Oct 10 2017 | Posted by wun

Research in Focus: The art of resilience


The art of resilience

Helping adolescents and the people who work with them adapt positively to adversity is the aim of this ambitious collaboration between researchers in South Africa, the UK & China.

Resilience is the ability to adapt in a positive way to significant adversity. While we know this ability makes a major contribution to our health and wellbeing, it is unclear how resilience can be nurtured among those who need it most.

WUN’s resilience research group, an interdisciplinary team of experts from four continents, is exploring how different professional and personal understandings of this concept can help or hinder the goal of building resilience. “The ultimate aim is to develop robust policies and programs that effectively develop this capacity,” says Professor Steve Reid (Cape Town), the project’s Principal Investigator (PI). 


The group has two major projects which focus on different populations. The first was launched in 2014 at Cape Town and seeks to discover which factors promote resilience among migrant youth – including family, school and community influences – in order to plan effective interventions.

This collaborative, cross-cutting initiative encompasses a variety of research, including a pilot study on international youth resilience in six countries; a collaboration between China and South Africa on migration policy and immigrant families; and a study on resilience among youth in contexts of petrochemical production and consumption in Canada and South Africa. The latter project, in which the WUN group is a small part of a much wider collaboration, received a grant of C$2 million over 5 years from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR).

The group’s second major project focuses on the resilience of service providers in public health. It consists of five studies focused on a range of occupations: community mediators working with urban youth in the UK; junior health professionals in South Africa, social workers in South Africa, health workers in Mainland China who work for organisations focused on sexual health, and paid and volunteer workers supporting LGBTI youth in Australia.

Insights will be used to enhance training and education by defining which resilience factors can be enhanced by a structured intervention.


  • Participation in a C$2 million grant from CIHR to study on youth resilience in the context of the petrochemical industry
  • Two workshops held at Pathways to Resilience IV Conference, June 2017, Cape Town
  • Launch of a new academic blog to report  on the group’s achievements