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Resilience insights gained in the face of COVID-19

Lloyd's Register Foundation’s Resilience Shift programme gives insights to combat COVID-19.

The topic of resilience is front of mind for many organisations confronted by the global pandemic. For the Resilience Shift’s Executive Director, Seth Schultz, this new and increased interest is a significant opportunity to scale up resilience in practice. The programme is working with a number of organisations to highlight ways that resilience thinking and practice can make our world more secure.

Jo da Silva, who is on the Resilience Shift’s Programme Board, has written memorably of the difference between a disaster and a crisis and how these differences must shape our response. She said, “This crisis is an opportunity to consider our resilience. Not just to COVID-19 and the wider impact it is having on the economy, but also to an uncertain future, and to climate change – another ‘slow-onset extensive’ crisis that requires transformational change. Every aspect of society needs to transform”.

Building on a 2019 initiative to capture lessons from crisis, that focused on Cape Town’s ‘Day Zero’ drought response, the Resilience Shift team has initiated a second 'Learning from Crisis' study, seeking to capture and report insights around how senior leaders from both public and private sector organisations are addressing the COVID-19 challenges.  Importantly, this will track them on a weekly basis, to understand how their decision-making is evolving with the crisis, across different sectors and geographies, and will analyse and distil the lessons that can be learned for better future resilience. Led by Peter Willis, lead architect of its partner, the Cape Town Drought Response Learning Initiative, the key insights from these discussions will be captured in a series of Resilient Leadership podcasts.

It has never been more important to have infrastructure networks that are resilient.  Infrastructure is vital for supporting functions on which society relies (e.g. healthcare and food production). To assist all those across the infrastructure value chain currently affected by the challenging conditions of the COVID-19 outbreak, The Resilience Shift has identified relevant learning from its work. These resources can be found at COVID-19 Resources and are grouped by three themes.

The Resilience Shift is one of the founding organisations of the International Coalition for Sustainable Infrastructure which hosts a virtual Summit this April. Launched last November, the Coalition aims to reinforce what engineers can and must do to work together in accelerating the sustainability and resilience of the built environment. The ASCE with its 170,000 members will bring many organisations employing professional engineers to the Coalition. But Seth Schultz is clear that this must be a global movement of all those working across infrastructure, and others such as the Global Covenant for Mayors for Climate and Energy that represents 10,000 cities and local governments, are also founding partners.

Seth notes that, “Cities will be important change hubs for resilience. A crisis like COVID-19 highlights the interdependence of urban communities, the built environment, critical infrastructure and the economy.  Resilience thinking focuses on creating cities that enable communities to thrive, and in time of crisis to survive and recover quickly”.

Technical Director, Dr Juliet Mian also shared her thoughts on the relevance of infrastructure resilience to the current crisis in a recent industry podcast. Her interview looks at the implications for infrastructure as a result of the climate crisis, how black sky hazard scenarios can help and how green infrastructure can make places and people more resilient.

She said, “From our work to date we have set out 10 insights around ‘what matters’ for resilience.  We are seeing many of these made uncomfortably evident in the current crisis, the most important being the critical role of humans in our infrastructure systems, as owners, operators, decision makers and end users."

The rapid spread of COVID-19 and its impact on our society is a strong reminder of how globally interconnected our world is, and how much our society’s resilience depends on and is threatened by interdependencies. Our communications infrastructure especially has never been so critical in helping overcome isolation and support working remotely.

It’s a reminder for us all that humans work best when they work together, even if not in person.

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