Bristol, United Kingdom

Future-Proofing the City

Bristol City Council

February 12, 2015

Building livability and inclusion into the formula for urban resilience

Bristol-1024x536 (3)In 2013, Bristol was invited to join the 100 Resilient Cities Network, a programme that helps cities “better address the increasing shocks and stresses of the 21st century”. Pioneered by the Rockefeller Foundation, the 100 Resilient Cities (100RC) is designed to promote urban resilience around the world.

The fastest growing city in the UK, Bristol is alive to the challenges facing modern cities to build resilience into its infrastructure, city systems and communities. Since 2003, the population of Bristol is estimated as having increased by 11.7% due to a number of factors including a significant rise in net international migration, with immigrants now constituting 15% of the population. Local communities have changed significantly with at least 45 religions, at least 50 countries of birth represented and at least 91 main languages spoken.

In such a diverse setting, questions of inclusion, access and opportunity become important as does facilitating a process of engagement that generates dialogue and deeper understanding among the city dwellers, allowing them to survive and thrive even in challenging circumstances.

Building resilient cities

The Rockefeller Foundation’s city resilience framework identifies collective identity and mutual support which translates to active community engagement, strong social networks and social integration as one of the key factors for a resilient city’s health and well-being.

Resilient cities are characterized not only by economic vitality and environmental sustainability but also cultural vibrancy and social diversity. The 100RC defines city resilience uniquely and broadly as the capacity of individuals, communities, institutions, business and systems within a city to survive, adapt and grow, in the face of chronic stresses and acute shocks.

In being selected to join this programme, Bristol has committed to developing a resilience plan – the first tentative formulations of which were discussed at the launch of the 100 Resilient Cities project at an agenda-shaping workshop in 2014. Social resilience was a hot topic of discussion at the workshop with Bristol’s elected Mayor Ferguson suggesting that inequality of life expectancy could be a key performance indicator for resilience – even in a wealthy city like Bristol, the richest live nine years longer than the poorest.

The process is being led by a resilience officer, a new post funded by Rockefeller. According to Sarah Toy who will be taking on the role as the Chief Resilience Officer in February 2015: “Resilience planning is about making Bristol a better place to live, work and play for everyone, in both good times and bad. As well as focus on future-proofing Bristol’s city systems to ensure we have secure food and energy supplies, good public health and social and economic security we will be working with other cities across the 100 Resilient Cities network including Glasgow and London to share ideas and learning about how to create thriving urban communities where people help and support each other no matter what.”

In addition to the funding for the post, Bristol’s membership in the network gives it access to resources for drafting a resilience building strategy; access to the private and public sector, and NGO created resilience tools; and membership in a global network of peer cities to share best practices and challenges.

By 2050, over 70% of the world’s population will live in cities, making them a key point of engagement. According to Dr. Judith Rodin, President of The Rockefeller Foundation, “In a rapidly urbanizing world, cities cannot afford to remain crisis-driven and reactive. Cities like Bristol are at the forefront of fostering a resilience mindset that will be critical to proactively managing the inevitable challenges, shocks and stresses all cities will face.”

Making it Work for You:

  • Engage all relevant stakeholders: a major undertaking or project requires a long-term, multi-stakeholder and multi-faceted approach that will need to draw on a wide pool of expertise and resources
  • How inclusive is your community or city? Monitor the changing landscape of your community or city on an ongoing basis
  • Evaluate governance processes in your community or city to see if diverse voices are represented
  • Learn about what makes a resilient city and the criterion used to invite cities to join the 100 Resilient Cities Network