Resilience theory has received increased attention from researchers across a range of disciplines who have developed frameworks and articulated categories of indicators; however, there has been less discussion of how to recognize, and therefore support, social resilience at the community level, especially in urban areas. The value of urban environmental stewardship for supporting social-ecological functioning and improving quality of life in cities has been documented, but recognizing it as a strategy for strengthening social resilience to respond to future disturbances has not been fully explored. Here we address the question: How can social resilience indicators be operationalized as stewardship practices in an urban context? Using a deductive coding approach drawing upon existing resilience frameworks we analyze qualitative data from community managed-open spaces in the New York City area that have responded to various chronic presses and acute disturbances including a hurricane and a terrorist attack. In each case we identify and characterize the type of grounded, empirically observable stewardship practices that demonstrate the following indicators of social resilience at the community level: place attachment, social cohesion, social networks, and knowledge exchange and diversification. The process of operationalizing abstract indicators of social resilience has important implications for managers to support social (and ecological) resilience in the specific areas where stewardship takes place, as well as potentially having greater effects that bridge beyond the spatial and temporal boundaries of the site. We conclude by suggesting how researchers and practitioners might learn from our examples so they can recognize resilience in other sites in order to both inform research frameworks and strengthen practice and programming, while keeping larger institutional structures and context in mind.
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