Health and wellbeing, economy and society, infrastructure and ecosystems, affordability of transport, amount of green space add up to resilience in 156 questions

By Nick Van Mead, Originally posted in The Guardian

The Rockefeller Foundation launched the City Resilience Index (CRI) today, by engineering consultancy Arup.  For example, “Concepción had done all the things you’d expect an earthquake-prone city to do in terms of building codes and emergency management, but the weakness that emerged [from the CRI assessment] was that their telecommunications systems were all reliant on broadband internet,” says Jo da Silva, Arup’s director for international development. “When that failed in the quake, the whole city information stopped and there was a lot of social disruption as a result. A normal analysis of disaster risk reduction would never have unearthed that.”

The CRI measures a city’s resilience. Participants (usually municipal governments) answer 156 questions covering issues from health and wellbeing to economy and society, infrastructure and ecosystems to leadership and strategy. How affordable is transport? How robust is planning? How much green space is there?

Answers to these questions – both qualitative and quantitative – give the city a holistic ‘resilience profile’. It is not a single aggregate score, but what da Silva at Arup likes to explain as a representation of the city’s immune system.

Arup analysed 22 cities during the development of the tool and tested the finished index on five diverse cities around the world: Liverpool in the UK, Hong Kong, Arusha in Tanzania, Shimla in India and Concepción. In Shimla, for example, the hillside capital of Himachal Pradesh in the Himalayas, 35 city and state departments came together with academics and NGOs to complete the assessment. Weaknesses were identified in sustainability and planning, and healthcare was highlighted as an area of concern.

Shimla’s resilience profile.
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Shimla’s resilience profile. Illustration: Arup

Arup is keen to stress, though, that the index is not about judging cities, or comparing performance across cities; instead it’s about creating a community of users who are able to improve performance in their own city, and then share their experiences with others.

The five pilot cities were deliberately not chosen from the Rockefeller Foundation’s 100 Resilient Cities programme, which announces its final tranche next week. Any city can complete the CRI using the online tool – which helps guide multiple users to collaborate over the input of data – and the hope is that more cities will get involved.

“The CRI goes beyond preparedness,” da Silva explains. “Resilience is about recognising we’ve got to be ready whatever happens. You need to create cities that function well today and will continue to function irrespective of what happens. It may be the arrival of 200,000 refugees, it may be a major flood, or it could be an economic downturn. We can’t bury our heads in the sand until those shocks and stresses occur. We want to make sure cities are prepared to deal with both the expected and the unexpected. How we manage that, recognising the fact that the majority of people live in cities, is for me the agenda that is going to define the 21st century.

Sundaa Bridgett-Jones, associate director of international development at the Rockefeller Foundation, says the CRI has evolved as a diagnostic tool to fill the gap left by existing methods which tend to concentrate on easily quantifiable scientific measurements and focus on single hazards. The complex world of resilience doesn’t lend itself to aggregation into a single score or ranking, and there is much of value which cannot be quantified as a sum of money or a percentage.

“Growing numbers of city leaders really want to be able to look at the full spectrum,” she says, “to see where they are, and help them make decisions. They want to deal with challenges now and challenges that are coming – that may be weather, climate change, economic growth – but also to be able to deal with stresses and shocks that are unforeseen.

“The index allows cities around the world to assess where they are. Once they’ve completed a profile, they can see they’re strong in some areas and weaker in others. They can talk to other cities and share their knowledge, and we hope to be able to see what’s working and identify solutions.”

Guardian Cities is a member of the Habitat III Journalism Project. Read more about the project here.

Along with resilience, sustainability is often evaluated with cities.

The new Sustainable Cities Index, based on analysis by the Centre for Economics and Business Research, excerpt from report in The Guardian

The Sustainable Cities Index ranks cities on 20 indicators in five key areas: the economy, business, risk, infrastructure and finance. It also breaks the results down into three sub-indices – social, environmental and economic – which combine to provide a ranking of each city’s overall sustainability. Click on the tabs at the top of the chart below to see how cities performed in each category.

The least sustainable cities according to the index were some of the fastest growing in Asia, with Jakarta 45th, Manila 46th, Mumbai 47th, Wuhan 48th and New Delhi 49th. Nairobi was 50th.

But the report warned that in many global cities, environmental and economic achievements came at a cost to cities’ social performance. Amsterdam struck the best balance globally, with a relatively consistent ranking in all three sub-incides.

The 50 cities were chosen to give wide geographical coverage and varied levels of economic development, expectations of future growth and sustainability challenges.