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The community resilience challenge - a case study from Sweden

The research literature and the international frameworks of disaster risk reduction (DRR) (Hyogo and contemporary Sendai) stress the need for involving all scales and spheres of society. At the local level the necessity to involve the public in reducing vulnerabilities and building resilience is highlighted. The assumption is that community resilience can be created by applying a bottom-up approach to DRR. This entails proactive efforts to involve the public as a means to reinforce local communities’ capacity to prepare for, act on as well as recover from extreme events.

This paper presents an explorative study of the Swedish city of Örebro focusing on local actor’s efforts to involve the public in preventive DRR related to climate change risks with the explicit aim to create resilience. The perspective is that of leaders of this work in local government and civil society organizations and the method used is documents studies and interviews aiming at uncovering the attitudes towards the utility and challenges of involving the public and particularly in relation to groups that are considered especially vulnerable. The result is then discussed within the theoretical framework of community resilience developed and the utility of this framework in the Swedish context is assessed.

We find positive attitudes towards involving the public, primarily as a resource in emergency crisis management. Network-building and collaboration, with the aim to gain information about how people perceive their reality and to build knowledge about the needs of the public regarding information and support is considered important. We identify som constraints – related to communication, collaboration, knowledge, etc. – but also some opportunities – related to networks, voluntarism, connecting public and civil society actors, etc. – for creating community resilience. The results will help the development of theories of community resilience and reinforce practice.

  • Open access
  • 14 Reads
Real-World Labs for co-producing Urban Resilience

Urban resilience is understood as “the ability of an urban system […] to maintain or rapidly return to desired functions in the face of a disturbance, to adapt to change, and to quickly transform systems that limit current or future adaptive capacity (Meerow et al 2016, 39).” Urban systems are understood as „social–ecological–technical/built system (SETS)“ (McPhearson et al 2016, 207). Active citizens can increase the resilience of various SETS and contribute to a sustainable transformation of cities (Frantzeskaki et al, 2016). To strengthen and to implement such contributions into public planning practice, new instruments for cooperation are needed that support citizens and municipalities to co-produce urban resilience. Therefore, concepts for the governance of socio-ecological systems like adaptive co-management (Folke et al, 2005) have to be adjusted to urban system dynamics including urban developments, spatial conflicts and underlying power structures (Crowe et al, 2016). To develop such instruments the paper suggests applying real-world-labs, as they provide a framework to bridge theory and practice in urban resilience research. In real-world-labs researchers intervene with the aim of gaining socially robust knowledge about transformation processes. They build upon an transdisciplinary perspective, aim to initiate mutual learning processes, and foster sustainable transformations on both a local and global scale (Schneidewind et al, 2016). Within my research I use the Gängeviertel in Hamburg as a real-world-lab. The quarter was occupied in 2009 and is now developed by the City of Hamburg in cooperation with citizen organisations to create apartments, studios, workshops and a sociocultural centre. In doing so, the cooperation partners co-produce an urban space that strengthens the resilience of the city. (Ziehl, 2018). The paper illustrates the applied research method and presents recommendations for action to co-produce urban resilience as a contribution to future research about urban co-management instruments for more resilient cities.

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  • 3 Reads
Incremental Urbanism: Designing a Resilient Urban Strategy for the Ger Districts of Ulaanbaatar

For thousands of years, Mongolians have been living in gers – portable structures made of timber, felt and canvas. Throughout the history of Mongolia’s capital city, Ulaanbaatar, the ger has remained the predominant dwelling for new migrants, a resilient typology indifferent to technological progress or to the radical political and economic shifts occurring after the 1990 democratic revolution.

Since 2002, land reforms have accelerated the migration of nomads to the city. The ease and speed of replication of the ger in numbers reaching hundreds of thousands has created sprawling districts lacking basic urban infrastructure. During extreme winter temperatures that reach -30°C, residents use coal to heat their homes leading to toxic levels of air pollution. Over 60% of the city’s population live in these districts. The urban risks associated with this form of settlement are becoming increasingly threatening, particularly with respect to sanitation, freshwater supply and air quality. Additionally, as the ger is designed for singularity rather than collective living, the notion of the civic, or forms of community are absent.

The paper demonstrates that the engineered resilience of the ger as a dwelling typology has led to unsustainable urban development. By analysing the process of transformation of ger districts, the objective is to propose a framework for incremental change that advocates a position for social-ecological resilience. The essay will investigate the disadvantages of current approaches to ger district redevelopment and will report on the impact of the construction of a series of architectural prototypes including an affordable housing unit, a community innovation hub and a waste collection facility that have been developed as part of the incremental plan. The strategy is a unique example of how urban resilience can be addressed through interventions that tackle urgent issues yet can allow for future adaptation and transformation.

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  • 8 Reads
In Pursuit of Urban Resilience

Resilience has become ubiquitous as a policy goal, despite a lack of consensus and often outright confusion as to its exact definition. Cambodia is no exception. Given the country’s high level of exposure to economic losses due to climate change, the national government is actively pursuing policies which purport to cultivate resilience, with the support and often leadership of development partners. But what does this pursuit of resilience mean for communities on the frontline of climate change and urbanization? This case study, based on more than 8 months of field work in Phnom Penh, examines how a community of urban farmers is watching their livelihood slowly unravel thanks to the duel processes of human-induced environmental change and urban expansion. Contrary to policy narratives that optimistically point to community-based adaptation as a way to preserve traditional practices, urban farmers do not see a future in agriculture. Instead, their vision of the future centres around the family unit, rather than the wider community and is dominated by the need to invest in the education of children and leave behind their precarious livelihood. This highlights the disconnect between the discourse of resilience and the real aspirations of urban dwellers. Does this mean resilience is not the right objective for Cambodia’s climate change policy? Or is it feasible to pursue a more nuanced version of resilience that represents the diversity of urban residents?

  • Open access
  • 13 Reads
A Multi-Agent System to Improve Resilience of Critical Infrastructure in Cross-Border Disasters

The course of natural disasters is hard to forecast. Especially, these events do not stop at man-made borders between countries. In order to achieve a high resilience, it is important to overcome language and culture barriers and thereby to fasten the information and capacity exchange. Hence, a scenario-based simulation of cross-border communication and cooperation in crisis management yields a high potential to analyze different trajectories of a crisis and to find strategies for fast and robust reactions. Thereby, it can lead to a significant improvement of the resilience in a cross-border region. To this purpose, the paper outlines the scope for an agent-based simulation of cross-border cooperation in the case of a power blackout. For selected scenarios the simulation illustrates the dynamic evolution of the crisis where the failure of critical infrastructure together with people behavior directly affect the coping capacity of the health system. Taking an event-based perspective, it is possible to identify the root cause or first order effects of cascade failures which makes it possible to propose appropriate preventive measures. A second type of analysis refers to the interoperability of authorities. It can be analyzed how communication and coordination among actors of different nationalities can be improved such that delays in information flows are minimized. The mentioned multi-agent system is developed as part of the INCA-project, a decision framework for improving cross-border area resilience. Apart therefrom, the project comprises behavioural studies, expert interviews and workshops, which lead to a deeper understanding of the character of a cross-border area. By finding a robust strategy for the optimal intervention to dampen cascading effects in critical infrastructure and to minimize delays in information flows, the project aims to strengthen the resilience of the border region.

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  • 9 Reads
The urban resilience perspective of Sustainable Development Goals: reframing definitions and indicators

The global increase of urban population and environmental related disasters were the scenario to the increase of several debates on urban issues, including urban resilience. This idea was incorporated by international agencies as a core concept for urbanization and sustainability, inclusive in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG). Specifically, the SDG 11 recognizes the need to “make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable”. In this sense, urban resilience has already been framed and promoted in a global scale as a normative and analytic concept. However, local and regional dynamics puts specifics challenges in relation to resilience implementation and measurement. In this paper we analyze this global scenario, evaluating SDGs and the new urban agenda in relation to Brazilian urbanization. For this, we consider its extremely unequal territorial development and its lack of urban services and infrastructure. Discussing the set of global definitions and indicators that grounds policies with a specific direction for urban-environment relations, we argue that the complexity of urban resilience theory, which involves urban form, land-use patterns and spatial ecological processes, is not sufficiently considered by global agencies that defines resilience goals. The Brazilian case illustrate how some resilience indicators are not specific and measurable, beyond the low adherence to its reality. Although local stakeholders and government actors take resilience as a main goal to urban planning, this analyses show how the promotion of this specific idea of resilience is insufficient to achieve a real increase of wellbeing and of the capacity to deal with changes. Within this, the paper enhances the need to think the local contexts of urban resilience, the lack of linkages among indicators and targets in the SDGs, as well as the limits of this framework and indicators to induce effective changes in inequality, housing and urbanization in Brazilian cities.

  • Open access
  • 20 Reads
Community resilience and wellbeing in face of disasters: theory and practice dimensions from Brazilian cases

Brazil has experienced several environmental related disasters throughout the present decade. Although this reality affects its different regions, the State of Rio de Janeiro, an intensively urbanized and unequal territory, experienced two of the biggest disasters in the country's recent history, with the landslides in the ‘Morro do Bumba’ (Niteroi city -RJ) and in the mountain range close to Rio de Janeiro metropolitan area. Those events were representatives of how resilience and vulnerability plays a central role to explain disasters dynamics. However, disaster driven research and policies in Brazil still focus on the physical event that generates the impact. The study of the sociodemographic dimensions of disasters is still rare in Brazil, although there was a significantly development during the recent period. In this sense, this paper seek an understanding of disasters and resilience considering this discussion. We understand the disaster as a phenomenon that occurs in the interaction between hazards and social and environmental vulnerability, generating impacts. To a better comprehension of disaster and resilience, two analytical scales are used. First, we present an indicator of disaster resilience for the 92 municipalities of the State of Rio de Janeiro, containing a set of results and maps of environmental, social, institutional and political dynamics that could potentially word as the background for disaster resilience. Secondly, three case studies were carried out. Considering the complexity of resilience and disasters, we analyze the social and processes related to resilience of Morro do Bumba landslides, the torrential rains in the mountain range close to Rio de Janeiro metropolitan area and landslides risks on Rio de January city. Analyzing these results, its considered that the connections among wellbeing and resilience needs to be addressed in a contextual manner and with a community based perspective, as some understandings of development and policies enhances vulnerability.

  • Open access
  • 8 Reads
The structure of collective-based working and living settlement: The case of local-specific urban kampong in Jakarta

Jakarta is home to many communities; some are enjoying the concept of the modern city, others are living in areas characterized by pre-modern forms. Kampongs, which refers to the latter type of communities, is where people integrate spaces for living and working. The community of micro-entrepreneurs living in Kampong has managed to cope with the pressure of modernization and contribute significantly to the livelihood of the urban population, especially the low-income. They provide skills and services that vary from garment and furniture industry to upcycling office furniture, automotive spare parts, and urban farming. This paper makes a case of Kampong Rawa, whose residents reside in integrated settlements and share a living and working environment of producing tofu and tempeh (read: soybean cake). Further, this paper explores the determinants of a collective institution in organizing the production activities and dwelling facilities. Despite all pressures to be economically competitive and to overcome internal disputes between members of the community, Kampong Rawa represents itself as an alternative urban way of life.

By using a grounded research methodology, the analysis shows that demand for city-wide development trend has triggered the adaptation process within the kampong. Kampong depicted as a traditional urban form transforms beyond what is defined by the rational economic principles. The transformation of the kampong takes place by respecting its local collective consciousness.

  • Open access
  • 8 Reads
From subordination to resistance and solidarity: transformative citizen action and energy vulnerability in Barcelona

The substantial increase in energy poverty levels occurred in Spain since 2008 has run in parallel to a rapid surge in unemployment rates and domestic energy prices, resulting in thousands of households facing the risk of disconnection from basic utility services because of late payment or non-payment of bills. As a reaction, citizen-led initiatives such as the Alianza contra la Pobreza Energética are supporting vulnerable households in the metropolitan area of Barcelona and its surroundings – especially those in risk of disconnection from electricity, natural gas and running water supply. At the same time, they raise awareness, give voice to the disenfranchised, and provide a platform for citizens to become politically engaged around issues of affordability and access to domestic energy services. The paper studies the potential of such responses to transform individually experienced conditions of vulnerability into networks of citizen solidarity and resistance through which resilience is enhanced both individually and collectively. By joining and engaging with this community of mutual support, it is argued that underprivileged households reclaim their agency and become more empowered; and therefore more capable of influencing the conditions under which energy poverty arises and confronting their status of isolated, vulnerable individuals subordinated to conditions set by more powerful state and corporate actors.

  • Open access
  • 16 Reads
Urban gendered ‘we’ness of resilience

Feminist urban theorists, Peake and Rieker, argue “the urban, now more than ever, is a political stake that opens up and close off new possibilities and constraints” (2013, 12). The vital yet invisible (Escobar, 2012) role of women’s groups who serve as providers of social and economic resilience (Katz, 2004) in ordinary cities warrants consideration. This ‘we’ ness (Simone, 2015) of women’s groups cannot be underestimated because it allows for unexpected yet powerful manoeuvrings through social mobilization. We should not be using the word ‘community’ in relation to urban, rather the emphasis could be on the word “we” or ‘collective’. These two words convey the fluidity of movement that occurs in the city.

I argue urban resilience should also be linked with gendered aspects of the city. Women provide social reproductive services within their communities as well as economic safety nets. Using the rapidly urbanising context of Nepal, an evidence based conceptual space is created to showcase the invisible and vital resilience function of women’s groups in under researched cities. The urban risk governance landscape allows women to be resilient but they are not allowed by the existing governance structures to rework the urban to suit the needs of themselves, their families and their networks.

SDGs number 5 (gender equity) and 11 (sustainable cities and communities) are intertwined and require understanding and debate because they are fundamental to our collective future world. There are opportunities for intervention to foster progressive change and sustainable development by attacking the root causes of structural inequality. Given the current context in Asian cities where the local level is the site where risk governance is increasingly decided, socially just futures can be gained by making visible, listening to and engaging with women more substantively.

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