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    Topic review

    The Resilient City

    Subjects: Social Issues
    View times: 11
    Submitted by: Renata Paola Dameri


    A resilient city can be defined as a community that has the capacity to manage unexpected events and face stresses and shocks, preserving and innovating its social, economic, and infrastructural system.

    1. Introduction

    Sustainability is quickly becoming a crucial issue at the global level [1], involving private, public, third sector, and hybrid actors [2]. Organizations are including sustainability in their missions and strategic plans even more [3][4]; the more committed ones are adopting the Sustainable Development Goals set up by the UN [5][6]. Cities and local governments are now playing a pivotal role in implementing sustainable policies that affect citizens, firms, and territories as a whole [7][8]. In urban areas, sustainability has been pursued using different labels, such as smart city [9], green city [10], sustainable city [11], etc. Even though these concepts are quite different, they share the idea of sustainable development, which translates into preserving the environment and granting citizens a better quality of life in their cities [12].
    Recently, a new paradigm has emerged—the resilient city [13]. Resilience is a property derived from physics. It can be defined as the capacity of a material to absorb energy elastically. Concerning ecosystems, it is the capacity to tolerate disturbance without collapsing [14]. It involves the capability to react to external negative events, including shock and stress, not merely preserving the current status, but evolving to reduce the adverse effects, and collecting positive opportunities derived from change.
    The definition of  resilient city sheds light on the complexity of an urban resilience strategy, regarding several themes—different from each other, but strictly intertwined—and requiring more than a passive approach. To be resilient means not merely reacting or defending, but preventing, learning, and innovating [15]. In this way, resilience is becoming an interpretative metaphor for urban sustainability management [16][17].
    Urban resilience has been fostered by international institutions and city associations, including the OECD [18][19], UN [20], and the Rockefeller Foundation [21]. However, currently, only a few cities worldwide have designed a comprehensive resilience strategy, and even fewer have developed reporting to inform citizens and document the accountability concerning their resilience actions.
    Implementing a resilience plan in cities requires a long-range strategy, the capability to invest, and the strong involvement of citizens, firms, and the third sector. A resilience strategy can be successful only if it can cover a large set of topics and problems. Therefore, it requires great effort by the local government and emphasizes the need to document, inform, and report to support decisions and gain consensus. Hence, resilience reporting is a new and promising research stream as the topic is still in its infancy and very few studies have addressed it.

    2. Background of Resilience Definition

    The definition of urban resilience has evolved, from a defensive approach, aiming to protect the city, its inhabitants, and infrastructures, to extreme shocks and proactive behavior—that is, a comprehensive urban strategy covering all dimensions of urban life and a long-term resilience life cycle. In this way, resilience is becoming an interpretative metaphor for urban sustainability management [16][17]. However, the translation of resilience thinking in real resilience policies is limited by inadequate interpretation and understanding of its theoretical underpinnings [22][23].
    Throughout its evolution, urban resilience has expanded, from an engineering focus, addressing recovery, efficiency, and speed, to return to a steady state [24], or an ecological view on equilibrium, and governance of complex and integrated social and natural systems [25], up to an evolutionary approach, considering adaptive capacity, transformability, learning, and innovation, referring to urban socioecological ecosystems [26]. Managing resilience means managing cyclical patterns and non-linear processes related to multiple stakeholders, with different and dynamic expectations [27].
    In this sense, urban resilience implies change and an evolutionary path, considering multiple disciplines and urban features in an integrated way, and a comprehensive policy aimed to improve the quality of life in urban areas [28]. Masik and Grabkowska [29] suggest a multidimensional hierarchical resilience strategy, based on four components: institutional, economic, social, and environmental resilience, with emphasis on economic resilience. Indeed, economic resilience is an important issue in modern, fluctuating economies, in which cities should face adequately [30][31].
    As a result, a resilience framework is also rooted in several frameworks regarding digital cities, smart cities, sustainable cities, and a better life in cities [9].
    The smart city emerged as an urban strategy at the beginning of the millennium. It has evolved from the digital city paradigm, including digitalization, but has extended its scope to use the most innovative technologies in city planning, management and infrastructure, pursuing, in the meantime, environmental preservation and a better quality of life for citizens [12]. The smart city focuses on technology, whereas the sustainable city focuses on the environmental impact of cities [9].
    A smart city and sustainable city could be conceived as the fertile ground in which a resilient city bases its strategic vision [28][32][33]. However, in moving from a digital city to a resilient city, the scope and key elements of the urban strategy continue to expand. The digital city aims to use ICT to digitalize society; the smart city aims to incorporate innovative technologies in urban processes; and the sustainable city aims to use technologies to reduce the urban environmental impact. With respect to the previous urban strategies, the resilient city merges all of these aspects, with a comprehensive vision including people, their well-being, and their involvement in urban governance [34] (see Figure 1).
    Figure 1. Evolution of resilient city definition from digital city and upward.
    All of these city paradigms share multidimensionality. The most-known smart city framework, the Giffinger’s [35][36], clearly shows that, to build a smart city, it is necessary to implement different strategies regarding a broad spectrum of topics, including the physical, infrastructural aspects of the city—such as a smart environment, smart mobility, smart economy—and the intangible, human, and social ones—smart people, smart living, and smart governance. The tangible city, the economic processes, and the individual and social activities should be taken into consideration, and be well-governed and balanced to create the best conditions for urban life [37].
    In the same vein, quality of life is also a multidimensional feature, as it depends not only on the material conditions of living, but also on a well-being status derived from multiple situations [38]. The OECD, in its Better Life Index, synthesizes the different components of a good quality of life, considering a mix of material and social situations [18]. As it emerges, a city that aims to pursue a better quality of life and prosperity in the long term should address and manage several aspects from a multidimensional perspective, as all of these aspects are intertwined with each other.
    The resilient city inherits this multidimensionality and, therefore, requires a large scope to be effectively implemented. However, we found that few resilience frameworks of those suggested in both academic literature and professional practice can support the socioecological, multidimensional features of urban resilience that have evolved throughout the latest few years [39]. Indeed, several urban resilience frameworks only address specific shocks (for example, floods or earthquakes) and focus on recovering, merely considering the infrastructural aspects. Several of these frameworks are designed to respond to well-identified urban risks and problems regarding cities located in specific geographical areas; therefore, they lack universality [40].
    Moreover, almost all resilience frameworks are conceived statically: they are not designed to implement a strategic planning activity, including problem identification, action design, operationalization, and performance measurement, addressed to reporting and proactive feedback.
    Finally, almost no existing resilience frameworks embody the multidimensional idea of resilience, and neglect the need for a strong political commitment and substantial citizen engagement.
    Therefore, implementing a resilience strategy in a city is a difficult challenge for LGOs. It requires politicians and public administrators to draw up a long-range strategy and invest financial and other resources, and the strong involvement of citizens, firms, and the third sector. In light of new public management [41][42][43][44], it also requires governing of the urban resilience strategy to satisfy the needs and expectations of a large set of heterogeneous stakeholders and, consequently, to document, inform, and report performance and reached goals.
    Performance measurement, reporting, and accountability to citizens are needed to close the strategic cycle of urban resilience: accountability mechanisms ensure democratic control of public institutions and improve public confidence in governance arrangement [45][46]. We should note that resilience reporting is rooted in previous experience of LGO accounting, performance measurement, and reporting, especially regarding non-financial disclosure and sustainability reporting. In the following, a picture of the evolution of local government accountability practices and mechanisms will be presented as a part of our background.

    3. Conclusions

    Our investigation shows that the concept of urban resilience has expanded over time, from the simple idea of responding to external shocks to a complex capacity of cities to endure, adapt, and transform. Urban resilience is an evolutionary strategy rooted in recent, but more consolidated city visions, such as the smart city and sustainable city, from which it inherits the multidimensionality and the interweaving of different dimensions [47]. Secondly, leveraging on two different lines of research (i.e., resilient city and LGO’s accountability), we contributed to previous literature by identifying the main elements that must be balanced in order to draw up a city resilient reporting. The third innovative aspect consists of an exploratory survey that highlights the main critical issues in the implementation of an urban resilience strategy, i.e., the lack of integrated thinking that prevents the grounding of a plan of action, crosscutting different sectoral urban processes.
    Managerial implications arise for public officers, city managers, and practitioners involved in supporting municipalities in designing and implementing new forms of resilience reporting, combining two complementary dimensions: political and sociotechnical.
    To reach the political quality of a resilience framework, first, we must design the framework, taking into utmost consideration the broadest definition of resilience as it has evolved until today; it consequently works towards the widest involvement of all the political and managerial actors in the municipality, citizen involvement, and the width of scope [9].
    The empirical investigation on resilience reporting issued by pioneer cities in Europe allowed us to discuss how to formulate effective resilience frameworks that are able to integrate within the city governance processes: a strategic vision and citizen involvement, planning, measurement, and reporting. The most interesting and complete implementations of a resilience framework issued by the city of Athens, Barcelona, Lisbon, and London were the basis to build on and outline some recommendations to support municipalities in resilience planning and reporting, in light of pursuing sustainability in cities.
    To increase the effectiveness and usefulness of resilience reporting, we must encourage the use of a wide and integrated set of measurement tools able to dialogue with both the decision-makers and the stakeholders and implement the framework, integrating ex-ante and ex-post processes. In defining resilience reporting and the accountability system, LGOs can refer to the recent advancement in non-financial urban reporting, adopting the multidimensionality, qualitative, and non-financial indicators from them, including the colloquial style. However, it is necessary to avoid producing a trivial document. Individuating adequate indicators for decision-making and accountability purposes can help prevent this mistake, realizing a more effective governance instrument for resilience and sustainability in cities.

    The entry is from 10.3390/su13147824


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