A central claim of community-based adaptation (CBA) is that it increases resilience. Yet the concept of resilience is treated inconsistently in CBA, obscuring discussion of the limitations and benefits of resilience thinking and undermining evaluation of resilience outcomes in target communities. This paper examines different participatory assessment activities carried out as part of CBA case studies in Timor-Leste and Solomon Islands.

The activities and their outputs were assessed against 10 characteristics of resilience previously identified in a systematic review. The findings offer support to the claim that CBA can build resilience in target communities, revealing the inherent strengths of CBA in relation to resilience. However, it is necessary for CBA assessments to simultaneously incorporate activities that consider cultural, political, economic and ecological factors influencing resilience within and between communities. This may demand multiple staff with different skills.

The findings also highlight the importance of politics and power in shaping adaptive capacity. In particular, addressing the highly context-specific nature of social, cultural and political relations demands an approach that is situated in and responsive to local realities. Overall, the case studies suggest that using the 10 characteristics as an analytical framework offers support to practitioners looking to develop, implement or evaluate CBA assessment activities. Yet within this, it is critical that a focus on increasing resilience through CBA does not preclude transformation in social relations.

Realizing the potential to support resilience and transformation requires CBA practitioners to acknowledge the multifaceted nature of resilience, while also paying close attention to multiple potential barriers to equitable adaptation.

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