Toward Resilience: PopTech in Iceland

PopTech Iceland 2012

| resilience defined | conference recap | alphachimp artwork | photos |

In a world fraught with disruptions, what causes some systems, organizations, communities and people to break down and others to bounce back? For those that rebound, what do they tell us about how to build a secure future, and sturdier selves to inhabit it?

The Harpa Concert Hall & Conference Centre in Reykjavik, site of PopTech

To explore these pressing questions, in June 2012 PopTech convened its first international conference outside its homebase in Camden, Maine. Over 200 researchers, practitioners and thought leaders—working in fields such as international development, global business, climate adaptation, social psychology, economics, systems ecology, public health, emerging technology, disaster relief and community activism—gathered in the world-reknowned Harpa concert hall in Reykjavik for a dialogue about the emerging field of "resilience". 

ABOVE: the "Peace Garden" in a courtyard off the main tourist street.

Presenters sought to define resilience through the lens of systems, communities, organizations, governments and individuals, presenting concrete examples and theoretical concepts about how things bounce back after encountering disruptions.

Having just co-authored a book exploring this core concept (Resilience: Why Things Bounce Back Harper 2012), PopTech’s Executive Director Andrew Zolli kicked off the conference by providing a resillience framework associated with pattern, structure, time, and memory rather than a simpler, literal articulation.

ABOVE: a monument to the viking Leifur Eiriksson in front of Hallgrimskirkja, the highest church in Reykjavik.

Andrew and his co-author, Ann Marie Healy, hold an expanded definition of resilience (as embodied by the country of Iceland) seeing this trait as "the ability of people, communities, and systems to maintain their core purpose and integrity amid unforeseen shocks and surprises".

The presenters at the PopTech event were invited because their work and their personal stories exemplify this principle.

Zolli emphases that these practitioners of resilience are important bellweathers and by encouraging adaptation, agility, and cooperation, this new approach can not only help us weather disruptions, but also bring us to a different way of being in and engaging with the world.

The Conference


PoPTech Stage and Control Room


  • Toward Resilience: Andrew Zolli / Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson / Judith Rodin / Nico Muhly & Valgeir Sigurðsson
  • Risk and Change: Alyson Warhurst / Didier Sornette / Steve Lansing
  • The Human Dimension: John Thackara / George A. Bonanno / Loree Sutton / Laurie Leitch / Jason Hackenwerth
  • Regime Shifts: Astier M. Almedom / Mohammed Rezwan / Geoffrey West / Nico Muhly, Valgeir Sigurðsson & Alexi Murdoch


vertical photos geothermal valley


  • Learning and Adapting: Nancy Kete / Tim Harford / Eben Upton / Joy Reidenberg / Alexi Murdoch
  • Emerging Paradigms: Yossi Sheffi / Scott Williams / Simonetta Carbonaro
  • Iceland Responds I: Andri Magnason / Silja Bára Ómarsdóttir / Sigtryggur Baldursson / Eiríkur Hrafnsson
  • Iceland Responds II: Margrét Pála / Kári Stefánsson / amiina


The Artwork

Alphachimp's creative director, Peter Durand was onsite to produce his special brand of PopTech paintings and drawings for each presentation: IMAGES | SLIDESHOW

View Flickr sets of Peter's images and photos




The Painted Hand of Peter

Biomorphic balloon sculptor Jason Hackenwerth with has portrait by Peter.

Perrin's lost twin sister

Simonetta Carbonaro, a deep researcher into the ever-convoluting consumer culture, "poses" with her expressionist portrait by Durand.

Portrait of Iceland's President, who kicked off the conference even though the presidential election was taking place the next day.

Alyson Warhurst

George Bonanno

Didier Sornette

Steve Lansing

Geoffrey West

Day Two: Learning and Adapting

Nancy Kete


Emerging Paradigms

Yossi Sheffi

Scott Williams

Simonetta Carbonaro

Iceland Responds I

Andri Magnason

Silja Bara Omarsdottir



Sigtryggur Baldursson

Eirikur Hrafnsson

Iceland Responds II

Magret Pala

Vior Reynisson

Kari Stefansson

cairn Lava Rock and Shoes

View Peter Durand's PopTech Art from Reykjavik, Iceland: IMAGES | SLIDESHOW