Planning Responses to 'Shock' and 'Slow-Burn' Events: the Role of Redundancy in Regional Resilience

Lead Research Organisation: University of Birmingham
Department Name: CURS


This proposal is to stage two separate seminar events in the UK and Japan during 2012/13 organised jointly by the University of Birmingham and Waseda University. The principal aim of the seminars is to examine theory and practice on regional resilience and the role of redundancy in adapting to 'shock' and 'slow-burn' events. The two core concepts 'resilience' and 'redundancy' are well developed in the physical and natural sciences. The aim of the seminar is to explore the relevance of these concepts to socio-economic systems (planning, economy, housing markets etc..) across cities and regions. Resilience has been defined as the capacity to withstand and rebound from disruptive challenges or shock, and is a concept that has largely grown out of the natural and physical sciences. It was defined in the 1970s by Buzz Holling as a system's ability to "absorb change and disturbance and still maintain the same relationships between populations or state variables" (Holling, 1973, p.14). At the individual human level, social psychology has emphasised the behavioural adjustments necessary to maintain resilience to life events (divorce, disability etc.) and daily 'hassles'. There has therefore emerged a synthesis of definitions from social psychological and physical science that has defined resilience as the capacity to withstand change and resist shocks by maintaining a steady state and returning quickly to 'equilibrium'.

The concept of 'redundancy' is recognised as a key component of maintaining equilibrium in ecological and engineering systems. However, most people would probably associate redundancy with unemployment and job loss. That's because redundancy can mean that something is superfluous. Redundancy in ecological systems has been identified as the way in which elements of a system can be substituted during a shock or something which adapts to satisfying functional requirements in the event of disruption. Examples may include the role that bacteria played in the cleansing of the Gulf of Mexico following the oil spill of 2010 or back-up electronic navigation systems in aircraft which come in to play when there is system failure. Redundancy can therefore be viewed as an insurance policy against disaster which acts as a means of establishing equilibrium during shock events. But, determining redundancy is a question of time and judgment - who decides what is redundant and when it is redundant is crucial to determining resilience in social and economic systems. Therefore there are important policy considerations and resources at stake in this research and the events will explore these concepts and the potential policy outcomes responses to shock at the urban-regional scale. Holling was concerned about major ecological and biological systems and the response of these systems to 'shocks'. The purpose of measuring equilibrium following a sudden shock event such as 9/11 or the Tohoku (Japan) earthquake is undoubted: getting people back on the streets and reducing fear, restarting businesses and re-housing and reallocating people affected by flood are all valid measures of rebound and equilibrium. But what about at the regional and city scale and the role of redundancy for cities and regions in arriving at equilibrium or evolving to a new state? We are concerned with the relevance to cities and regions and the longer term responses necessary. We will look at the experience following the 2011 earthquake in Japan as well 'slow-burn' shocks such what has happened in Longbridge (UK) and recent austerity and recession. By looking at the features of regional planning and economy in contexts that have been affected by different shocks we can begin to answer some of these important questions. The globally significant events of Japan will be explored first-hand and compared with slow-burn shocks within the UK to understand what elements of the urban-regional planning system can assist in the process of resilience.

Planned Impact

This is a research topic of global importance and therefore findings will be wide reaching and have an impact on a wide range of organisations in each country and globally and the quality of life of citizens and the ability of policymakers to respond to shocks over the longer term. The theme of redundancy in resilient systems has impact on a range of issues from security and equilibrium responses, through to strategic planning and new ways of considering resource allocation and the identification of resources to withstand shocks across urban and regional scales. We have identified a number of agencies who would benefit from this research seminar event:

1) Government departments in both the UK and Japan will be affected by findings and research papers emerging from this event; in the UK government departments responsible for strategic planning and resilience such as DCLG, the Cabinet Office and Home Office in the UK and which are jointly responsible for developing resilience strategies under the Civil Contingencies Act 2004 will be a focus for our dissemination strategy;
2) In Japan the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism is responsible for the earthquake response and our work will have significance impact and relevance to the ongoing strategy of stabilising and redeveloping the region following the earthquake and tsunami
3) Government departments developing foresight and scenario planning tools eg; the Foresight Horizon Scanning Cent
4) In addition, a briefing will be prepared for Monbusho as they have previously commissioned research on comparative urban and regional planning and regeneration to which the co-applicants have contributed;
5) Birmingham City Council and the surrounding and adjacent local authorities forming the Local Enterprise Partnership as well as the Black Country LEP; other local authorities and LEPs exposed to a mixture of plant closure, austerity measures and recession in the UK
6) In Japan Miyagi Prefecture and cities and towns within Miyagi as well as Prefectures across the Tohoku regions will benefit from findings related to the longer term development of the region following the earthquake
7) The findings will also be relevant to larger metropolitan regions and cities in Japan that were indirectly affected such as a Tokyo Metropolitan Government where our research network has strong links
8) The Local Government Association (LGA) in the UK and equivalent in Japan including the Council of Local Authorities for International Relations (CLAIR) representing interests and disseminating relevant findings of research internationally to its members in Japan
9) Professional bodies and practice: the University of Birmingham has developed networks and research and consultancy with a range of range of professional bodies including the Homes and Communities Agency (HCA), the Chartered Institute of Housing (CIH) and Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI) - resilience across urban and regional systems is a key priority for these agencies.
10) There is a global significance to the theme of redundancy in resilient systems which we would explore through the UN and EU as part of a resilient cities and regions briefing
11) Students and internationalisation of the learning experience: this programme will impact on the longer term experience of students and researchers at the two institutions and contribute to the enrichment of learning in the two institutions. This is part of a longer-term strategy to develop planning and resilience studies between Japan and the UK;
12) Research: We would build on previous UK-Japan collaboration through the development of a broader comparative proposal on the topic and draw on our international network; develop exchange programmes for academics, students and professionals and develop a shared teaching programme enhanced by the Universitas21 programme.
Description The findings and outputs related to 'resilience' & social inclusion strategies and spatial policies at neighbourhood and city-regional level:
i. Redundancy of design in city-regional planning networks and information / knowledge exchange is a necessity;
ii. there is a need for a more 'realistic' evaluation of interventions and outcomes placing emphasis on context-mechanisms-outcomes of resilience discourses;
iii. a blending of top-down regional planning knowledge with more tacit level knowledge of households and communities;
iv. recognition that diversification, which may not have arisen without the emergency situation or shock event, can assist the opportunity for recovery;
v. community engagement is key to resilience and the need for diversity and linking of groups who have experienced shock events to let the communities learn from each other.
The research project assisted Birmingham Resilience in the development of Recovery Planning as the project reinforced the emphasis on the need to consider more than replacement in recovery. More emphasis has been placed on this in the city's resilience guidance document and the emphasis on opportunities for regeneration and growth. Both the Resilience Strategy and the Neighbourhood Strategy for Birmingham reflect perspectives developed in the seminars.
Exploitation Route The seminar series was successful in aligning a number of local and regional policy actors including Neighbourhood Services, Planning, Local Strategic Partnership, Birmingham Resilience and West Midlands Councils and challenging their thinking on resilience and the role of redundancy in resilient urban systems.
Sectors Communities and Social Services/Policy,Education,Government, Democracy and Justice

Description Following the seminar series the PI established a role as adviser to Birmingham City Council on policy review scrutiny committee reports on 'Fair Finance and Devolution' and 'Place Making and Neighbourhood Services'. The concept of resilience has been used at city and city-regional level in Birmingham in a way that has not considered diversity or redundancy (resource) within communities. The concept of redundancy has contributed to ideas around diversity of delivery and has assisted the city in looking differently at resources within communities. Recommendations for a new funding formula for devolved finance of services has been written by the PI and has used the concept of redundancy to inform the process of allocation by basing it on a more diverse and context specific formula including need (deprivation), resource (social capital and physical assets), path dependency (function of district, urban morphology and infrastructure utilisation) and intensity (movement and population). In devolved structures, communities can only be resilient if the underlying structural limitations (or opportunities) are recognised and that context specific mechanisms and resources are put in place to deliver 'good' outcomes.
First Year Of Impact 2014
Sector Communities and Social Services/Policy,Education,Government, Democracy and Justice
Impact Types Cultural,Societal,Economic,Policy & public services

Description FAPESP/Newton Fund
Amount £10,000 (GBP)
Organisation São Paulo Research Foundation (FAPESP) 
Sector Public
Country Brazil
Start 09/2016 
End 09/2016
Description JPI Urban Europe ENSUF Smart Shrinkage Solutions - Fostering Resilient Cities in Inner Peripheries of Europe (3S RECIPE)
Amount £1,690,000 (GBP)
Funding ID ES/R000352/1 
Organisation European Commission 
Department Horizon 2020
Sector Public
Country European Union (EU)
Start 03/2017 
End 03/2020
Description Urban Innovative Actions (USE-IT!)
Amount € 3,640,000 (EUR)
Organisation European Commission 
Department European Regional Development Fund (ERDF)
Sector Public
Country Belgium
Start 11/2016 
End 10/2019
Description Risk After Fukushima: Redundancy and Regional Resilience 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Presentation to IDDR-Science Po conference on Risk After Fukushima, Paris 17-18 September 2012.

Made networks and collaboration with policymakers and academics in resilience field
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2012
Description Risk After Fukushima: Redundancy and Regional Resilience 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Presentation to University of Birmingham, School of Geography seminar series - this was one of the largest attended seminars in the School series with more than 160 people attending

Networking opportunities and changes in attitudes; created collaborative environment with new researcher network
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2012
Description The Role of Redundancy in Regional Resilience in UK and Japan 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Other academic audiences (collaborators, peers etc.)
Results and Impact Presentation to Smart Energy Cities conference, Loughborough University 17th-18th April 2012, on planning, redundancy and energy policy.

Changed some attitudes to redundancy in social science academics
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2012
Description The Role of Redundancy in Resilient Approaches to Slow Burn and Sudden Shock Events 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Other academic audiences (collaborators, peers etc.)
Results and Impact Generated inter-disciplinary discussion on redundancy in design of socio-technical systems

This was conducted in November 2014 so no demonstrable impacts as yet
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014