Background: Government, industry and charitable organisations have an increasing focus on programs intended to support community resilience to disasters. But has consensus been reached as to what defines ‘community resilience’ and what its core characteristics are?
Methods: We undertook a systematic literature review of definitions of community resilience related to disasters. We conducted an inductive thematic analysis of the definitions and descriptions that we identified, in order to determine the proposed characteristics of community resilience prior to, during and after a disaster.
Results: We identified 80 relevant papers. There was no evidence of a common, agreed definition of community resilience. In spite of this, evidence was found of nine core elements of community resilience that were common among the definitions. The core elements were: local knowledge, community networks and relationships, communication, health, governance and leadership, resources, economic investment, preparedness, and mental outlook. Within these core elements, we identified 19 sub-elements linked to community resilience.
Conclusion: Our findings show that community resilience remains an amorphous concept that is understood and applied differently by different research groups. Yet in spite of the differences in conception and application, there are well-understood elements that are widely proposed as important for a resilient community. A focus on these individual elements may be more productive than attempting to define and study community resilience as a distinct concept.