Urban Resilience: Testing a New Framework on Community Informatics

There are many approaches to understanding urban resilience and an ever-growing literature seeing resilience as catalyst or metaphor, or identifying components or categories or facilitators.  But there is surprisingly little work that defines and conceptualises resilience in a systematic way.

Based on a synthesis of past work, we built a new and comprehensive model of resilience: defined as “the ability to withstand and recover from short-term shocks, and to adapt to long-term trends“ and understood as neither a structure nor a function of systems, but as a property of systems.

Our model of resilience sees it consist of three foundational attributes or sub-properties: self-organisation that allows a re-arrangement of functions; robustness to withstand external stressors; and capacity for learning via feedback.  Facilitating these are a set of enabling attributes: redundancy, rapidity, scale, diversity, flexibility, and equality.

Resilience Attributes Block Model

An initial application of the model analysed ways in which community informatics – the use of digital technology within urban districts – could strengthen and weaken community resilience.  Analysing attribute by attribute provided a systematic means to assess current evidence: geographic information systems that help planning of physical defences; use of social media to build local organising networks; application of online groups to support Learning and Action Alliances; etc on the plus side.  But also creating external dependencies that can undermine local autonomy, and exacerbating inequalities within urban communities.

This current work provides only a general proof-of-concept, showing that this new urban resilience model is viable and applicable to urban development issues.  Further work is being undertaken to roll it out in practice as part of RABIT (the Resilience Assessment Benchmarking and Impact Tookit), but we hope the model already offers an integrated and standardised approach to urban resilience.

For more details, the paper “Analysing Urban Community Informatics from a Resilience Perspective” published in the Journal of Community Informatics is available via open access at: http://www.ci-journal.net/index.php/ciej/article/view/1108/1135

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