Resilience Justice Project

What is Resilience Justice?

Three men stand in front of a scenic overlook
Diverse hikers enjoy the famous Baldwin Hills Scenic Overlook, part of a state park created in a park-poor African American neighborhood in Los Angeles.

Resilience is about the capacity of a community to adapt to disturbances and changes without changing its basic systems and processes by developing
strength and resistance to unwanted disturbances, bouncing back or recovering from disasters, adapting to changing conditions and using instabilities and changes to transform themselves in positive ways.

Resilience justice is the idea that not all communities have equal tools and resources to be adaptive. Resilience justice is equity in the capacities, vulnerabilities and conditions of marginalized communities, such as low-income communities, communities of color, Native American communities and other communities with inequitable resources, power, and/or vulnerabilities.

Resilience Justice Fellowships

RJ group shot
Professor Arnold and Resilience Justice Fellows Audrey Ernstberger and Andrew Schuhmann on a CLUER planning retreat at the Parklands of Floyd’s Fork.
Resilience Justice Fellowships are two-year funded fellowships available to law and graduate students interested in the interdisciplinary research of justice and environmental responsibility.

Resilience Justice Fellows work with Professor Tony Arnold to apply the Resilience Justice Policy Assessment Tool to communities, government agencies and nonprofit organizations across the country. They assess public policies, programs and plans for their impacts on marginalized communities and recommend policy reforms.

In addition to the assessments, Resilience Justice Fellows are also engaged in research and scholarly writing.

The Resilience Justice Fellows for 2017-2018 are Audrey Ernstberger (summer and fall 2017) and Andrew Schuhmann (2017-2018).

Resilience Justice Fellowships are awarded on an as-available basis, depending on vacancies and funding. Interested law and graduate students at the University of Louisville should contact Professor Tony Arnold at tony.arnold@louisville.edu to inquire about availability and to apply.

Resilience Justice Policy Assessment Tool

Professor Tony Arnold developed the Resilience Justice Policy Assessment Tool in 2016 as part of a grant-funded collaboration with The City Project, a well-known civil rights, environmental justice and equity-planning nonprofit in Los Angeles.

The assessment focuses on the impacts of the policy or program on marginalized communities' adaptive capacities, resilience and vulnerabilities.

The assessment is not a quantitative model, given the many different incommensurate variables of community resilience. It does, however, build on more than 100 published studies of resilience to engage in qualitative assessment that is contextualized to the particular locality, policy or program that is being assessed, and the marginalized communities that are affected.

How does the assessment tool work?

The Resilience Justice Assessment Team gathers, analyzes and synthesizes a wide range of qualitative and quantitative data about the policy’s impacts on marginalized communities, organized around six core elements of resilience justice. It asks if a policy or program:

  1. Builds community capacity?
  2. Engages community residents in diverse and meaningful ways?
  3. Improves community conditions (environment, social capital, governance, economy)?
  4. Reduces disparities in community conditions and capacities?
  5. Includes community-engaged feedback loops?
  6. Avoids, minimizes and mitigates adverse impacts on community resilience?

The assessment identifies the extents to which the policy, program or plan advances or inhibits the resilience of marginalized communities and recommends reforms to address negative impacts.

In particular, the assessment identifies potential reforms of policies, programs and/or processes that could help build more adaptive capacity and resilience in marginalized communities.

Assessment projects

The tool has been used to assess the restoration and revitalization of the Los Angeles River and the urban water plan of Fresno, California.

Professor Arnold and the Resilience Justice Fellows will use the tool to assess selected policies, programs or plans at no charge to government agencies, nonprofit organizations and community-based groups on a first-come, first-served basis depending on capacity, prior commitments and the suitability of the proposed project. Please contact Professor Arnold at to inquire about an assessment.

Professor Tony Arnold developed the Resilience Justice Policy Assessment Tool in 2016 as part of a grant-funded collaboration with The City Project, a well-known civil rights, environmental justice and equity-planning nonprofit in Los Angeles.

The assessment focuses on the impacts of the policy or program on marginalized communities' adaptive capacities, resilience and vulnerabilities.

The assessment is not a quantitative model, given the many different incommensurate variables of community resilience. It does, however, build on more than 100 published studies of resilience to engage in qualitative assessment that is contextualized to the particular locality, policy or program that is being assessed, and the marginalized communities that are affected.

How does the assessment tool work?

The Resilience Justice Assessment Team gathers, analyzes and synthesizes a wide range of qualitative and quantitative data about the policy’s impacts on marginalized communities, organized around six core elements of resilience justice. It asks if a policy or program:

  1. Builds community capacity?
  2. Engages community residents in diverse and meaningful ways?
  3. Improves community conditions (environment, social capital, governance, economy)?
  4. Reduces disparities in community conditions and capacities?
  5. Includes community-engaged feedback loops?
  6. Avoids, minimizes and mitigates adverse impacts on community resilience?

The assessment identifies the extents to which the policy, program or plan advances or inhibits the resilience of marginalized communities and recommends reforms to address negative impacts.

In particular, the assessment identifies potential reforms of policies, programs and/or processes that could help build more adaptive capacity and resilience in marginalized communities.

Assessment projects

The tool has been used to assess the restoration and revitalization of the Los Angeles River and the urban water plan of Fresno, California.

Professor Arnold and the Resilience Justice Fellows will use the tool to assess selected policies, programs or plans at no charge to government agencies, nonprofit organizations and community-based groups on a first-come, first-served basis depending on capacity, prior commitments and the suitability of the proposed project. Please contact Professor Arnold at to inquire about an assessment.