Resilience lessons from distant history

One of the most fascinating adaptive behaviours (socio-cultural) to a cataclysmic disaster (Lisbon 1755) was the emergence of a pessimistic world view. “The catastrophe convulsed the European belief system” – notes from Candid. As Voltaire wrote in a letter; “This is indeed a cruel piece of natural philosophy! We shall find it difficult to explain how the laws of motion can produce such fearful disasters in the best of all possible worlds?”

—Artist rendering made after All Saints Day 1755 Source: http://www.stephaniereneedossantos.com/tag/the-great-lisbon-earthquake-1755/

Artist rendering of Lisbon made after All Saints Day 1755
Source: http://www.stephaniereneedossantos.com/tag/the-great-lisbon-earthquake-1755/

“Candide has been injured by some falling masonry; he was stretched out in the street, covered with rubble. He was calling out to Pangloss: ‘Help! Get me some oil and wine; I am dying.’ ‘But these earthquakes are nothing new, replied Pangloss. ‘The city of Lima in America experienced the same tremors the last year; same causes; same effects; there must certainly be a seam of sulphur running underground from Lima to Lisbon.”(from Candide, p.14).

The quoted chapter seems contemporary. It resonates with every disaster experience in the world today. There is always a sense of disbelief and shock. And yet it clear that there have always been preceding disasters which offered lessons we may or may not have learned.

Looking back, we realise that the Lisbon disaster was significantly smaller than many disasters since. The Central China floods in the 1800s, and more recent Pacific 2004 Boxing Day Tsunami came with a manyfold greater death toll, and yet the sociological shift of the scale post the Lisbon disaster did not repeat itself. The two world wars of the twentieth century have perhaps dented our human capacity to be surprised at large scales of destruction. Perhaps, in today’s global world, nothing is ‘too much’ any longer.

The above article is an excerpt from When We Stopped Eating Bananas, an e-book reflecting on disaster resilience since Tropical Cyclone Larry. It is available now on Amazon. 

Reporting on the Resilient City

 By Dr Peter Rogers

As a social scientist one of the constant pressures we face is translating our, often esoteric, work into a publicly accessible format or, more often, into something relevant to policy makers and practitioners in their host organisations. I have not always been particularly good at this – a long standing joke amongst one group of my colleagues is that the first draft reads like it was written by one of those dead white men you hear so much about in social theory courses – so it is a joy to me when a major publication or influential non-academic organisation takes an interest in one of the ‘soups’ I am ‘stirring’.

The round city of Baghdad in the 10th century, the peak of the Abbasid Caliphate. Illustration: Jean Soutif/Science Photo Library

The round city of Baghdad in the 10th century, the peak of the Abbasid Caliphate. Illustration: Jean Soutif/Science Photo Library

For some time now the Guardian newspaper has devoted an entire section of its online presence to reporting on the resilient city, giving this area of research an easily accessible public face very different to the rapidly spreading glut of academic publications that engage with urban resilience, climate resilience, green infrastructure and a host of other related ‘keywords’ and ‘search terms’. What we see in this emporium of interesting articles are a suite of easily digestible exemplars of contextually embedded projects and commentaries on the tensions emerging around the contested landscape of resilience in a rapidly urbanising world. It is a safe space for rethinking some of our assumptions about what resilient urbanism is and might be, offering a range of debates over what makes a city resilient. Whilst a bold attempt to engage with the wider themes of resilience it can also at times appear a little like a stone skipping across the surface of deep water, we know not what the pattern of these ripples signifies for wider thinking or for research and policy, nor what depths lie below the waters into which these articles may sink. Perhaps the value lies in the range and scope of examples and challenges documented from around the world, written up in a way not beholden to a research agenda or a policy platform. Articles range from flooding waterscapes in the public plazas of Copenhagen to the coming suburban health crisis in Houston appear next to discussions of flood defence and high rise development in Tokyo and tracking the impact of new public transport networks in La Paz, and more.

These exemplars show the breadth of interpretations one can draw around an urban resilience portfolio, where themes may not directly connect but the polysemy of the resilience concept allows for its use across a number of areas. It helps show not just the scope of different challenges, but also to highlight the nuance of place (the meanings attached to locations by those using them) and of spaces (the physical fabric of the location) as well as how the form and focus of building resilience can change over time and in different contexts. We must remember that cities are made for the people who live there not for the extraction of financial gain from the resources that move through them by private profit seeking entities. How people use these resources (power, clean air, water, food and yes, money) and how they see the challenges they must manage in their day to day lives – be it getting to work on time, finding a soulful location in which to contemplate life or engage with strangers in a distrustful world, and of course gain access to vital services where access is uneven (from basic utilities – shelter and so on – to ubiquitous ones – like internet access)– these are central to building inclusive, collaborative, meaningful resilience. Such resilience thinking has the potential to close the gap between the governor and the governed whilst empowering both to act in the interests of the whole population. What a capital and profit oriented city cannot do is help us move as one, and we are strongest by far when we do so. Not just in terms of our well-being but in terms of the democracy we inhabit.

The story of cities series also draws together a range of lessons and ideas from cities not just spread across the world but also spread throughout history, to tell creative stories of the role cities play in our changing world. This wide angle lens ranging from the birth of Baghdad was a landmark for world civilisation to how Canberra’s vision of the ideal city gets mired in ‘mediocrity’ gives a wider context for thinking about specific projects on a broader world scale that transcends the here and now or the specific locale project, but still inform our thinking about resilient cities in exciting ways.

Resilience projects can be designed in many different ways, and can be reported in as many different ways. But is not the goal to avoid forcing the citizenry to comply with external, expert-driven standards and to help inspire people to think about where they live in new more resilient ways? Expert driven thinking can often be too narrow, outside the interest or frame of experience of the general public. Bringing resilience down to tangible outcomes in stories of change that the citizen can read (jargon-free), that they can see, feel and use, that inspire people to rethink how they live in an urban world are important aspects of how we communicate the benefits to a wider audience. Through common interests and tangible interest stories, we can document the gains and dividends of resilience in ways that inspire – this can only be a good thing. Stories can help push the trajectory of building resilience away from expert-driven think tanks subject to subversion by the policy agendas of organisations, or academic research tied to project funding schemes and towards something accessible to a broader public readership. This can open a door to deeper engagement, help build a greater trust and wider understanding, and perhaps inform that sense that all are working towards the same goals. Perhaps this is something we might have lost from many modern constituencies in many democratic countries. Connecting the dots between different types of activities that fall under the banner of resilience is not entirely necessary, but such repositories of information as that provided by the Guardian raises the profile of the agenda rather well, and to a much broader audience than think tank white papers or peer-reviewed journal articles. A greater appreciation of the lessons to be learned from each example also allows experts and lay persons alike to reflect on a common understanding of resilience, to seek out ideas relevant to their own locale from the stories told about others, creating an opportunity for all to amend one’s own thinking. The freedom of the journalist to document ideas and lessons in different ways to practitioners and academics can be something informing our own work, showing examples embedded in exciting new and different contexts with potential to rework these ideas for our own locale, and if not then talking to those local to us to create new ways of working that empower our own resilience from these examples.

YOU CAN FIND THE GUARDIANS RESILIENT CITIES PAGES HERE: http://www.theguardian.com/cities/series/resilient-cities

Peter Rogers is a Senior Lecturer in the Sociology of Law at Macquarie University. He is the former Co-Director of Climate Futures research centre at Macquarie University and author of two books on urban resilience.

Reimagining Resilience: Women, Resilience and Disasters (audio recording)

On 11 March 2016, the Global Resilience Collaborative hosted another event as part of its Reimagining Resilience initiative.  The event was supported by a number of collaborating partners, including the Queensland State Government which assisted in funding for the event.

GRC's Moderator Leonie Sanderson in action

GRC’s Moderator Leonie Sanderson in action

The session started with an acknowledgment that “women are disproportionately affected by disasters and disruption”.  That statement, shared by the session’s moderator Leonie Sanderson, provided a backdrop for what followed over the next two hours.  We heard many insightful things about resilience from a group of women who shared their professional experiences, interlaced with personal anecdotes.  As always the power of personal narrative combined with specific professional input made for very engaging dialogue.  Such was the latest session of Reimagining Resilience.

We are pleased to share the audio recording here, courtesy of PopUp Radio Australia.  We encourage people to listen to the session in full and share it with colleagues.

 

 

 

Why Reimagining Resilience

Panel of speakers shared insights into resilience

Panel of speakers shared insights into resilience

The Global Resilience Collaborative (GRC) firmly believes in the power of conversation; particularly the kind of conversation where every participant is a valued contributor. Lived experience, knowledge, ideas, information, relationships all matter. The initiative is designed to create conditions for trans-disciplinary dialogue, learning and innovation that will lead to new ways of thinking about resilience. Our hope is that new ideas will lead to new solutions and projects and programs that will make resilience a genuine value.

Disruptions are not new. But in our hyper-connected world, disruptions have acquired a new relevance; they’re now a key feature of our lives. Some disruptions immediately trigger a recovery process. Others trigger more adaptive processes.

Natural disasters generate a special kind of disruption. The disruption associated with a natural disaster lasts longer. Recovery can take more than 10 years. There may be several disasters that ‘roll over’, one on top of the other, as seen recently in Nepal when a second damaging earthquake was experienced only days after the first.

Natural disasters increasingly tend to have a knock-on effect that reaches far beyond the area of immediate impact. The damage to nuclear power plants from the Fukushima tsunami in March 2013 resulted in an impact far beyond the tsunami itself. This type of disruption renders traditional notions of disaster management almost irrelevant. In a world where there are on average 2-3 disasters per day, this is particularly important.

Disruption is the new normal. Cultivating our resilience will give towns, cities, countries, businesses, indeed all of us, the edge to survive and more importantly prosper in a world dominated by the unknown and the improbable. Now is the time to extend our discourse on disasters beyond Prevention, Preparedness, Response and Recovery, to Resilience. Resilience has increasingly proven to be the best possible answer to the relentless level of disruption brought on by natural disasters.

Resilience in Context: the urban and the workplace

By Dr Peter Rogers

In my previous post to the resilience reporter I flagged up some common themes. I also gestured towards the use of feedback from resilience-related projects in which I and others from the GRC are engaged. This is an ongoing effort to try and link research with practice in a public commentary on building resilience. It is not enough to be working with a definition. We’ve established that the definition of resilience necessarily changes depending on the point of view from which the concept is approached. This means there are as many types of resilience as there are areas of interest, the definition is one of alignment to the needs of the user. And, I have to be honest here, this also means that there is as much ‘bad’ as there is ‘good’ out there as a result of what we have called the ‘polysemic’ nature of resilience. The term MAY fall out of favour, it may be misused (and in some cases already HAS been misused). Much of the usefulness of the idea in future will depend on which version of resilience, on which trajectory of meaning-making gains ascendency during the roll out of resilience practice in different contexts. To try and flesh this problem out a bit more I will flag up a couple of these issues here.

We know that change can be difficult, even painful, in any entrenched system. Too often the political capital to enact sweeping reform is too costly and those tasked with governing dare not take the risk. It may seem easier to protect the status quo and to conduct our governance much as we always have, following the well-trodden path and allowing the inertia born of our momentum to drive us onwards. The thing is, just because something has always been done that way does not mean that the established way of thinking, doing or acting is the best one. Those engaged in the interminable negotiation over project and funding, the grinding cycle of grant or project applications and the conformance culture of evaluation and reporting using the same tools again and again will tell you that as much as these factors ensure a minimum standard of quality at low risk they also stymie innovation and limit the possibilities of what can be achieved by being more adaptive, more flexible. One may understand that such benchmarked practices can be useful in certain circumstance, but as universal rules they create as many problems as they solve. Such tools are rigid and undermine progress towards meaningful resilience. From a more scholarly perspective we might say that the lack of general resilience in the most neoliberal alignments of democracy at fault here – but that is perhaps a discussion for elsewhere. Here and now, in terms of the potential to change our complex systems of governing through resilience thinking and practice, there is so much more we can discuss.

Around the world efforts are ongoing to try and incorporate resilience into white papers and strategic frameworks as a means of giving practitioners and politicians alike a point of departure in doing resilience for real; to my mind these too often smack of rhetoric – especially when the fine-grain is pulled back and we look into what the those key players are actually DOING differently, which is too often not much at all. Resilience is more than a rebranding of environmental management, sustainable development, climate mitigation or adaption or any other policy space that has become overly contested or ‘stuck in the mud’. Despite the critics, I do not believe that resilience is being used as an excuse increase the distance between citizens and their representatives, or to pass the buck for dealing with disasters onto citizens. Rights come with responsibilities and that has always been the way in democracy. One can even argue that a greater distance between the professional politician and the citizen is actually useful for the empowerment of local communities – another of the more uncomfortable unresolved tensions in resilience thinking. All the while the main players soldier on, doing good work, not-so-good work and on the odd occasion down-right bad work. One can argue that the most interesting and progressive attempts to build resilience into the way we organise our world are coming from the non-governmental and third sector more generally, and identifying which players are proactively changing the rules of the game is an important feature of documenting the positive possibilities of real world resilience.

unsdrI will give you a couple of examples, very briefly, of two programmes which have helped seed some interesting changes through the resilience concept. The UNISDR ‘Making Cities Resilient’ campaign is perhaps the biggest programme in the world today and alongside the Rockefeller Foundations ‘100 resilient cities’ campaign these two programs have been driving real change through the milieu of urbanism. Perhaps in both cases it is the appreciation that local context and local people need to be a key driver of developing a resilience strategy for the city that sets them apart from more nationally focussed government discussions, typical of national strategy documents. One might say that this sounds much the same as any white paper on community resilience you might encounter, but there are significant differences in the way such work is being undertaken. Bringing local expertise and knowledge into the fold is not here being championed through entrenched methodologies of lip-service consultations, producing documents for councillors or department heads which never again see the light of day. Here the work of governance is often focussed on the benefit of a more direct form of democratic engagement.

UNISDR work spans the globe, but in Manchester, England has a long history of dealing with disaster events from the IRA bombings to floods and foot and mouth throughout the rollout of Civil Contingencies legislation the North West region has skin in the game of being prepared. A dedicated ‘civil contingencies and resilience unit’ coordinate work with a host of agencies to build resilience across ecological, technological or industrial risks. With these areas of what might be considered traditional disasters well-grounded they are also now looking at the social, economic and other human system based dangers that might be strengthened, including aspects of urban greening, sustainable design and community engagement in these practice to build trust and deepen the connections that underlie a strong and healthy community. This has not gone unacknowledged and Manchester has long since been heralded as a role model for total resilience.

The importance of local context cannot be overstressed when looking at resilience. For example the Rockefeller funded resilience team in Porto Allegre, Brazil have a long history in participatory budgeting, using the 100 resilient cities money to enhance and expand on this they have created a strategy that emphasises the lessons learned over time. This creates an evidence base of best practice locally to help coordination of future local projects. It is a local strategy therefore it does not prescribe the way of working in a professional standard, rather creates a case study of the possible which other cities can reflect on. In Bristol in the UK there is strong history of energy and waste efficiency which is now being expanded into a ‘future proofing’ goal to deal with a range of challenges, including social, ecological, economic challenges as well as human well-being and quality of life. Each Rockefeller resilient city engages the funded position of Chief Resilience Officer (CRO) with a nuanced focus relevant to the local context, though the long-term impact of such work remains uncertain it has significantly raised the profile of resilience thinking and many CRO’s have become arbiters of change within their host organisations. Through Rockefeller this has also created a network of CRO’s with annual meetings to help share expertise and build the exchanges of information across these local contexts that facilitate a broader translation of lessons learned into the local contexts of each agent.

Most importantly in these examples, taken from two continents, there is a drive amongst those engaged in the work to seek out new ways of governing. Central to this is the need to deepen collaboration with the local population throughout the process, moving from services delivered by experts to services in which the local community have a direct stake and active role. By encouraging a more permeable interface between the vertical hierarchy of expert services and the flattened network of community members information flows much better and trust is built between all participants. In times of stress or shock these relationships are invaluable for increased resilience, but they also facilitate a longer term improvement in the quality of life of all those involved. Beyond the development of a resilience strategy which sits underneath Rockefeller investment there is a drive to leave trails of change in the everyday lives of local inhabitants which change the way in which the locale is governed. This gives those of us advocating change much to think about in exploring the right kind of change and where to best place the lens with which resilient thinking is drawn into clearer focus, thus informing the potential of more resilient practice for the future.

Peter Rogers is a Senior Lecturer in the Sociology of Law at Macquarie University. He is the former Co-Director of Climate Futures research centre at Macquarie University and author of two books on urban resilience.

Women, disasters, resilience and the future

By Jelenko Dragisic

The fifth anniversary of the 2011 Queensland floods has just passed and in couple of weeks we’ll have a chance for yet another reflection; the 10th anniversary of Cyclone Larry that took place in North Queensland in March 2006. To add some global perspective, we don’t need to travel far. 22 February marked the fifth anniversary of the Christchurch earthquakes which inflicted an economic loss to New Zealand of approximately $NZ40 billion. The cost of Queensland floods was estimated at over $10bn just in property and infrastructure damage. Additionally economic losses were over $30bn. The floods, combined with the effects of Cyclone Yasi, cost more than $4.bn Queensland’s GDP for 2010-11.

Some have pointed out that with that money we could have funded, not one but two, Snowy Mountain nation-building schemes. In general, natural disasters currently cost Australia $6billion per annum – a number that is expected to triple in 30 years’ time.

"Good for her. Great for us. When women achieve, Queensland succeeds." - The theme of the Queensland Women's Week 2016

“Good for her. Great for us.
When women achieve, Queensland succeeds.” – The theme of the Queensland Women’s Week 2016

There are many angles that can be examined when it comes to the effects of natural disasters. As we approach Queensland Women’s Week (7-11 March) and International Women’s Day (8 March), I would like to use this opportunity to focus on women and disasters. To begin with, it may be worth reflecting on a recent report by the UN Population Fund called Shelter from the Story. Among many vital points, the report states that disasters impact women and men differently. As a result, humanitarian responses are not effective as they should be.

Women do not fare well in disasters. Take a look at this statistic; during the Boxing Day tsunami in 2004, up to four women died for every man in hard-hit Aceh, Indonesia. One contributing factor was the fact that women in Indonesia do not usually learn how to swim or climb trees. Another interesting and telling story about the effects of natural disasters on women is told through The Women’s Resilience Index (WRI). The WRI is a joint project by ActionAid, The Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) and the Australian Department for Foreign Affairs and Trade. It assesses a country’s capacity for risk reduction in disaster and recovery, and the extent to which women are considered in the national rebuilding efforts. The index points towards a major disparity between, say, Pakistan and Japan, which further elicits critical factors affecting women in some regions of the world.

But things can get even sadder. Consider this tweet by a businessman, “Let our daughters and sisters learn a lesson or two from such calamities. It is high time they stick to modest clothing and repent. Shamelessness will ruin us.” The tweet was in relation to a major flooding event in Kashmir a year ago. It reflected on a sentiment in some parts of the community which sees a negative link between natural disasters and women who dress in western style. As one local journalist reported “Women in particular have been made scapegoats, with some men commenting in the marketplaces as well as social networking sites on the “western dressing sense” of women which, according to them, has angered God.”

I could go on but the list is too long. However, when we consider all these findings we certainly cannot ignore the fact that there is room for better action, better policy and a major shift in the way we account for a resilient society. Perhaps this was best articulated by Philippines Senator Loren Legarda at the World Assembly for Women 2014 in Tokyo, convened by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, when she asserted that “Women have the ability to lead their communities towards resilience. In fact, there are many best practices led by women in many nations, including the Philippines.” Furthermore, some like the Pan-American Health Organisation (which acts as a regional WHO organisation) argue that women are better in mobilising communities to respond to disasters.

Resilience to major disruptions, including pervasive natural disasters, has already shaped up to be a key priority globally. Be it resilience in the workplace, city, community at large or a whole country, it is without any doubt clear that gender issues have to be better integrated into policy settings, together with investment in pragmatic programs. After all, an inclusive society is the mark of a resilient society. And that is where socio-economic prosperity starts.

 

Note:

On 11 March 2016, the Global Resilience Collaborative, in collaboration with the Queensland Government, is hosting a ‘free to the public’ event at Parliament House that focuses on women, disasters and resilience. To attend please register here: https://www.eventbrite.com.au/e/reimagining-resilience-women-in-disasters-tickets-21691718514

 

SO you are interested in resilience?

By Dr Peter Rogers

That’s good. So am I. In fact I’m so interested in it that I’ve spent a large part of the last decade travelling the world and exploring resilience in a range of different contexts. I feel safe in saying that I have learned a lot about resilience, what it can be, what it might be, what it could one day turn into, but I still have no definitive answer as to what resilience IS. How can that be? I would say because there are many different types of resilience. This may be the most important angle I have to share… the type of resilience you encounter in each place that you go to will always depend on the background and experiences of the people to whom you are talking and on the contextual specifics of where they live and work. How you encounter resilience determines its utility.

“That’s nice” you might say “but how does it help me right now?”

Stop for a minute then and think about how you have encountered the term resilience. Think about the place that you work, about where you live. Think about the type of goals that define the parameters of success or failure in the projects with which you are engaged. Those who work in sustainable development or environmental offices will have a different understanding of resilience to those who work in infrastructure development, land-use management, planning departments or equity and social justice. If one works aiding families in times of stress or helping vulnerable demographics amongst our citizenry get access to work, to health care or to other basic services, be it Bangalore or Newcastle upon Tyne you will probably see resilience differently to a member of the Rural Fire Service in Brisbane. Those working with young skateboarders in the city centre of a medium sized post-industrial town and those working to bring relief to war torn areas (foreign and domestic) are all working in different forms of resilience building. This makes it very hard to nail down one way of thinking or of using the concept.

Think bigger, think beyond the organisations that employ us. Think global resilience. When taking this one on it is sometimes useful to give the mind a workout. There is some logical gymnastics required to join the dots here. When thinking globally one must also think locally – I know I abhor the cliché but it fits so well, deal with it. To make resilience work the importance of the local context cannot be overstated. In a global melee to ‘own the idea’ or create what us academics call a ‘grand narrative’ it is too easy to lose sight of the local context within which a person is working. What being resilient means to the inhabitants of a Bangkok slum will be different to a Manhattan high rise, what resilience means to an emergency worker in Melbourne will be different to a local councillor in England. The challenges in each of these examples are rooted in the idiosyncrasy of time, of space, and of place. What does that mean? Well, it seems straightforward to think that London is different to Manilla, that Washington DC is different to Puerto Allegre, or Singapore distinct from Mumbai. Yet in a world of international standards, benchmarks and professional guidelines that inform how we work there is a constant tension, a push and pull, between understanding what works right here right now and negotiating the boundaries of how we are expected to work (and report back to our managers). Another element of tension comes from a perceived need to ‘scale up’ successful projects into a universal tool kit. The idea that one example can be turned into a one-shot fix for making everyone, everywhere, resilient in the same way is not helpful to anyone. What we are finding as we research resilience around the world is that it is not always easy to understand how different communities move through and use the different spaces of a given city at different times – be it time of day or time of year. Not all agencies are able to design comprehensive interventions or projects that pull the local culture, traditions, customs and knowledge of the general population together with the culture and way of working typical of governing bodies – ranging from ethnic tensions to organisational corruption to entrenched resistance to change or the use of rigid tools in the wrong context. Resilience thinking is used to design flexible practices that can be realigned and redesigned to fit the needs of any given context. Just think of the changing dynamics of pressures in Tokyo during cherry blossom season, or Sao Paulo during the World Cup. The lack of contextual understanding between the different organisations and interests before, during and after Hurricane Katrina or in the planning, design and management of the Fukushima nuclear power plant. Such examples created cascading failures in systems felt around the world. Such examples show us how important local knowledge is to understanding the dangers one might, one day, face. The dynamics are thus spread over a wide range of possible stressors and shocks, so resilience activities need to be focussed on the right contextual details to be effective.

In such a world is no longer helpful to look for a universal definition of what resilience is, nor to seek that singular silver bullet that will allow us to fix the problem of a perceived lack of resilience amongst certain elements of the population. What many of us are now seeing develop is the beginning of the real challenge; how do we think differently about what is done under the banner of resilience. What is growing is a general acknowledgement, amongst experts and lay folk alike, that if we are to do this thing properly then different thinking is required. Thinking resiliently informs new opportunities for doing it differently in practice, for harnessing the lessons of the past, existing tools or expertise and using them in new ways. For identifying vulnerabilities and mobilising flexible workers in collaborative partnerships to facilitate creative solutions to wicked problems. Encouraging a different approach to anything ‘across the board’ is a big challenge, so in our own work we are aiming to encourage this in a number of ways. One of those is by building case studies of best practice and sharing an evidence-base with interested parties. The hope is that by stimulating ideas and discussion with high quality research findings we can show where the dividends from being resilient actually are; but more than that we are seeking to develop a collective of collaborative thinkers and practitioners who can steer the trajectory of resilience towards its more positive forms. Yes, despite my advocacy on this issue I also acknowledge that if those using the idea use it poorly then not all aspects of work done in the name of ‘building resilience’ are potentially good.

In future posts I hope to bring you more of our efforts to show the difference and ensure the better versions prevail by reporting on previous, current and future projects, undertaken both with the Global Resilience Collaborative and with other partners across our expanding network. In the next post I will look at urban resilience a little more, touching on the UN ‘Making Cities Resilient’ campaign and the Rockefeller Foundation ‘100 Resilient Cities’ programme.

Peter Rogers is a Senior Lecturer in the Sociology of Law at Macquarie University. He is the former Co-Director of Climate Futures research centre at Macquarie University and author of two books on urban resilience.

Reimaging Resilience: Women in Disasters: 11 March 2016, Parliament House, Brisbane

The Global Resilience Collaborative (GRC) has been successful in winning a small grant from the Queensland government to support its initiative, the “Reimagining Resilience” Speaker Series. This grant enabled us to organise a public event with a special focus on disaster resilience and the role of women.

Clem Campbell OAM President, United Nations Association Qld spoke at the launch of Reimagining Resilience program.

Clem Campbell OAM, President – United Nations Association Qld spoke at the launch of Reimagining Resilience program.

The event is a collaboration with United Nations Association of Australia (Queensland Division), PopUp Radio Australia and Volunteering Sunshine Coast and will take place on 11 March during Queensland Women’s Week 2016. This is an opportunity for Queenslanders to come together and celebrate the achievements of Queensland women and girls. The theme this year is Good for her. Great for us. More about the Queensland Women’s Week can be found at the official website

http://www.queenslandwomensweek.com.au.

This event is free to public.  Registration is essential at this link (Eventbrite)

https://www.eventbrite.com.au/e/reimagining-resilience-women-in-disasters-tickets-21691718514

This GRC event is collaboration with the Queensland Government and the United Nations Association of Australia (Queensland Division).

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Resilient Australia should be the new Snowy Mountains scheme

snowyIt is my sincere hope that the future of our nation could be secured by making the most of some specific features of our society. Australia is an amazing land. In a mere two centuries we have come to be regarded, and in many ways envied, world-wide. Hard work and good fortune have combined to make us what we are today.

However, in this rapidly advancing world, we are now facing a host of new challenges. It would not be the first time, and through the trials we sometimes had to face head on, we grew more confident and mature. Our maturity is marked by a larger sense of our own place in the world and the vulnerabilities we share with fellow nations beyond our regional boundaries. Australia is no longer a faraway country; it is well and truly positioned as part of the global mosaic.

Over the past decade or so I have been involved in managing response and recovery from some of the largest natural disasters in our history. Living in Brisbane, I have been involved in events like Cyclone Larry in 2006 and the Queensland floods in 2010/11. Over this period I have focused most of my energy on developing disaster resilience programs. Some have been nationally recognised and a number have attracted interest internationally.

As the issue of resilience is increasingly raised as one of the defining factors that all societies must engage with, I believe that Australia should look at developing a ‘nation building’ resilience program. I am well aware of the existing National Strategy for Disaster Resilience that was adopted quickly after Cyclone Yasi and revised earlier in 2015. However, I am also aware of the shortcomings of that strategy as it does not embrace what I consider to be a much bigger picture.

In one way or another, the achievements of past decades can be traced to the cultural, symbolic and hard economic impacts of the Snowy Mountains and similar schemes. Hard infrastructure was the fitting answer for the economy of those times. Undoubtedly, infrastructure projects will continue to play their part, but today when we face an economy of a different kind: ideas, knowledge and creativity – we need a response of a similar scale.

Resilient Australia should be the new Snowy Mountains scheme. The iconic engineering project that brought people from over 30 countries produced vast benefits for Australia. The scheme in itself made Australia more resilient to droughts and unlocked the social and economic potential of the nation. We should look to it for inspiration for the future. I want to underscore this point: we should build resilience in response to not only natural disasters but also to a host of other disruptions. Resilience at all levels of society, from children and families to communities, businesses, cities and regions, encompasses psychological, cultural, ecological, business, infrastructure and cyber resilience. Synchronising them into one format needs to be the focus.

Research already shows that we are going to face massive disruptions, including the nature of our work, social changes, technological changes, geo-political changes, and many more. As has been noted over several years, resilience is much more than the ability to recover from a disruptive event. Real resilience is about the ability to continue to grow and prosper despite ongoing setbacks. Resilience is the new competition.

Perhaps this argument is best explored by Dr Judith Rodin, President of the Rockefeller Foundation, in her recent work The Resilience Dividend – a book I would strongly recommend to every single Australian.

I think our government/s should do more to make a stronger link between resilience and economic investment. This is the moment for Australia to shape its prosperity by focusing on the resilience of its people, community, business, infrastructure, education and health, cities and regions. It is only a matter of time before we face global competition which will be defined primarily by our degree of resilience. There is an opportunity here to stimulate our future in a way that will be one of our most defining features in the first half of this century.

Obsession with resilience definition won’t go away

define resilience

Often times when someone mentions resilience, a common question comes up: how do you define resilience? Well it’s fair to say that no watertight definition exists. Having said that, most people have a fairly good sense of what we mean by resilience. Here are 12 definitions to clarify.

 

  • “The ability of communities to continue to function when exposed to hazards and to adapt to changes rather than returning to the original pre-disaster state. – Productivity Commission (Australia), 2015″

 

  • “Resilience is the ability to prepare for and adapt to changing conditions and withstand and recover rapidly from disruptions…[it] includes the ability to withstand and recover from deliberate attacks, accidents, or naturally oc- curring threats or incidents.” Having accurate information and analysis about risk is essential to achieving resilience. Resilient infrastructure assets, systems, and networks must also be robust, agile, and adaptable. Mitigation, response, and recovery activities contribute to strengthening critical infrastructure resilience. – National Infrastructure Plan, Homeland Security, USA.”

 

  • “Resilience is realized when a disruption is unfolding or cannot be avoided. It is the system’s potential for adaptive action in the future when information varies, conditions change, or new kinds of events (even external shocks) occur.” – Jan Erik Karlsen and Rosalind M.O. Pritchard, “Resilience – The Ability to Change” in Resilient Universities: Confronting Changes in a Challenging World.”

 

  • “Resilience is the ability to fully engage in life, recover from challenges, and, as a result, increase the capacity to thrive in the future. As crucial a skill as resilience is for individuals, its impact absolutely translates to the collective: when your work culture actively promotes thriving through times of adversity, the outcome will be better communication, increased productivity and a more engaged workforce.” – Dr. Hal Levine, Chief Medical Officer, ValueOptions.”

 

  • “Resilience is the increasingly critical ability to “anticipate change, heal when breached, and have the ability to reorganize … to maintain [a] core purpose, even under radically changed circumstances.” – Andrew Zolli”

 

  • “Resilience is a weird thing,” Schneier told Fortune in a phone interview earlier this week. “You can’t buy resilience like you can buy a firewall. It’s an emergent property.” – Privacy and security guru and “Data and Goliath” author Bruce Schneier.”

 

  • “Resilience is the ability of a system to cope with change and to respond to a disturbance by resisting damage and recovering quickly. By Philipp Gassner | Special to the Business Mirror”

 

  • “Resilience is the capacity to withstand stress and catastrophe.”

 

  • “Resilience is the long-term capacity of a system to deal with change and continue to develop. For an ecosystem such as a forest, this can involve dealing with storms, fires and pollution, while for a society it involves an ability to deal with political uncertainty or natural disasters in a way that is sustainable in the long-term., Stockholm Resilience Centre”

 

  • “Resilience is realized when a disruption is unfolding or cannot be avoided. It is the system’s potential for adaptive action in the future when information varies, conditions change, or new kinds of events (even external shocks) occur.” Jan Erik Karlsen and Rosalind M.O. Pritchard, “Resilience – The Ability to Change” in Resilient Universities: Confronting Changes in a Challenging World.”

 

  • “ULI (Urban Land Institute) defines resilience as “the ability to prepare and plan for, absorb, recover from, and more successfully adapt to adverse events.” This definition was approved by ULI and organizations representing 750,000 industry professionals in the land use, planning, and development fields, including the American Institute of Architects, the American Planning Association, and the U.S. Green Building Council. This definition is part of a statement that also affirms that “the promotion of resilience will improve the economic competitiveness of the United States.”

 

  • “Resilience is about getting ahead of change so that you can survive and thrive.” (Fiorella Iannuzzelli, Director and enterprise resilience lead, PricewaterhouseCoopers)

 

Reimagining Resilience Speaker Series: ‘leading the conversation on resilience’

Sydney_8_December

EVENT DETAILS

Date:                         8 December 2015 (Tuesday)

Time:                         11:00pm – 1:00pm

Venue:                      University of Technology Sydney, Sydney

Booking:                   Essential (tickets are limited) via Eventbrite

Refreshments:          Light Lunch provided

 

Why Reimagining Resilience

Disruptions are not new. But in our hyper-connected world, disruptions have acquired a new relevance; they’re now a key feature of our lives. Some disruptions immediately trigger a recovery process. Others trigger more adaptive processes.

Natural disasters generate a special kind of disruption. The disruption associated with a natural disaster lasts longer. Recovery can take more than 10 years. There may be several disasters that ‘roll over’, one on top of the other, as seen recently in Nepal when a second damaging earthquake was experienced only days after the first.

Oftentimes disruptions can come from multiple sources/events and can form an entangled web of complex circumstances which may include a combination of natural disaster as well as human induced such as cyber-attack on a business or other institutions.

Natural disasters increasingly tend to have a knock-on effect that reaches far beyond the area of immediate impact. The damage to nuclear power plants from the Fukushima tsunami in March 2013 resulted in an impact far beyond the tsunami itself. This type of disruption renders traditional notions of disaster management almost irrelevant. In a world where there are on average 2-3 disasters per day, this is particularly important.

Disruption is the new normal. Cultivating our resilience will give towns, cities, countries, businesses, indeed all of us, the edge to survive and more importantly prosper in a world dominated by the unknown and the improbable. Now is the time to extend our discourse on disasters beyond Prevention, Preparedness, Response and Recovery, to Resilience. Resilience has increasingly proven to be the best possible answer to the relentless level of disruption brought on by natural disasters.

Why the Speaker Series

The Global Resilience Collaborative has created a platform for trans-disciplinary dialogue, learning and innovation that will lead to new ways of thinking about resilience.  The GRC firmly believes in the power of conversation; particularly the kind of conversation where every participant is a valued contributor. Lived experience, knowledge, ideas, information, relationships all matter. The initiative is designed to create conditions for trans-disciplinary dialogue, learning and innovation that will lead to new ways of thinking about resilience. Our hope is that new ideas will lead to new solutions and projects and programs that will make resilience a genuine value.

With that in mind the Global Resilience Collaborative in collaboration with University of Technology Sydney (UTS) invites you to listen to diverse practitioners and get involved in this transformative conversation. The collaborative style of the series has been carefully modelled to ensure knowledge and ideas can add value to any professional wanting to make their work better informed by the resilience driver.

Confirmed Speakers

Michael Jerks

Michael_JerksAssistant Secretary, Critical Infrastructure and Protective Security Policy

National Security Resilience Policy Division, Attorney-General’s Department

As an Assistant Secretary in the Attorney-General’s Department, Michael Jerks is responsible for leading the Australian Government’s approach to two significant policy areas: critical infrastructure resilience and protective security policy. Prior to his appointment as Assistant Secretary in September 2008, Michael was Director of Major Projects in Critical Infrastructure Protection. In this role Michael was responsible for establishing and managing the Critical Infrastructure Program for Modelling and Analysis (CIPMA) and the Computer Network Vulnerability Assessment (CNVA) program. Before joining the Attorney-General’s Department in 2003, Michael spent nine years as a Senior Manager in the NSW Department of State and Regional Development, and four years as Director of the Standing Committee on State Development, NSW Parliament. Michael holds a Bachelor of Arts from Macquarie University and a Master of Public Policy from the University of Sydney.

 

Dr Asif Gill

Asif Gill is a Certified Enterprise Architect and Senior Lecturer at the School of Software at the University of Technology, Sydney. He specialises in adaptive and resilient enterprise architecture design and implementation. He is result-oriented and experienced author, coach, consultant, educator, researcher, speaker, trainer and thought leader. He is author of a number of academic and industry IT articles including a recent book on “Adaptive Cloud Enterprise Architecture”. He has extensive experience in both agile, non-agile, cloud and non-cloud complex private and public government environments, displaying a deep appreciation of their different perspectives in a number of commercial projects.

 

Alex Webling

Alex Webling, BSc, BA (Hons), Gdip Comms, GdipEd, ZOP, AARPI.

Alex is deputy chair of Security Professionals Australasia, a Director of Security Professionals Australasia, a member of the Standards Australia Board on Security (MB-025) and Associate of the Australian Risk Policy Institute. He is a registered security professional in the area of Enterprise Security

Alex has been Director Resilience Outcomes Pty Ltd since 2012. Resilience Outcomes is a consultancy specialising in organisational strategy and resilience, identity and information security.

Alex was a senior executive in the Australian Federal Government in national security. He was the foundation Director of the Australian Government computer emergency response team; Developed the Chemicals of Security Concern program; and was Head of Protective Security Policy responsible for launching the revised Protective Security Policy Framework (PSPF) and the single information classification system for the Australian Government.

 

Dr Zoran Milosevic

ZoranDr Zoran Milosevic is a specialist IT architect, with skills in enterprise and solution architecture, information architecture, process and policy modelling and real-time analytics. Zoran has worked in a wide variety of complex environments spanning consulting, services, research, standardization and software development. He is renowned for his steady persistence and ability to innovate, motivate, collaborate and deliver.

Dr Milosevic has been involved in a number of large and complex interoperability projects including NEHTA Interoperability Framework and the US NCI Semantic Interoperability project. He has an active role in HL7 standards, serving as a member of HL7 Architecture Board and having led the HL7 SOA Ontology project, involving colleagues from Kaiser Permanente, Infoway Canada and DHS Victoria.

 

Cai Kjaer

CaiCai Kjaer holds a Master of Law and is a partner/co-founder of Optimice, Australia’s leading Social Network Analysis consulting company. He is an expert in mapping, visualising and improving business relationships using Social Network Analysis as the core diagnostic tool. He has worked with government, private and not-for-profit sectors on projects in Australia and overseas using visualisation techniques to uncover hidden relationship patterns and then develop practical plans to improve these. He has extensive experience in senior consulting, change leadership and implementation roles successfully delivering large scale global projects and business transformations.

Mr Kjaer has been the driving force and lead designer behind:

  • ONA Surveys, a global leading online survey tool for collecting and processing relationship data for visualisation purposes
  • Community Mapper, a community-building social networks tool
  • Company Mapper, an interactive map of the Australian Stock Exchange (ASX) board room connections
  • Web Mapper, an interactive and dynamic platform for displaying relationship patterns and a core component of Optimice’s service delivery capability.

 

David Kricker, Reserve Bank of Australia

 

Facilitator

Jelenko Dragisic

Jelenko is a collaboration strategist and disaster resilience planner. As founder of ROADMENDER, Australia’s first of its kind initiative solely dedicated to the promotion and development of collaboration as a discipline in its own right, Jelenko advocates a view that future enterprises will be critically dependent on their collaborative strategy. The formation of Global Resilience Collaborative (GRC) was borne out of years of observation and analysis that clearly identifies that resilience in a systematic manner is not possible without a collaborative approach involving a broad range of disciplines.

Jelenko has extensive experience across the private, public and not for profit sectors, having has worked in a variety of management roles in organisations such as Australian Red Cross, Griffith University and Volunteering Qld. While CEO of Volunteering Qld, Jelenko designed and implemented Step Up, one of the largest disaster resilience programs in Australia. This award winning program is based on large-scale collaboration, bringing together various levels of government, community organisations, universities and the corporate sector. A significant part of the program was dedicated to Australia’s first resilience building initiative for the business sector.

Jelenko is also founder/editor of ResilienceReporter.com, a seven-day a week resilience news, analysis and resource portal focusing on making resilience a recognisable topic for the general population.