We profile Juliet Mian on her role as Resilience Shift Technical Director and on what she thinks will help us all to make a difference.
“I’ve always been very comfortable with uncertainty” says Dr Juliet Mian, the Resilience Shift’s Technical Director. She believes that one of the simplest reasons for needing to design for resilience is the uncertainty we face. “As engineers planning, designing, operating, maintaining infrastructure, we don’t know everything about the environment that it will have to function in for the next 50 or even 120 years.”
As a civil engineer by training, Juliet’s PhD was in earthquake hazard and risk. In designing facilities that would continue to function under earthquake loading, she was also curious about the wider context of her projects, for example whether local housing, roads and infrastructure were adequate, and whether other hazards were treated consistently. This is how Juliet found herself specialising in infrastructure risk and resilience.
The role of Technical Director
She sees her role as primarily to deliver what the Resilience Shift has set out to do. She holds the overview of what everyone is doing, ensuring that they are continually checking back against the initiative’s intended outcomes and making connections between activities to deliver wider insights.
Juliet is clear that projects are about more than technical activities, because impact and influence are an essential part of the ‘shift’. “Our work has to be technically excellent, but it also has to be digestible and accessible and targeted at those we want to influence. We’re trying to influence busy people.”
She believes that part of the technical rigour is about engaging with the right people and having the confidence and trust in them to deliver. “Quality matters a lot to me. It’s really important to me that what we’re drawing attention to has got substance behind it.”
Making a difference
Juliet feels that the Resilience Shift has achieved some significant progress. “The thing that makes me happiest is starting to see the fruits of our labour, our workshops that have covered a whole variety of topics, and how we’re building a community generating some really interesting discussions.”
This has led to a plethora of opportunities, and plans for 2019 reflect that, with new activities resulting from ideas generated throughout 2018, and several current projects expected to come to fruition.
Another highlight for her is to see how the connections between projects and communities are starting to build a global network of those working on critical infrastructure resilience.
Outputs from the programme
The Resilience Shift ethos is to learn by doing, and to be open minded about the nature of the outputs produced and how they are disseminated. Juliet explains, “Robust technical papers and literature are important because they provide credibility, but we talk about making resilience tangible, practical and relevant, and those outputs are not for everyone.”
“We’re open minded in terms of what we produce, and it has to be a mix. The value driven approach that we’re using makes us think really carefully about the end user of any of our products – who is this intended to help, how do we know that it will make their life better, and how do they want to use it?”
“If the thing that will make a difference is a tool then that’s what a project should deliver but we’re not set on a single form of output.”
Sharing knowledge freely
The open nature of the Resilience Shift initiative is important to Juliet. “One of our core objectives is that all of our outputs will be free for others to use”.
“In resilience we talk about breaking down silos and considering things as systems. A common language and understanding for resilience can only be achieved by making things open and available, and that will help us to all make a difference.”