scotia.

Sara Al-Gashm

Evaluation Manager

Sara Al-Gashm manages evaluation projects at the Resilience Research Centre at a national and international level, which integrate both quantitative and quasi-experimental pre and post-test methodology as well as qualitative methods. She brings interdisciplinary and cross-national training and experience to her position, along with an extensive research background in health and wellbeing across the lifespan. Sara received a Master’s degree in Global Health from McMaster University and a Bachelor’s degree in International Development Studies from Dalhousie University. She was granted the title of Leading First-Class Honours Student and is the recipient of the University Silver Medal from Dalhousie University. Sara holds publications in The Lancet and the Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences. She is fluent in three languages: English, Arabic and Tagalog. Her interests include monitoring and evaluation, results-based management, participatory research methods, and qualitative research.

Michael Ungar

Director

Dr. Michael Ungar is the Canada Research Chair in Child, Family and Community Resilience and Professor of Social Work at Dalhousie University. He is also a practicing family therapist, the founder and Director of the Resilience Research Centre, and consults and trains with the World Bank, UNESCO, and the Red Cross. Dr Ungar’s research has helped to identify the most important factors that influence the resilience of children and adults during periods of transition and stress. He is the author of 16 books that have been translated into five languages, numerous manuals for parents, educators, and employers, as well as more than 180 scientific papers. His blog Nurturing Resilience is on Psychology Today. In 2012 Dr. Ungar was the recipient of the Canadian Association of Social Workers National Distinguished Service Award for his outstanding contribution to clinical work with families and communities.

Philip Jefferies

Research Fellow

Dr. Philip Jefferies is a research fellow at the Resilience Research Centre. Following his PhD and teaching/research posts in the UK, Ireland, and Fiji, Phil joined the Centre to support the RYSE project. He now conducts resilience research with challenged populations around the world to understand how some do well despite adversity, and helped to develop the Centre’s evidence-based resilience building intervention ‘R2’, which is now used by organisations worldwide.