Tag Archives: resilience

Common Ground: the strength of local leadership.

24 Jul

What do Belfast, Bristol, Glasgow, Manchester and London have in common?

They may have very different needs and priorities but they share a common interest in resilience – a determination to be prepared for whatever.  They are all members of the Rockefeller Foundation’s 100 Resilient Cities Network – 100RC.

Today marks the start of the 2017 Urban Resilience Summit – a major gathering of Urban Resilience experts in New York.   Local leaders in the UK – even if not attending in New York – will listen to the proceedings with keen interest.

We didn’t need this year’s terrorist incidents, floods and a tower fire to highlight the need for enhanced response-abilities but local Chief Resilience Officers know that proficient planning pays dividends.

100RC is just 4 years old but in that short time the network has made great strides – fuelled by Judith Rodin’s ‘Resilience Dividend’ and financed in large part by 100 ‘Platform Partners’.

Resilience is a hugely important theme for local leaders and sits alongside a series of programmes that have a huge influence on local economic growth and community wellbeing. With cities growing fast the challenges of local management demand ever-greater empowerment to develop local responses to local priorities.

Some put their faith in technology – enhancing the scope for knowing what is going on across all aspects of urban life – traffic, weather, crime, health, air quality, river levels and a host of environmental factors.

Conventional sector-based economic analysis in this context provides few useful clues. Far more importantly, the themes that cut across sector silos provide a rich agenda for Urban Resilience Officers.

  • Business start-ups and many established ventures need knowledge workers and a host of new skills.
  • Hospitals need citizens who can engage with remote diagnosis. Commuters need better information on public transport.
  • Whole cities need skilled advocates to attract inward investment.

These are just a few of the themes that mark out the differences between ‘smart cities’ and those who could claim to be developing intelligent communities.

Investing in resilience is far more than assurance against unexpected disasters – for some shifts might be better-described as lost opportunities. The key lies with mayors and local leaders who are enabled to develop a holistic view of local needs – not just for economic growth but for wider societal wellbeing.

That is why, in June 2018, the Global Summit for the Intelligent Community Forum will be hosted in London to bring together mayors and civic leaders from around the world. Resilient Place-Making – a local priority – has become central to survival.

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Community Cohesion – Part 2

18 Jun

‘Sombre’ was the word chosen this week by Her Majesty to describe the UK’s mood following the awful fire tragedy in West London.

Once again the media lauded heroic responses and the generosity of the wider public towards those shattered families who have lost everything.

Once again great community strength was exposed – and this time, sadly, evidenced by their repeated well-documented warnings of a disaster waiting to happen.

 

But, this disaster was very different.

After the Westminster Bridge car rampage, the bomb in Manchester, a terrorist arrest in Whitehall and the Borough Market/London Bridge van and knife rampage , this week’s consuming fire was  entirely of our own national making with no reason/excuse to attribute blame to some other malignant force.

This disaster was also very different in its aftermath.

Whereas in Manchester the local leadership response was strong and immediate (and in Central London we marvelled at the 8-minute incident closure) local citizens and the media have rounded on the apparent lack of Governmental and Local leadership actions.  The entire incident – from cause to conclusion – is raising fundamental questions.

Government Ministers, past and present, (and property-owning politicians with Landlord interests who voted against regulations on ‘fitness for habitation’) cannot escape or avoid deeper examination.  Those who happily presided over the debilitating drive to cut costs and reduce Local Authorities to mere agencies for the delivery of top-down austerity will be held to account.  As MP David Lamy said, we must now ask if the post-Thatcher shift away from public duty and towards private profit in the name of ‘efficiency’ requires us now to consider if the nation still believes in a welfare state with a safety net for citizens who fall on hard times.

The underlying design story is still unfolding – not least the marginal capital expenditure savings in chosing the cheapest building materials, the lack of sprinkler systems and alternative escape routes – but, beyond the physical, design failures in local empowerment and national democratic accountability cannot now be overlooked.

There are many factors that contribute to community well-being.   One of those is Resilience – particularly the preparedness for unexpected disasters.  From around the world, most of the examples of  Resilience programmes stem from ‘natural’ disasters – floods, tsunamis, earthquakes and wildfires.  But Resilience needs also to be present in systemic design of administration and governance.  The plight of ‘I Daniel Blake’ and a thousand other cuts to dignity imposed in thrall of efficient markets and a demonisation of local leadership has been exposed for its rampant retreat from the societal values that most of us hold dear.  Deep down, naively perhaps, we do not expect leaders to lead us astray.

Not surprisingly local people in West London are now angry.  They are now moving beyond the instinctive community-led support for their neighbours and re-examining these fundamental questions.

A week is a long time in politics.  The recovery from this dreadful week will take years.  It will demand new leadership at all levels of society.  In that process there will be a great deal of learning – and it is in that reflection, as a nation, we may find some redemption.

‘Sombre’ has more than a hint of thoughtful silent sadness.  The mourning process must be sober.  A national get-well plan is urgently required.

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See also earlier blog:  Community Cohesion – 28th May 

Picture source: BBC

Network Resilience: come hell or high water

13 Jan

Fiber optics

In a world that a generation ago would marvel at the fabled reliability of telephone services it’s a shock to realise that network resilience is now back on the agenda.  And, moreover, back on the agenda not just for major corporates with multiple interdependent production sites and call centres but for small businesses and ordinary households.

You might of course imagine that, if your home or business has just been hit by floods, that you have plenty more things to worry about than the loss of your broadband service.  Indeed, until the power fails, you might reckon you could just get by with a mobile phone.   But that would be to grossly underestimate the significance in all our lives of digital connectivity – very little in business works without it.

Every rain-laden cloud does however have a silver lining – and in this cold wet calamity that silver lining is a great lesson in network resilience.  Computer Weekly has today profiled the story of recent UK flooding – revealing a basic flaw in networks that are hybrids of fibre and copper.  Locating part of your electronics in street cabinets without scope for alternative power and with cooling vents open to the elements is not a good idea if one of those elements is water en masse.

In contrast, those networks designed specifically for the digital era by utilising fibre for the complete journey (FTTP) suffered few if any outages.   Economists may have argued that replacing copper would be a huge expense for little obvious gain.  Maybe they couldn’t figure the value of being future-proofed in terms of capacity and quality – surely, they’d say, how many really need a gigabit right now?  Having that capacity at marginal cost in 5 year’s time is way beyond their commercial horizons.  But now they need also figure the cost of flood damage repairs – and the impacts of service disruptions.

Good design (form) starts with understanding purpose (function) and in a digital economy it becomes even more important to understand that prevention is a but a fraction of the cost of repair.  So, come hell or high water, infrastructure planners and investors must now take note of the cost of cutting corners.

 

Greece: Turmoil Today but Huge Tomorrows

2 Jul

 

Greek FlagAs I write, no one can tell how the current crisis will be resolved. No one can be sure. Fragmentation or consolidation of a nation?

For the nation state, its communities of people and businesses, or from the perspective of the individual, the uncertainty about futures may seem beyond rational analysis – improbabilities lost in a sea of variables, multiple IF statements and continental confusion.

When disasters occur – tsunamis, fires, floods, droughts, hurricanes, meltdowns, and wars – responses vary in scale, timing and attention. The seemingly ‘natural’ events prompt generosity – even when the ‘natural disaster’ is rooted in human negligence. Anything less than a natural crisis – like a financial meltdown or extreme inequalities – evokes a range of reactions from warm sympathy to frosty moral high-ground.

What might unite folk in their turmoil is a desire to get back to some imagined normality but, as we know from countless examples, going back is impossible. Tomorrow is another, different, day.

Like anyone beset by depression (and the lethargy it invokes) moving forward requires massive willpower and imaginations free of former constraints. As the lessons of the current crisis inform the future, any progressive recovery demands investment in future resilience

How then can a country in turmoil rise above the disaster?

Home Alone?

Firstly the good citizens should know they are not alone. They, you, your businesses, your universities, your communities, have friends in almost every quarter of the planet – friends, former neighbours, fellow sufferers and, way beyond the diaspora, millions of minds with fond memories and an appreciation of the county’s contributions to civilization. So the very first question is to ask how that wider extended-family can mobilise its support.

Shaken and Stirred

Secondly, in this cocktail of catastrophe, you have not just been shaken. You should also have been stirred – stirred into action, driven by a survival instinct but also prepared to shed the past and not waste time in a downward spiral of finger-pointing fault finding. No amount of blame gaming can change realities; you are where you are. I wrote earlier, Greece is only Greece because most other places imagine they are not like Greece. There is no place quite like Greece and the rebuilding is not a matter of seeking bland conformance but celebrating your diversity and differentiation.

Design Opportunities

Thirdly, the environment has shifted.   The physical remains but the virtual ascends. What better time than now to redesign local and national economies to leverage a wider data-driven online world. Few places or communities have this opportunity – to hang up on ‘the way we do things’ and think afresh.  Sure it will need investment.  Sure, it will disrupt some staid businesses.  Sure, it will be risky – but far less risky than not seizing the opportunities.  Might Greece become the cradle of the Circular Economy?

You may think this is just ‘wishful thinking’ but the evidence of other great recoveries demonstrates time and again that investing in renewed resilience will deliver dividends.  Consider your talents – trading is in your blood, your diaspora is strong, profound thinking is endemic, artistry abounds, sciences are proven, solar power is plentiful – and the envy of a world that is less driven simply because ideas are born where they are needed most.

But How?

 No one can say with any certainty how things will pan out – what risks will arise. No doubt vultures are already hovering – looking for good pickings – but this is a time to pull together and not be picked apart.

Leadership can emerge – not from some central ‘winner-take-all’ pseudo democracy but within communities across the country. Local economies need local management. Greece has many offshore islands but countless more inland – often shaped by geography – and the national economy that is endlessly debated is only the sum total of all your islands. The tide can turn – the brain drain of recent years can become a brain gain if young people are welcomed back.

Three sources of inspiration come readily to mind:

  • Brain Gain was published in 2014 by the Intelligent Community Forum and is packed with brilliant examples of local leadership and determined communities.
  • The second is yet another book. Published this year by the president of the Rockefeller Foundation, the Resilience Dividend focuses on the need to invest in the belt and braces of society that will deliver ample returns in any future crisis. As author Judith Rodin says, “Resilience is the ability of people, communities and institutions to prepare for, withstand, and bounce back more rapidly from acute shocks and chronic stresses.”
  • The third inspiration arrives by an unlikely route – from a young sailor, Ellen MacArthur, and her solo round-the-world record-breaking voyage. It led directly to an understanding of a massive shift from linear to circular economics – a shift that provides entirely new rules for those who have glimpsed the poverty of political economics, the outdated labels of left and right and the debt-driven legacy of the linear economy.

All three of these sources demand creative talent. Young people, students and returning graduates, will understand these ideas. Across the country local communities (enterprises and people) must realise their empowerment to recruit and encourage fresh thinkers.

What do I know? I am not Greek. Why take any notice of interfering foreigners? The world needs Greece to succeed and to lead. A new economics can be forged in the crucible of this crisis.

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This article also available in Greek via New Diaspora magazine

 

Network Technologies & City Management: innovations in parallel

25 Jan

Following a week where Judith Rodin’s book The Resilience Dividend coincided with reports from ETSI on great progress in NFV standards development, it was perhaps inevitable that we’d find ourselves musing on their similarities.

Megan Wu - silicon cityscape

For Networks: getting our acts together we found that Megan Wu’s graphic captured a blend of cityscape and silicon.  Network technologists and Community builders –  different disciplines tackling much the same processes.