Making resilience practical, tangible and relevant at the GEC

Last month the Institution of Civil Engineers hosted the Global Engineering Congress (GEC) in London. Bringing together over 1,000 people from across the globe, the GEC’s focus this year was how the engineering community can help the UN to deliver its Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

In front of an audience with global expertise, the Resilience Shift hosted a technical workshop considering how to make resilience tangible, practical and relevant.

We kicked off with a series of presentations. Opening with Juliet Mian, Technical Director at the Resilience Shift who provided an overview of the Resilience Shift – read more about the programme here.

George Beane of Arup’s International Development team then showcased the WaterShare tool that Arup and the City Water Resilience Framework project has been developing for resilient water governance – read more in George’s recent blog here.

Savina Carluccio, Resilience Shift Project Lead, then concluded the presentations by introducing our value-based approach and how it will help us to improve critical infrastructure resilience. Recognising that we can no longer just deliver amazing infrastructure projects, but that we also need to deliver value to end-users. Something that clearly resonates with the delivery of the SDGs.

A value-based approach recognises that there are multiple stakeholders engaged in critical infrastructure, whether they are involved in delivering a new piece of infrastructure, operating and maintaining an existing system, or thinking about the ability of a community to continue to function following a flood event. Each of these has a different value chain, but in each case, there should be a benefit (value) to all stakeholders in enhancing resilience, as well as the ultimate benefit to society. This resilience value represents the golden thread that cuts across all stakeholders in the value chain.

Engaging the audience using an online polling app we asked whether our value-based approach, using the example of a infrastructure lifecycle value chain, was relevant to them. Most attendees agreed that it is. While some told us that they would like to learn more about it. It will therefore be important for us to continue to get the value-based approach across clearly as we move forward. Furthermore, many told us that finance and procurement represented the biggest gaps in the infrastructure resilience value chain.

The workshop concluded with a panel discussion. Chaired by Savina Carluccio, the panel included Kristen MacAskill of Cambridge University, John White of 100 Resilient Cities, and Juliet Mian.

Below are some of the highlights from our lively and engaging discussion:

  • When selling resilience, don’t lead with resilience – use common language and provide people with outcomes that are meaningful.
  • People have capacity to solve their own problems – people and communities can do great things and we should look to solve problems with people rather than for them. A case study in Oman of flood gates failing was identified, where engineers manually fixed flood gates, showing how the most resilient part of a system can be people knowing what to do.
  • Need for innovation – some argued that there isn’t enough space to be creative, and that many are focused on project delivery.
  • Countries will have different resilience priorities – highlighting that there will likely be different priorities in developing vs developed countries. One participant stated that it can for example be difficult to get a Mayor in a developing country to implement a cool innovative resilience project when they have been trying to get a bus route for 10 years.
  • Resilience isn’t just about strengthening – or the prevention of bad things happening for that matter. You can do the same things in a different way, and build a business case that highlights the secondary and tertiary benefits. This is especially important in countries where finances are constrained. There are also opportunities to arrive at a solution that you never thought you would have at the start e.g. Paris and use of school playing fields for water retention during storm events which has led to the availability of social space.
  • Stories of resilience in practice are as important as theory – and numerous examples were shared by the audience and the panel members. We’ve recently seen such stories in a study on the impacts of natural hazards on US natural gas infrastructure.
  • We need to educate and inspire future generations – it was stated that we need to talk about the wider context and systems view rather than our traditional siloed approach to individual subject learning. Furthermore, it was argued that engineers need to take a holistic approach to engineering going forward.
  • Tools and approaches – recognising that a barrier to their implementation is their visibility and an understanding of how they can contribute to improving the resilience of our infrastructure.

Look out for an upcoming blog on the overall thoughts from the GEC – to make sure you don’t miss it, you can sign up to our blog here.

 

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