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Posted on 20 August, 2018 by

Categories: Events, Knowledge,

Putting a human dimension on resilience

Human dimension of resilience - fresh waterAlexa Bruce presented recently at the Water Security Conference about the human dimension of designing and managing for resilience and how to encourage adoption. 

We’ll be bringing together our collaborators including SIWI (Stockholm International Water Institute), CWRF (Cities Water Resilience Framework) and WeAreTelescopic to discuss findings and review next steps at the Global Knowledge Exchange event hosted jointly by the Resilience Shift and CWRF.

You can bring a horse to water… but establishing the science and technology necessary to design and manage for resilience won’t necessarily lead humans to design and manage for resilience in practice.

Human history seems to suggest the contrary. Humans will manipulate the variables guiding freshwater, human systems and global change and we only start to think about and manage for resilience in relation to stresses, shocks and great uncertainties.

Water Security is emerging as a primary sustainability challenge across the globe in the 21st century.

At the 1st International Water Security Conference in Toronto, Canada, we drew on our analyses and experience in five global cities – Amman, Mexico City, Cape Town, Miami and Hull – to characterize governance conditions that will allow us to conclude on what practices and principles may enable or impede human transitions to resilience.

The presentation slides can be viewed here and we discuss the themes covered in more detail below.

 

Encouraging adoption of a resilience-based approach

Adopting resilience-based approaches requires more than simply ensuring that resilience qualities – inclusive, robust, adaptive, and transformative – are built into the planning and design of our water systems (or other such networks). Ultimately, it is us as humans who will decide how our time and resources are allocated.

Decision makers and decision-making processes need to reflect those qualities we seek of our physical solutions so that they are receptive to and prioritise projects that build the resilience of our water systems.

Regime change requires a tremendous amount of political will and is rarely a feasible option. Even in the case where political will is obtained, given the array of externalities that influence how the system functions, it is difficult to be certain that a new structure of governance will perform any better than its predecessor.

We propose that we should seek to strengthen existing governance structures by ensuring that the entire decision-making cycle, and the priorities of those making decisions, are representative of a diverse set of perspectives. These must encompass the health and wellbeing of citizens, economic and societal considerations, securing sustainable provision of infrastructure and ecosystem services and strengthening of governance and policy.

This approach provides the opportunity to traverse different structures of governance and cultures – from autocratic rule to federalist democracy – to ensure that the people operating within the system can adopt the qualities of resilience. That they can recognise, adapt and learn in the face of shocks and stresses and shift to a different system of function when required.

Our work has examined the case of five global cities – Amman, Mexico City, Cape Town, Miami and Hull – to develop a framework that can provide any city with the tools necessary to support decision makers towards a goal of improved urban water resilience. This framework must encompass from system definition, to resilience assessment, to identifying action and ultimately implementation.

Next steps

We’ll be bringing together our collaborators including SIWI (Stockholm International Water Institute), CWRF (Cities Water Resilience Framework) and WeAreTelescopic to discuss findings and review next steps at the Global Knowledge Exchange event hosted jointly by the Resilience Shift and CWRF.

If you’re interested in our water sector work, we are hosting a number of events at SIWI World Water Week so get in touch or comment below, and don’t forget to follow our blog/twitter feed for updates.

Watch out for a special edition of the Water Security Journal to be published in September 2018 with commissioned papers on water resilience and a foreword by Nancy Kete, outgoing Executive Director of the Resilience Shift.

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