• Safer Highways

Atkins - Making Resilience More Than a Buzzword Through an Integrated Approach


Resilience has become a buzzword that mainstreams governmental programs, but “resilience” could mean different things to stakeholders who are influenced by different drivers.


While many stakeholders understand the general concept of resilience, getting buy-in from stakeholders who have narrowly defined roles and responsibilities that do not necessarily fit into a broad understanding of what “resilience” is can be challenging. When stakeholders can’t envision their impact on building their community’s resilience, they’re not likely to participate in the conversation, or worse still, may see the resilience effort as a hindrance to their day-to-day responsibilities.

Building urban flood resilience requires multidisciplinary stakeholders and an integrated approach to drive change and promote innovations. To manage the challenge of getting stakeholders to work together, three ideas come to mind that I have applied and refined over time:

  1. Understand Stakeholders’ Objectives. Stakeholders can have an impact on the outcome of building resilience in a positive or negative way; therefore, stakeholder engagement should purposely start early and continue throughout the planning process. Once stakeholders are identified, understanding their organizational mission and personal interest or motivation is key. The engagement approach to each stakeholder should be deliberate and adjusted based on our understanding and their ability to influence the outcome.

  2. Find Early Adopters among Stakeholders. Stakeholders adapt to change differently. Early adopters are those who are willing to take a risk if basic questions are answered. Figuring out who the early adopters are among stakeholders will help us invest our initial energy. Once the early adopters move, the rest will eventually move in behind them (The Primes by Chris McGoff, 2012).

  3. Maintain Engagement Through Knowledge Sharing and Piloting Projects.Building resilience is an ongoing process. Stakeholders should have a forum to exchange knowledge and build coalition to gain support from their leadership team. Developing and delivering small but achievable pilot projects will help strengthen partnerships and engagement, as well as generate new ideas and solutions.

In recent decades, the world has been urbanizing rapidly (United Nations, 2018). In 1950, only 30% of the world’s population lived in cities—a proportion that grew to 55% in 2018. By 2050, 68% of the world’s population is projected to be living in cities. In 2018, North America was the most urbanized region in the world with 82% of the population living in urban areas.


Although living in cities is appealing, cities face a growing range of challenges in the 21st century, especially when it comes to the intersection of climate change and the reality of inadequate and aging infrastructure. Flooding—already the most common natural disaster in the US—is only projected to worsen in many areas with climate change impacts. Where cites are vulnerable to disasters that are exacerbated by climate change, the pendulum of responsibility for flood risk management is swinging back from federal toward local governments. Furthermore, while water management policies are fragmented, building urban flood resilience requires integration in terms of collaborative governance, and integrated tools and approaches in water quality and quantity management.

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