The Resilience Alliance was founded in 1999 as a registered 501(c)(3) organization, however many of its original members had already been developing and testing resilience theory since the 1970's. During this incubation period a group of researchers along with Buzz Holling as the key player, were actively seeking multidisciplinary approaches and by the 80's were organizing meetings to develop a common language and theory. The community of practice evolved into a strong network of resilience scholars and with the formal creation of an organization in 1999, the RA began on a path of rapid growth in the number of people involved, outputs, and resilience science related activities. In addition to establishing the journal Ecology and Society, the RA hosts an annual science meeting and since 2008, co-hosts an international conference every 3 years.

Throughout the RA's development many of its members have played key roles as leaders and idea generators. Some of these members are now Fellows of the Resilience Alliance. Additionally, the RA has from the beginning encouraged the involvement of early career scholars and the RAYS (Resilience Alliance Young Scholars) continue to inject new ideas and energy into the network.

The RA continues to seek ways to evolve as an organization while remaining at the forefront of resilience research. Key functions include: I) being an incubator for innovative science, II) fostering the development of young scholars, III) building collaboration among members and centers of research and practice.

RA members are active researchers and leaders in the fields of social-ecological systems, resilience, adaptation, and transformation. Membership in the Resilience Alliance is based primarily on research collaborations and is by invitation from an RA member.

An open network for resilience researchers called the Resilience Connections Network, was established in 2015 in order to extend the network beyond the RA and to encourage broader participation in this research community.

Buzz Holling's 2006 memoir A Journey of Discovery (pdf)