As the 21st century proceeds, countries – particularly developing countries – will face a growing series of short-term shocks (economic crises, climate events, violent attacks, health epidemics, etc) and long-term trends (climate change, migration, economic restructuring, new technologies, etc). In abstract terms, we know the solution: countries must become more resilient.
That is because resilience is defined as the ability of vulnerable systems – countries, regions, communities, value chains, organisations – to withstand, recover from, adapt to, and potentially transform amid change and uncertainty. Resilience will therefore play a crucial role in the achievement of development outcomes. It provides a holistic and long-term approach that is rising up the development agenda.
That is the theory. The challenge arises in practice: there are few credible guides that activists and researchers can follow which explain what resilience is, how to apply resilience metrics, and how to use those metrics to shape action. The University of Manchester has therefore developed RABIT: the Resilience Assessment Benchmarking and Impact Toolkit.
To understand resilience, RABIT identifies nine attributes – or sub-properties – of resilience. Three are primary foundations of resilience: robustness, self-organisation, learning. Six are secondary enablers of resilience: redundancy, rapidity, scale, diversity, flexibility, equality. The stronger these are in a community, the more resilient it will be.
Each attribute has a series of key markers: indicators that we can use to assess the strength or weakness of each attribute. These can be measured in two main ways:
- Resilience benchmarking: at the pre-hoc stage of project design, resilience can be benchmarked to establish key areas for resilience-building action during an intervention.
- Resilience impact assessment: RABIT can be used to assess the impact on resilience of interventions during or after their implementation, to draw lessons learned, and to inform future programming/strategising.
Data can be gathered by document review, focus group, interview, or survey. It is then subject to enumeration that enables a variety of different visualisations, as illustrated in Figure 1. These identify current resilience strengths to build on, and current resilience lacunae that need to be addressed.
Based on the visualisations illustrated in Figure 1 plus further analysis, RABIT then provides the basis for prioritising future interventions which will build resilience. A sample is shown in Table 1, with interventions identified; typically following a discussion of the visualisations with key stakeholders. An indication is provided of which stakeholders – in this case, community-level (C), municipality-level (M) and national-level (N) – will be involved.
Table 1. Sample priority actions to improve resilience
For full details of the Implementation Handbook showing how to use the RABIT toolkit plus case studies of RABIT’s application, see: http://www.niccd.org/resilience
We are happy to answer questions about application of the framework, and to provide support to those seeking to implement RABIT: email@example.com
 Our illustration will be at the level of individual communities but RABIT is applicable to all and any of the systems described from households to nations.
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.
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/1108/1135Follow @CDIManchester
The model shown below indicates the various domains of relation between information and communication technologies (ICTs), climate change and development. These are:
– Mitigation: how ICTs can reduce carbon emissions (but also how they contribute)
– Monitoring: how ICTs can help measure and analyse climate change and its impacts
– Strategy: how ICTs can enable strategic actions on climate change
– Adaptation: how ICTs can help developing countries adapt to climate change in the short- and longer-term
This is still a model under development, so comments and suggestions for improvement are welcome.