Launch of Grosvenor Resilient Cities Research

By Judith Sykes

Graphic illustrating cities most at risk from the Financial Times

Graphic illustrating cities most at risk from the Financial Times

Over the last 18 months I have been working with the research team at Grosvenor on a piece of work to evaluate the resilience of 50 major global cities. The work published last month has been picked up by media across the globe, illustrating the desire to really understand what makes a city resilient and measure its success.

For Grosvenor, this research project was driven by an understanding that their business is intrinsically linked to that of the cities they invest in, and so the findings will inform future investment decisions at a very strategic level.

Resilience to what

We supported Grosvenor by carrying out an extensive literature review to define what we really mean by resilience and develop a theoretical model for how resilience works in cities. Current discourse is also very much focused on climate resilience. For this project,  as a team, we wanted to move beyond just thinking in climate terms, taking a look at the vulnerability of city to a range of different trends including demographic changes, infrastructure challenges, environmental degradation and resource security.

We helped Grosvenor investigate what makes a city adaptive and able to respond to these shifts looking at institutional capacity, access to financing, governance structures and planning and delivery systems.

Use the interactive graph above to explore the city rankings.

City rankings

The report aggregates indicators in each of the vulnerability and adaptive capacity areas to produce city rankings, but this is not an absolute science nor was any weight given to any particular aspect of urban resilience. What is more important is the understanding over all trends and the characteristics of an individual city. The plot above is based on data from the report and illustrates key trends amongst the 50  cities. The least resilient cities are, not surprisingly, to be found in the emerging economies where levels of investment are not keeping pace with rapid urbanization and they lack institutional strength. The most resilient cities are in North America with Canadian cities performing particularly well. But the real insight comes from digging deeper into the data. London’s position for example is effected by affordability and growing inequality. Cities in the US face challenges relating to resource security, land use and ageing infrastructure. This more granular understanding can then inform how urban development can contribute to building resilient neighbourhoods and how investors can work with local government to do so.

Urban data challenges

Urban data science is an emerging discipline and one of the key challenges for us was to find relevant indicators at the city level. Resilience is also a dynamic concept and so this is a snap shot of city performance at one moment.  We hope that in subsequent years the research will be built on to understand longitudinal trends. We also anticipate that the trends for smarter cities and open data will provide much better information at the city level.

We are not alone in looking at resilience metrics but see this as an important contribution to a growing body of knowledge and understanding of resilience in cities.

Kate Brown on USP contribution to Resilient Cities


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