Knowing Your Place — that place you call home — Part 9

[Editor’s note: This is the final part of this series. A full set of links to all episodes, including additional commentaries, will be published at www.groupeintellex.com on Thursday 31st May. Groupe Intellex would like to acknowledge all inputs and advice from The Intelligent Community Forum and members of the UK Steering Group for the 2018 ICF Global Summit taking place in London next week.]

What If?

It is inevitable that the unexpected will occur. Some emergencies are due to industrial accidents. Some shocks are malicious acts. Some disasters are a result of natural hazards. But, overall, there is a generalised global trend towards increasing numbers of natural and man-made disasters which can bring loss of life and ill-health, disrupted livelihoods and economic impacts, and damage to our communities and the environment.

In preparing for a future of known and unknown challenges, a key question is: ‘How well will your community cope?

In earlier parts of this series we have considered many of the themes that contribute to the making of a truly intelligent community. Whilst we’ve not assumed good fortune, until now, we’ve not paused to ask, ‘What if?

Many great cities around the world and, notably, those who are participating in 100 Resilient Cities (an initiative pioneered by the Rockefeller Foundation) have appointed teams led by Chief Resilience Officers — leaders who plan to expect the unexpected and be ready to respond. That quality, Resilience, has beneficial impacts as our communities seek to understand and adapt to the risks associated with long-term changes, even if a disaster or shock never happens.

At the Intelligent Community Forum in London next week the work of one Chief Resilience Officer (CRO) will be explored. And this is someone who has experience of working in a city to learn from a series of shocks and stresses weathered over the past decade, including an horrific terrorist attack a year ago.

Dr Kathy Oldham is now CRO for Greater Manchester. Just as Metro Mayor Andy Burnham was taking up his new role, a terrorist bomb destroyed a celebratory evening for thousands of young people. Lives were lost — trauma medics stretched. The response from the distraught people of Manchester was full of compassion and solidarity and a great credit to the work of faith groups and community leaders. Although much in the response to the terrible events that evening went well, there were also lessons to be learnt. Kathy Oldham is better placed than many to unpick that disaster, to explain the responses, to show why investment in preparedness will pay dividends.

Resilience is not some checklist that, once ticked, can be filed away as an insurance policy. A systematic approach to resilience demands awareness of risks and the flexibility to adapt to unfolding events. It requires an analysis of potential shocks a city may face, but also of the chronic stresses in different communities, those longer-term pressures that can undermine the capacity to cope with disruption. Resilience needs back-up plans and coordination. It requires communities to be aware of potential hazards, to be prepared and to be connected: people who know each other and are confident about giving and receiving help from one another fare much better during an emergency. Putting all these elements in place yields community dividends even if the very worst ‘what ifs’never visit your place.

It is no accident that CROs are mainly appointed by major cities. Bigger places have more complex risks and need larger-scale response coordination. The human and financial impacts of disasters are not however limited to urban localities. There is a case for more widespread expertise across many communities — but the most valuable inputs are the lessons from those who find themselves on the front line.

Dr. Kathy Oldham’s address is scheduled for 14:30 on Day2 of next week’s summit.

We trust that you have enjoyed this brief series of insights to the work of the Intelligent Community Forum — and hope that you will join us next week.

For the full programme and registration options please visit:

https://www.intelligentcommunity.org/summit_18