Special Issue "Regional Resilience – Opportunities for Sustainable Development in Times of Crisis"

A special issue of Sustainability (ISSN 2071-1050).

Deadline for manuscript submissions: 31 December 2021.

Special Issue Editors

Prof. Dr. Dr. h.c. Bernhard Müller
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
Technische Universität Dresden, Faculty of Environmental Sciences, 01062 Dresden, Germany
Interests: Sustainable urban and regional development; spatial planning and development,; governance and urban regions resilience and sustainability; socially integrative cities; challenges of demographic change; revitalisation of cities and regions; sustainable structural transformation, e.g., in Central, Eastern, and South Eastern Europe; European cohesion; international development cooperation
Dr. Paulina Schiappacasse
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
Faculty of Environmental Sciences, Technische Universität Dresden, 01062 Dresden, Germany
Interests: Urban and regional resilience; spatial planning for sustainable urban and regional devel-opment; international spatial planning systems and approaches; socially integrative cities and planning for sustainable urban expansion; demography and migration in urban and regional con-texts

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

The global coronavirus crisis demonstrates to the world once again how crucial regional resilience is for facilitating sustainable development. Cities and regions are locked down in order to not overburden the health system. Regional and local frontiers have been re-established where they had been abolished long before. “Social distancing”, or more correctly “spatial distancing”, is being practised in order to protect vulnerable groups by shifting a great part of real-life communication to social media and virtual means. Economic life has selectively come to a halt. Disadvantaged vulnerable groups are suffering from unemployment and lack of income. Nevertheless, the environment and nature are granted a short pause from destruction, giving nature the chance to come back to cities and towns.

All this is happening regionally in very different ways. Demographic, social, economic, infrastructural, and environmental conditions vary from country to country, from region to region, and from city to city. Approaches to get out of the crisis are diverse. The aspirations of people and the strategies of decision-makers are also sharply in contrast. Nevertheless, regional heterogeneity is often criticised as a “rag rug” instead of recognising the inherent opportunities resting in diversity. Due to a rush “back to normal”, new prospects for a “better and more sustainable normal” may easily be overlooked.

Resilience literature has dealt with many of these phenomena (Schiappacasse and Müller, 2018), and it offers a variety of explanations for the ongoing processes and reactions (Fröhlich and Hassink, 2018; Billington et al., 2017; Bristow and Healy, 2015; Cretney, 2014; David, 2018; Kakderi and Tasopoulou, 2017). For example, due to limited capacities in the health sector, in some countries, authorities tried to delay the peaks of the crisis, which in terms of the resilience discussion means to turn a “sudden shock” into a “slow(er) burn” (Foster, 2007; OECD, 2020; Ueberschär, 2020; Hynes et al., 2020). Nevertheless, the regional dimension of resilience has often been underexplored, despite the fact that it may play a crucial role in explaining the emergence of crises locally, the potential to manage them, and the possibilities in finding innovative ways out. Moreover, the adaptive capacity and the ability to “bounce back” differ regionally (Juhola and Kruse, 2015; Sensier et al., 2015; Cowell, 2013).

The global dimension of the actual crisis and its local and regional repercussions make it valuable to revisit the resilience discussion. On this background, the Special Issue on “Regional resilience—opportunities for sustainable development in times of crisis” deals with the actual situation but also encourages reflection on former crises, their regional embeddedness, and their impact in order to develop and follow more sustainable development paths. Besides COVID-19 and other public health topics, articles may deal with regional mitigation and adaptation regarding climate change and its impact on cities and regions, the role of urban–rural partnerships, and even reflect on the financial crisis of more than ten years ago.

Contributions may come from a wide spectrum of disciplines. Statistical analyses and investigations about regional implications of crises as well as studies related to mitigation and adaptation policies and strategies and related governance issues are welcome. With more detail, three guiding topics shall be central to the discussion of this Special Issue of Sustainability:

  1. Exploring regional disparities (within countries) of the emergence of crises and their implications: Why does this happen? Which data can be used? Which empirical evidence do we have regarding the reasons for regional disparities?
  2. Understanding crisis management: What functions, powers, and responsibilities do regional authorities have to react? How do they use them? How do they communicate with the regional public? How do they link and cooperate with authorities on higher levels? Are there good practice examples? Why can they be regarded as good practice?
  3. Demonstrating opportunities for ways out of crisis: Do regional stakeholders intend to “bounce back” to a former stage? Or do they use new windows of opportunities for fundamental changes that may be favourable to sustainable development? Why or why not? Which consequences can be seen (or expected) in terms of social cohesion and cooperation, the economy, and the environment?

We look forward to receiving your submissions for this Special Issue.

Bernhard Müller
Paulina Schiappacasse


BILLINGTON, M., KARLSEN, J., MATHISEN, L. & PETTERSEN, I. 2017. Unfolding the relationship between resilient firms and the region. European Planning Studies, 25.

BRISTOW, G. & HEALY, A. 2015. Crisis response, choice and resilience: Insights from complexity thinking. Cambridge Journal of Regions, Economy and Society, 3, 153–167.

COWELL, M. 2013. Bounce back or move on: Regional resilience and economic development planning. Cities, 212–222.

CRETNEY, R. 2014. Resilience for whom? Emerging critical geographies of socio-ecological resilience. Geography Compass, 8, 627–640.

DAVID, L. 2018. Agency and resilience in the time of regional economic crisis. European Planning Studies, 26, 1041–1059.

FOSTER, K. 2007. A Case Study Approach to Understanding Regional Resilience. UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA.

FRÖHLICH, K. & HASSINK, R. 2018. Regional resilience: a stretched concept? European Planning Studies.

HYNES, W., LINKOV, I. & TRUMP, B. 2020. A Systemic Approach to Dealing with Covid-19 and Future Shocks [Online]. OECD. Available: http://www.oecd.org/naec/projects/resilience/NAEC_Resilience_and_Covid19.pdf [Accessed April 24, 2020].

JUHOLA, S. & KRUSE, S. 2015. A framework for analysing regional adaptive capacity assessments: challenges for methodology and policy making. Mitig.Adapt.Strateg Glob Change, 20, 99–120.

KAKDERI, C. & TASOPOULOU, A. 2017. Regional economic resilience: The role of national and regional policies. European Planning Studies, 25, 1435–1453.

OECD 2020. Beyond Containment: Health systems responses to COVID-19 in the OECD. In: OECD (ed.) Key Policy Responses. OECD.

SCHIAPPACASSE, P. & MÜLLER, B. 2018. One fits all?: Resilience as a Multipurpose Concept in Regional and Environmental Development. Raumforschung und Raumordnung | Spatial Research and Planning.

SENSIER, M., BRISTOW, G. & HEALEY, A. 2015. Measuring Regional Economic Resilience across Europe: Operationalizing a complex concept. Spatial Economic Analysis, 11, 128–151.

UEBERSCHÄR, E. 2020. 10 ways of thinking about crisis resilience [Online]. Available: https://www.boell.de/en/2020/04/08/10-denkrichtungen-der-krisenresilienz [Accessed].

Manuscript Submission Information

Manuscripts should be submitted online at www.mdpi.com by registering and logging in to this website. Once you are registered, click here to go to the submission form. Manuscripts can be submitted until the deadline. All papers will be peer-reviewed. Accepted papers will be published continuously in the journal (as soon as accepted) and will be listed together on the special issue website. Research articles, review articles as well as short communications are invited. For planned papers, a title and short abstract (about 100 words) can be sent to the Editorial Office for announcement on this website.

Submitted manuscripts should not have been published previously, nor be under consideration for publication elsewhere (except conference proceedings papers). All manuscripts are thoroughly refereed through a single-blind peer-review process. A guide for authors and other relevant information for submission of manuscripts is available on the Instructions for Authors page. Sustainability is an international peer-reviewed open access semimonthly journal published by MDPI.

Please visit the Instructions for Authors page before submitting a manuscript. The Article Processing Charge (APC) for publication in this open access journal is 1900 CHF (Swiss Francs). Submitted papers should be well formatted and use good English. Authors may use MDPI's English editing service prior to publication or during author revisions.


  • regional resilience
  • crisis
  • COVID-19
  • climate change
  • urban–rural partnerships
  • regional cohesion

Published Papers (2 papers)

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Open AccessArticle
Adaptive Capacity as Local Sustainable Development: Contextualizing and Comparing Risks and Resilience in Two Chilean Regions
Sustainability 2021, 13(9), 4660; https://doi.org/10.3390/su13094660 - 22 Apr 2021
Viewed by 259
Regional resilience refers to an immanent condition for facing multiple risks on a permanent basis, both episodic and incremental. These risks are not only linked to natural disasters and climate change, but also to poverty and inequality of access to services such as [...] Read more.
Regional resilience refers to an immanent condition for facing multiple risks on a permanent basis, both episodic and incremental. These risks are not only linked to natural disasters and climate change, but also to poverty and inequality of access to services such as health, and personal safety. This article considers the underlying conditions that shape regional resilience in Chile, based on inter-regional and intra-regional comparisons in the Metropolitan Region of Santiago and the Region of Araucanía. Instead of viewing resilience in terms of an ability to counter a single risk, the article highlights the fact that risks are multiple and overlapping over time and generated at different scales. Municipal level data on poverty, health, and public finances in the two regions reveal the contrasting underlying inequalities that point to regional mosaics of resilience rather than homogeneity. Different threats are superposed on these preexisting conditions of resilience. The article refers to three in particular: the 2010 Chilean earthquake (episodic); climate change (episodic and incremental); and the Covid-19 pandemic (episodic). The findings point to high levels of urban versus rural differentiation, and also high differentiation within the Santiago Metropolitan Area based on socio-economic conditions. This regional mosaic of underlying structural conditions suggests that regional resilience can be enhanced by engaging with structural socio-spatial inequalities rather than a focus on managing risks via siloed, threat-by-threat responses. Full article
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Open AccessArticle
Strategies in Times of Pandemic Crisis—Retailers and Regional Resilience in Würzburg, Germany
Sustainability 2021, 13(5), 2643; https://doi.org/10.3390/su13052643 - 02 Mar 2021
Viewed by 524
Research on the COVID-19 crisis and its implications on regional resilience is still in its infancy. To understand resilience on its aggregate level it is important to identify (non)resilient actions of individual actors who comprise regions. As the retail sector among others represents [...] Read more.
Research on the COVID-19 crisis and its implications on regional resilience is still in its infancy. To understand resilience on its aggregate level it is important to identify (non)resilient actions of individual actors who comprise regions. As the retail sector among others represents an important factor in an urban regions recovery, we focus on the resilience of (textile) retailers within the city of Würzburg in Germany to the COVID-19 pandemic. To address the identified research gap, this paper applies the concept of resilience. Firstly, conducting expert interviews, the individual (textile) retailers’ level and their strategies in coping with the crisis is considered. Secondly, conducting a contextual analysis of the German city of Würzburg, we wish to contribute to the discussion of how the resilience of a region is influenced inter alia by actors. Our study finds three main strategies on the individual level, with retailers: (1) intending to “bounce back” to a pre-crisis state, (2) reorganising existing practices, as well as (3) closing stores and winding up business. As at the time of research, no conclusions regarding long-term impacts and resilience are possible, the results are limited. Nevertheless, detailed analysis of retailers’ strategies contributes to a better understanding of regional resilience. Full article
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