By Janice Harvie
City of Calgary
Beyond shocks and stresses
Planning for the future can be an exciting yet uneasy guessing game. Across Calgary, families wonder daily where to invest their time and money to maximize opportunity when it knocks, preserve what is valued most, and survive hard times with the shortest of setbacks.
Just like planning at home, The City of Calgary is responsible for seeing as far into the future as possible to guide today’s decisions and value-creating investments.
Creating and sustaining a vibrant, healthy, safe and caring community isn’t just about today’s programs and services. It’s also about serving generations in the future.
How should The City plan for a future that some believe will include self-driving cars and flying intra-city public transit?
What is the future we want to create? What are the right opportunities to create that future?
One clear opportunity the City is capitalizing on is the science of resilience and the 100 Resilient Cities (100RC) – pioneered by The Rockefeller Foundation. From 1,000 applicants around the world, Calgary was officially named a 100RC member in May 2016.
The 100RC project was born from the Rockefeller Foundation’s studies of the effect of climate change on urban centres. They quickly saw the interplay of many factors that help or hinder a city’s ability to plan for or react to changing environmental conditions. So the work expanded to include other urban threats like gun violence, air pollution, aging infrastructure and traffic congestion.
SHOCKS AND STRESSES
- Acute shocks are sharp, sudden events that threaten or damage a city like the 2013 flood, or 2014 ‘Snowtember’ that damaged 50% of the city’s tree canopy.
- Chronic stresses weaken the fabric of a city over time with on-going or cyclical events such as lack of affordable housing, unemployment, diversity and inclusion stresses or the opiod overdose epidemic we currently face.
The Resilience Challenge
Not every city experiences the same issues or faces the same threats. But resilience – the ability to address 21st century chronic stresses, and to plan for and rise again after acute shocks – is a universal key.
“Resilience is based on sustainability. We won’t get through catastrophic events if we don’t already have a sustainable community,” said Brad Stevens, Deputy City Manager and Chief Resilience Officer for The City of Calgary. “How do we do it? That’s the Resilience Challenge.”
While the ability to bounce back fast from a natural disaster is a highly desirable outcome of a resilient city, the 100RC program encourages a more holistic view. It’s impossible to know exactly what the future will bring. Only hindsight can determine a specific scenario that derails progress.
“Resilience is about the capacity of institutions, individuals, systems and businesses not just to survive but also to adapt and thrive in the face of events and issues that really destabilize cities,” said Katya Sienkiewicz, Associate Director, City and Practice Management, 100RC.
The 100RC program provides a framework to ensure the resilience conversation is approached as a broad community. Said Christine Arthurs, Director of Resilience & Infrastructure for The City: “We’re involving cross-functional City teams and administrators, external stakeholders, community partners, and the learnings of other 100RC network cities.”
Structure, guidance, free access to global service partners and funding are provided by 100RC to each member city.
DID YOU KNOW?
- 100 Resilient Cities provides a framework and global network to address significant and shared urban issues.
- In its 100RC application Calgary’s Resilience Challenge was “…to insulate its economy from shocks caused by fluctuating oil prices as it develops more robust responses to natural disasters.”
- Athens is looking at the immigration crisis while Rotterdam is innovating green solutions to sewage infrastructure and storm water overflow.
- Municipalities are consistently pushed to do more with less --to appropriately serve a growing, aging, astute population with easy access to information. There is a changing expectation of the services a government can offer.
- “We have to figure out new management of resources, new partnerships and investors to leverage, new relationships with other orders of government. And then you add a natural disaster or a Fentanyl crisis on top. There are really complex challenges to making great community,” says Christine Arthurs, Director of Resilience & Infrastructure.
A 100RC grant allowed for the creation of Calgary’s Chief Resilience Office, including key staff. For the initial discovery process, 100RC provided a strategy partner and City staff volunteered their time to facilitate a day-long agenda-setting workshop. ‘ResilientYYC,’ as the initiative is known locally, has just published its first report on the workday findings.
“At the agenda-setting workshop, hundreds of community perspectives provided input to begin to identify community, environment and economic priorities for a resilient Calgary,” said Stevens. From this work, a resilience strategy will be developed for City Council’s approval.