The Resilient Cities movement has gathered pace over the past ten months and yesterday, one of its network, New Orleans, announced the appointment of its first Chief Resilience Officer. The United Nations launched a Making Cities Resilient programme last December and the Rockefeller Foundation runs the 100 Resilient Cities project that is promoting urban hardiness around the world.
The movement is designed to help cities protect themselves against natural disasters such as climate change, rising sea levels and droughts. Like the slow food movement, its method focuses on the capabilities of the local fabric and community as well as the major disaster recovery plan: helping urban citizens be more resilient to economic and health shocks means yoga, eduction and lateral thinking are also on the resilience agenda.
A critical part of this resilience comes from the ability to scale up and smart cities and IT will likely provide a lot of the future capability: Thomas Frieden, director of the US Centers for Disease Control, noted at a recent conference. “Resilient systems are everyday systems that can be scaled up. Managing in an emergency is like managing normally, except more so.”
In other words, as cities work to build resilience, they should develop procedures that enable them to carry out their daily mission, whatever that mission may be. I’ve no doubt that the cloud, mobile computing, big data and social media are all going to play a key role in making citizens and their cities more resilient.
A quick Google surfaces dozens of apps to help with weather watching, tornado response systems and first aid advice while social media seems to become the default network during any crisis. An aspect that impresses me about the Resilient Cities drive is the recognition that capability has to be distributed, rather than centralised, and this means sharing innovations in an equitable way.