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Resilience Dividends and Windfalls: Narratives that tie disaster resilience co-benefits to long-term sustainability



Jennifer Helgeson, Cheyney O'Fallon


The need for increased disaster resilience planning, especially at the community level, is clear, as is the need to address sustainability; these dual objectives have been deemed a US National Priority (e.g., Exec. Order No. 14008, p. 7619, 2021). The three major global climate agreements, the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR, 2015), Paris Climate Agreement (UN, 2016), and the Sustainable Development Goals (UN, 2015), all emphasize the need to integrate disaster resilience and climate risks with continued sustainable development concerns. Thus, the ways we assess synergies and trade-offs across planning for disaster resilience and sustainability in investment projects that impact communities needs to be reconsidered and new ways to express relative categories of co-benefits need to be developed. In recent years, categorizing some co-benefits as contributing to the resilience dividend has helped communication across fields and created bridges from research to practical on-the-ground planning. In parallel, growing focus on the need to recognize the role of narratives in driving decisions about how and where to invest (Shiller, 2017) elucidates the inherent value of archetypes that resonate across stakeholders and disciplines to describe investments that may meet multiple objectives. We introduce the concept of a resilience windfall, as an unexpected or sudden gain or advantage of resilience planning. The potential of resilience windfalls should be conceptualized alongside resilience dividends in community-level resilience planning and evaluation. We recount five narrative vignettes that demonstrate disaster resilience interventions and associated resilience dividends and windfalls. Through this exercise we highlight the utility of categorizing net co-benefits in a manner that evokes understanding from relevant communities. Additionally, this process highlights the need to readily consider the possibilities of resilience dividends and resilience windfalls during the planning, execution, and evaluation phases of disaster resilience projects.


Co-benefits, Community resilience, Disaster resilience, Resilience dividend, Resilience windfall, Sustainability.


Helgeson, J. and O'Fallon, C. (2021), Resilience Dividends and Windfalls: Narratives that tie disaster resilience co-benefits to long-term sustainability, Sustainability, [online],, (Accessed June 17, 2024)


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Created April 20, 2021, Updated November 29, 2022