Rockefeller Foundation elevates Melbourne’s commitment to resilience

Melbourne’s new resilience project is helping local government frame conversations about resilience beyond emergency management to social and urban vulnerability, according to an RMIT study.

When Melbourne was selected for participation in the international 100 Resilient Cities program sponsored by the New York-based Rockefeller Foundation, the news generated a mix of hopes, expectations and concerns.

How could a framework for urban resilience emanating from the US be adapted to suit the city governance structures operating in Melbourne?

Implementing the Rockefeller Foundation 100 Resilient Cities Project in Melbourne (PDF 1.87 MB 34p) , an independent study undertaken by RMIT urban researchers, critically examines the implementation of the project in its first year to identify if hopes and expectations were being met.

The study conducted numerous interviews with local government authorities, stakeholders and people closely involved in the project, including the strategy’s Chief Resilience Officer Toby Kent.

Lead author Associate Professor Martin Mulligan from RMIT Centre for Urban Research said the report found that the project’s resilience framework has helped to focus attention on a wide range of neglected vulnerabilities accumulating within and across city communities.

“The concept of urban resilience promoted by the Rockefeller Foundation – which urges cities to address a wide range of potential ‘shocks’ and accumulating ‘stresses’ – has promoted boundary-crossing dialogues between people concerned with infrastructure planning, economic development, social care, community development and environmental protection,” Mulligan said.

“This suggests that resilience thinking is moving beyond the confines of emergency management to ways of thinking about the complex, inter-related challenges facing a fast-growing city.”

Mulligan notes that the division of Melbourne into 32 separate local government areas means that project implementation, although slow to build local government collaboration, is paying off.

“Slow, yet patient work aimed at actively including as many as possible of metropolitan Local Government Authorities has paid off with unprecedented levels of collaboration between them,” he said.

“This has exceeded the expectations of even the most ardent project supporters.”

Report co-author Dr Blythe McLennan from the RMIT Centre for Risk and Community Safety believes it’s too early to say if the Rockefeller Foundation’s investment in Melbourne will leave a lasting legacy, but it is encouraging the right conversations around resilience.

“Our research suggests that the groundwork has already generated some innovative policy and practice dialogues and has demonstrated the benefits of whole-of-city thinking,” McLennan said.

“The project is clearly an important vehicle to cross-fertilise existing policies and practices which may otherwise operate with little reference to each other such as physical and social planning; economic and community development; or infrastructure and biodiversity.

“More will need to be done to build support and involvement within the private sector and to foster deeper local government support for the project.”

Story: Chanel Bearder


Originally published on RMIT News, 7 June 2016