Collaboration and city resilience

By Jelenko Dragisic, Founder – Global Resilience Collaborative

The past decade has ushered in an era of resilience and collaboration as two pillars upon which the future of a city’s capacity to flourish may increasingly be dependent. The emergence of disruptive forces, be they technological, cultural, political or natural, has created an opportunity for an entrepreneurial approach to city flourishing. The key lies in re-imagining the city on the basis of its capacity to reformulate itself as a collaborative system well placed to manage disruption, and allows it to continue to grow. Resilience must be crafted around a collaborative strategy.


Disaster resilience is a multifaceted challenge, but it should not deter citizens from trying to engage with its complexity. Small, simple steps can make a huge difference. Engaging with disasters via a resilience platform is about innovation in the face of disruption. Resilience building is in part about re-imagining cities as collaborative systems that allow for balanced flourishing, whereby multiple factors are integrated into city life. The notion of a collaborative city as the backbone of a resilient city should be considered in the light of future scenarios where cities need to balance economic, social and environmental factors in equal measure. Information, knowledge and belief in self-action leads people to understand their own capacity as a resource that can be converted into social capital of immense value. It is of critical importance that serious attention be paid to some limitations of the disaster resilience narrative. The strong responses by global communities to resilience programs is a vital indication that the community does not see resilience-building as being the same thing as disaster management (or disaster mitigation as some prefer to call it). The links between disaster management and disaster resilience may be obvious and are, in fact, real and should be maintained. However, resilience-building goes beyond disaster management. Its main concern cannot only be the ability of a community to bounce back. The real test lies in the ability of an individual, community or business to continue to grow. Attempting, as a seemingly logical goal, to go back to ‘normal’ is not what resilience-building should settle for. Resilience-building has to work as an interlocking strategy, ensuring that all areas of work are done in tandem and support the collective effort; an effort that can successfully bring about a level of cooperation and collaboration between individuals, the local community, local, state and federal governments, big business and other institutions such as churches, universities etc., that can perhaps be described as ‘super-cooperation’. Could it be that Enterprise Architecture (EA) is the tool that can offer the systematic language of collaborative governance needed for a complex partnership to work effectively towards a culture of resilience? How could EA offer a language-based strategy for building disaster resilience? The answer lies partly in the premise that resilience is not possible unless there is ‘buy in’ from all ‘parties’, using the bottom up approach. Collaboration is a strategy in itself. While partnerships are nothing new, in the case of disaster resilience-building collaborations are very complex because of the diverse range of partners and the roles each can and should play. EA with its well established structural language, protocols and standards, can add value. One of the key impacts of this approach is formation of new ground for a different way to deal with disasters. This would guide the narrative of disaster management closer to everyday life; something that people can relate to. With a stable language we have the potential to deal with disasters with more nerve and order and with less hype and spontaneity. The result can be a higher likelihood of an increase in the number of parties that are stable and persistently involved in disaster resilience-building. This is one of the most critical impacts the disaster resilience strategy can achieve; a shift to the culture of resilience. Disasters are complex, semi-permanent situations which require major effort. Governments are not equipped, nor in fact best placed to deal with disasters alone. Additionally, governments cannot be expected to provide exclusive leadership in disaster resilience-building. While those factors are detrimental in the current situation with EA as a basis, a new, more sustainable approach could emerge that brings a larger degree of participation in the form of resources from multiple parties. Effective consideration of the role Enterprise Architecture could perform in transitioning the present situation to a new collaborative framework requires a detailed understanding of the current state of play. Consideration should be given to the fact that current understanding of disaster management is not as clear cut as it may have been a decade ago. One major factor is the emergence of a global consensus that resilience has to be enhanced in order to make response to major disasters sustainable. Considering the global cost of disasters (US$380 billion in the year 2011 alone) it is vital that our understanding of disaster management be reviewed. The emergence of the resilience discourse has created a new narrative of collaboration between responding agencies and the general public. A crucial part of the growing trend of collaboration between the two spheres has led to better outcomes (e.g., faster clean up, as was seen with the Mud Army in Brisbane, Australia) but also conflicts, tensions and blurring of the accountabilities and expectations (‘Occupy Sandy’ received far better recognition for its local community’s work than many formal authorities). The process of re-imagining the way forward requires integration of two distinct narratives. Disaster management and resilience are fundamentally two sides of the same coin. One is formal and legislated; the other is informally organised. It is critical that a common language of collaboration be agreed upon with special focus on devising a formula of interoperability that recognises both capacities and limitations. In practical terms the cost of disasters will continue to rise until there is a clear understanding that the degree of disruption is part of an ‘unresolved uncertainty’ which must be addressed within the culture of resilience. Resilience in this context forms the basis for a collaborative system that allows all agencies to innovate and grow, despite disruptions.

New collaboration explores technological solutions to urban resilience



Barcelona, 3 June 2014: UN-Habitat’s City Resilience Profiling Programme and the Autonomous University of Barcelona’s School of Engineering have announced a new collaboration to work together in the design and construction of software to increase cities’ resilience to disasters.

One of the main objectives of this collaboration is transforming the City Resilience Profiling Tool into a more robust and user friendly Web Application with greater potential. The software developed will generate urban resilience indicators based on data provided by the partner cities of the programme. These cities are: Balangoda (Sri Lanka), Barcelona (Spain), Beirut (Lebanon), Dagupan (Philippines), Dar es Salaam (Tanzania), Lokoja (Nigeria), Portmore (Jamaica), Concepción/Talcahuano (Chile), Tehran (Iran) and Wellington (New Zealand). Speaking about the collaboration, Dan Lewis, Chief of Urban Risk Reduction at UN-Habitat said: “This is a great opportunity to start working on information technology innovations in urban resilience”. One of the core objectives of City Resilience Profiling Programme is sharing knowledge and developing contents on urban resilience as well as providing access to tools and resources.

The programme also works with different universities and online Masters courses to develop modules on urban resilience.

Strengthening Global Collaboration to Support Urban Resilience

Nine institutions including the World Bank and the Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery (GFDRR) announced a new global collaboration at the World Urban Forum in Medellin, Colombia, expressing their collective commitment to help cities improve resilience to disaster and climate risks, as well as to economic and other systemic shocks.


“This collaboration across organizations is a significant step towards facilitating the flow of additional financing to cities and ultimately ensuring that shocks to the urban system don’t undermine decades of economic growth and prosperity,” said Sameh Wahba, acting director of the World Bank’s Urban Development and Resilience Department.

Strengthened collaboration among partners – UN Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat), UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR), Inter-American Development Bank, the Rockefeller Foundation, and its 100 Resilient Cities Centennial Challenge, the C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group, and ICLEI Local Governments for Sustainability, in addition to the Bank and GFDRR – aims to improve the flow of knowledge and financial resources necessary to help cities become more resilient by:

• Fostering harmonization of the multiple approaches and tools available to help cities build their resilience;

• Catalyzing access to innovative finance mechanisms, including risk-based instruments that will enhance cities’ ability to reduce exposure and vulnerability to shocks and stresses and increase their adaptive capacity; and

• Supporting capacity development of cities to achieve their goals by facilitating direct sharing of best practice information and cities’ knowledge enhancement.

Collectively, these organizations work in over 2,000 cities globally, with over $2 billion committed annually toward advancing resilient urban development.

This collaboration across organizations is a significant step towards facilitating the flow of additional financing to cities and ultimately ensuring that shocks to the urban system don’t undermine decades of economic growth and prosperity. Close Quotes

The partnership will also mobilize support for the post-2015 urban resilience agenda, including the Sustainable Development Goals, the climate change framework and the Hyogo Framework for Action, and the Habitat III agenda.

In a rapidly urbanizing world, people and assets are increasingly concentrated in cities, becoming highly dependent on infrastructure networks, communication systems, supply chains and utility connections. While this enables cities to drive prosperity, disruptions caused by natural disasters, the impacts of climate change, as well as a broad range of shocks – economic, health epidemics, conflict or social upheaval – can have a catastrophic effect on a city’s ability to deliver basic services, hurting the lives of urban residents, especially the poor and vulnerable.

At the World Urban Forum, the World Bank joined partners in a discussion on the increasing importance of improving urban resilience, and the need to move beyond conventional approaches through enhanced collaboration.

Commenting on the partnership, Deputy Mayor of Barcelona, Antonio Vives, said: “Speaking on behalf of the City of Barcelona, which shares a relationship with all of these organizations; we welcome the establishment of this partnership. The collaboration will provide more coherence, collate more resources, and offer more options to cities around the world to find the most appropriate means to measure, monitor, and increase their resilience.”