Ideas & Insights / All Perspectives / Ideas & Insights

A Framework for Articulating City Resilience

In 1958, a little-known community activist named Jane Jacobs received a Rockefeller Foundation grant to expand upon her ideas about how a city should look, feel, and work. The book she published three years later—The Death and Life of Great American Cities—transformed how city dwellers, urban academics, and policy-makers think about cities and urban planning. Jacobs challenged the prevailing assumptions of what makes a city thrive. Over the past five decades, the values and ideas put forward by Jacobs and others have been profoundly important as questions of identity, voice, inclusion, access, and opportunity have been negotiated in the context of dynamic urban growth and globalization.

Resilience depends not only on physical assets, but also policies, social capital, and institutions.

This legacy of forward-looking urban thinking becomes even more crucial as we look to the future. Just as cities are hubs for innovations and investments that expand opportunities, they are also living laboratories forced to confront challenges of increasing complexity. What, and who, makes a city resilient—and not just livable in the short-term—has become an increasingly critical question, one we set out to answer in late 2012 with our partners at Arup through the creation of a City Resilience Index.

Before jumping immediately into metrics, we wanted to understand what does and doesn’t contribute to urban resilience. We wanted to integrate perspectives that were siloed, shaped by experience and expertise in one or another aspect of resilience, disaster risk reduction, infrastructure resilience, climate change, national security or business continuity. Arup has brought thought-leadership to the effort, as well as the capacity to create a comprehensive framework that reflects a city’s lived reality: resilience depends not only on physical assets, but also policies, social capital, and institutions.

The Rockefeller Foundation-Arup City Resilience Framework delivers on that promise: by presenting an inclusive method for articulating city resilience, the framework underpins and reinforces the City Resilience Index’s full suite of indicators and variables. The framework has already proven useful in the agenda-setting workshops in cities across the globe that are participating in the 100 Resilient Cities Challenge—it will also form the basis of a tool that should enable all of us interested in city resilience to convene around a common understanding of that idea, and begin to ‘baseline’ what matters most for making cities more resilient, facilitating a process of engagement with and within cities that generates dialogue and deeper understanding. Ultimately, this will lead to new ideas and opportunities to engage new actors in civil society, government, and business on what makes a city resilient.

We are actively seeking comments and feedback on this framework. Please join our discussion as we share the City Resilience Framework at the World Urban Forum on Friday, April 11, and let us your thoughts on the framework via the open commentary platform on Arup Thoughts.

Leave a comment