Developing co-created smart city solutions for managed adaptation and monitoring of hydro-meteorological climate change related risk in Mexico

Lead Research Organisation: University of Edinburgh
Department Name: Edinburgh College of Art


The sharp growth of Latin American cities in the last decades has led to an increase of vulnerable communities in informal settlements on land exposed to hazards. These are affected by climate change-related risks such as changes in surface, temperature, droughts, flooding, and more aggressive hurricanes, heightening the need to improve the resilience of such communities. Diseases associated with new atmospheric conditions are some of the consequences, further increasing the displacement of people towards cities. As urban areas expand, current levels of vulnerability, socio-spatial segregation and inequality are aggravated by an increasing demand of housing. In order to reduce disasters it is essential to develop innovative, co-created strategies for managing risk and increase resilience. 'Smart city' approaches offer an integrative perspective, establishing the potential for emerging collaboration between city governments and technology contractors. However, these technological solutions tend to be dependent with top-down ideas, which do not necessarily take into account the needs of, or benefit for people living in poor informal communities. Those challenges that 'smart cities approaches' are faced with reflect a need for context-specific strategies and solutions that respond to the needs of the most vulnerable. Therefore, the aim of this project is to enable city communities to monitor and mitigate climate change-related risks as well as enable communities to develop strategies to adapt to those risks through the co-creation of local, bottom-up initiatives using smart-city solutions.

The project will develop an interactive networking smart-technology, enabling city-communities to share best practice on monitoring climate change-related challenges, and to allow them to create solutions that enhance managed adaptation, in close collaboration with local and national institutions, and other relevant stakeholders. The research is structured around three work packages aimed to address the following questions: (i) how do local communities and local institutions perceive and adapt to climate change-related risks and what are the roles of private and public sector organisations in taking adaptive action? (ii) how could a co-created smart-technology help communities to monitor and adapt to these climate change risks? (iii) how can this technology, using community knowledge and experience, help create and influence climate change-related local and national policies?

The research will focus on a pilot case study in México City (Penón neighbourhood), where a traditional community is confronting flooding risk challenges. Using focus groups and semi-structured interviews, the research will implement an interactive dialogue between community members, government institutions, as well as NGOs and other stakeholders, including support agencies, and private businesses. This dialogue will result in the development of risk-mitigating strategies and actions, including smart technologies, which will be tested over the project, in order to evaluate pilot experiences and upscale these into a larger city area. Lessons learnt about risk management in Mexico City have the potential to be easily disseminated across the developing world.

Communities will be empowered through engaging in identifying, developing and testing strategies for risk-monitoring, mitigation and adaptation. The social, economic and political aspects of impacted communities, as well as an understanding the the physical origins of climate change risks, will contribute to developing resilience and prevent the consequences of exposure to hazards. Finally, considering both the macro-scale and the local scale, understanding that change can emerge in collaboration with local communities and policy makers, the project will provide, along with best community practices, opportunities for interaction and negotiation between actors for increasing resilience and reducing vulnerability.

Planned Impact

The proposed project builds on ongoing collaboration between academics in the UK & Mexico, and existing collaboration between Mexican partners and local institutions involved in climate change-related policy development. Initially, specific case study communities involved in the project in Mexico City will benefit from training and in-situ piloting of community-managed risk monitoring, mitigation and adaptation measures as well as on the developed and testing smart technologies. The evaluation of this experience will provide an initial core of 'trainers of trainers' to help spreading such measures across the city. Pilot demonstration projects will also foster informal copying, which has been successful in the researchers' experience in other developing countries. At the local level, the research workshops and findings will contribute to implementing cross-sectoral risk management.

At national and local levels, the findings from the research will inform decision-making and actions implemented by stakeholders involved in climate change-related risk monitoring and mitigation in Mexico City including: at the national government level: Comisión Nacional del Agua (CONAGUA) aimed to "prevent the risks derived from meteorological and hydro-meteorological phenomena and attend to their effects", through the relocation of human settlements in high-risk areas and monitoring and provision of timely and reliable information of the occurrence of severe hydro-meteorological events. The Centro Nacional de Prevención de Desastres (CENAPRED) researches natural phenomena, e.g. hurricanes and heavy rains, and delivers educational training on civil protection culture. The Sistema Nacional de Protección Civil (SINAPROC) aimed to integrate actions for risk mitigation and response to disasters. The Secretaria de Desarrollo Agrario Territorial y Urbano (SEDATU), responsible for territorial planning and for the promotion of risks prevention in human settlements, including the Risk Atlas, mitigation works, and feasibility and cost-benefit studies for the relocation of the population in areas at risk. At the regional level: the Gobierno de la Ciudad de Mexico (CDMX), through the Secretaria de Protección Civil, which promotes identification of risk areas, such as the Public Atlas of Hazards and Risks of Mexico City. Also, the Sistema de Aguas de la Ciudad de México (SACMEX), in charge of management and distribution of water in Mexico City. At the local level: 'Delegacion Venustiano Carranza', directly involved in the prevention and attention to the disasters. The project will also engage with innovative bottom-up experimental activities: e.g. Laboratorio para la Ciudad

International projection will be ensured through establishing a dialogue with relevant international actors in the field including the Environment and Human Settlements Division of the Economic Commission for Latin America (CEPAL), EM-DAT, and USAID. The investigation will be of great interest to policy makers and practitioners across the Global South affected by climate change-related risks.

The close involvement of the project partners in local and regional government will ensure that the project has an impact on the development of policy and practice moving forward. The regional and national levels of landslide risk management will be involved through targeted invitation to a National Forum in Mexico City An understanding of different stakeholders' perceptions, the findings from the in-situ pilots and co-design methods emerging from them, and the experience of multi-stakeholder workshops for strategic decision-making will provide a basis for changing attitudes and actions across the international and multi-disciplinary partners involved in the project and beyond. The collaborative nature of this research will contribute to challenge existing ways of understanding and managing risks and allow for learning through interaction across disciplines and contexts.


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Description UPDATE MARCH 2023
The project has gathered data to identify co-created solutions for reducing hydro-meteorological risks in Mexico City, and has identified opportunities for agreement between communities and institutions towards the development of mitigation and adaptation strategies. These risks are related to repeated flash-flooding events that occur 2-3 times per year in the affected neighbourhoods, which have increased in frequency due to climate change driving more intense rainfall. In particular, the collaboration between the University of Edinburgh / Heriot-Watt University and the National Polytechnical Institute of Mexico has produced and is currently piloting a new mobile application (COLMENHA, for Collaborative Management for Emergencies and Natural Hazards Adaptation) aimed at facilitating the implementation of flooding risk reduction measures and strategies in the affected neighbourhoods. The mobile app is being co-developed through an ongoing iterative process in collaboration between communities, government and academic institutions. To this aim, the initial stages of this research focused on working with two vulnerable neighbourhoods, La Colmena-Ermita Zaragoza, located in one of the most deprived sectors of the city, the Iztapalapa municipality, and El Peñon, which is located in the Venustiano Carranza municipality. The action-research process enabled the academic team to engage with the communities living in La Colmena and El Peñon to gain an understanding of the specific impacts and risks associated with the increase of intense rainfall, along with community needs in relation with risk management in the periods before, during, and after a flooding event. In parallel, interviews and focus groups were conducted with key government institutions that are developing policy and actions to tackle these risks, in order to ensure that the strategies identified at the neighbourhood scale can inform the development of wider city-scale strategies. Through this work, the project co-produced a series of so-called 'smart-city' solutions that are socially acceptable and appropriate to meet community needs in the different moments of the flooding risk cycle: these smart solutions are now being piloted through the use of a single mobile application developed by the research team in the two target neighbourhoods, as described above. Importantly, risk management and resilience, as well as smart solutions, are all current government priorities, which is a critical advantage for this project in terms of achieving impact. Overall the project has led to the following findings: -New knowledge of community perceptions of hydro-meteorological risks at the local, neighbourhood level in Mexico City; -New knowledge of government institution perceptions of risk and risk management strategies to be implemented during this presidential term, which are relevant to the aims of the project and have the potential to lead to tangible impact through the ongoing co-creation and smart solution piloting process, as the findings can inform policy development; -Interactions across the research team have led to a rich academic exchange among academic groups with diverse disciplinary backgrounds, engineering, sociology, architecture, data science, etc., and are leading to innovative methodologies and approaches to research development. A rewarding component of this project has therefore been sharing methodological approaches from different fields and interlocking these during fieldwork. Guidance has been created that helps in understanding the rationale and purpose for the methods used throughout the research. In addition, knowledge sharing sessions have been organised by the research team on a range of methodological approaches (i.e. participatory planning appraisal methodologies). The research process and outcomes will be thoroughly documented as part of a book that is currently in preparation, and will be published in Spanish. A second book related with this project is currently in preparation, titled "Urban resilience and climate change in Latin America", and has been accepted for publication as a special volume of the British Academy. This volume presents the theoretical advances in the field of integrated risk management built from our recent research projects in Latin America, along with a series of case studies in Latin America showcasing co-production approaches to risk management.
Exploitation Route UPDATE MARCH 2023
The binational research team is currently finalising publications documenting the research process, findings and outputs. The research is currently impacting policy development focused on reducing hydro-meteorological risks in Mexico City, through piloting the use of the mobile application developed in this project in two vulnerable neighbourhoods. This mobile application has the potential to be transferred and adapted for the specific needs of other vulnerable communities in Mexico City or elsewhere in the Global South, in collaboration with the relevant local authorities. The project methodologies, findings, and outputs, including the mobile application, was be shared with local Mexico City risk management institutions at an upcoming online 2-day knowledge exchange event in March 2022, titled "Co-producing urban resilience to climate change: Innovation for integrated risk management". The event also featured invited speakers from UK and international academic institutions, and the reflections gathered from this event form the basis of a special volume that will be published by the British Academy, titled "Urban resilience and climate change in Latin America". Furthermore, the collaborative work identified priorities among a range of public sector and community organisations within Mexico City. As the strategic approach continues to develop through the pilot studies currently underway, this experience will form the basis for the implementation of similar strategies elsewhere in the city and internationally, with significant impact expected at the local neighbourhood level, through increasing the resilience of those directly exposed to hydro-meteorological risks by facilitating more integrated risk management. The project team has worked in the past three years within an extensive network in the cities in the Global South (e.g., Medellin, Sao Paulo and Puebla) and the findings from this research will be shared across these academic and non-academic communities. In Mexico City, careful targeting of key organisations and understanding of their priorities, as well as opportunities for collaboration, has led the process throughout. In addition, the project team (Mexico-UK) is continuing to conduct meetings, interviews and workshops with key government institutions driving policy aimed at increasing resilience and adaptation capacity in Mexico city, and has established avenues for collaboration in which the findings of the project are informing future directions in policy development and decision-making. Through informing and facilitating integrated risk management strategies, the findings of this project are directly feeding into the application of the new Law of Integrated Risk Management and Civil Protection of Mexico City (2021) and its related programmes which remain in development at the time of this report. As well as community organisations, government institutions that have participated in focus groups and interviews include: the national water commission of Mexico (CONAGUA), the planning department, the secretariat for integrated risk management and civil protection (SGIRPC), and municipal government representatives. In total, five focus groups were conducted with community members, as well as fifteen interviews (community level), and a survey with 97 respondents (including 94 from La Colmena-Ermita Zaragoza, and 20 from El Peñon). In addition, 17 interviews were conducted with institutional actors, including employees of the Civil Protection of Mexico City, the Federal Department for Risk Reduction, the City and Municipal governments. Furthermore, three interviews were conducted with private companies with technical expertise in water management, and one with an academic researcher familiar with the planning policies in Mexico. Fieldwork was carried out in February 2023 where the technology developed and tested at the community level was presented to SACMEX, Iztapalapa Alcaldia and SGIRPC, which have been extremely impressed with the results of the research and recommended the upscaling of this technology to other neighbourhoods in the city. A summary of the findings and institutional support can be found here In particular SGIRPC proposed the implementation of the community-based risk management framework for the selected neighbourhoods as step forward. The team has participated from a recent call from AT&T (, to further develop the technology co-created through the project and our proposal has been shortlisted from 56 applications to 16, we have now presented the research at an event organised by AT&T and are waiting to receive the outcome.
Sectors Agriculture, Food and Drink,Communities and Social Services/Policy,Digital/Communication/Information Technologies (including Software),Environment,Government, Democracy and Justice

Description UPDATE MARCH 2023 The project's activities have progressed successfully, since the start date in February 2019, despite inevitable delays due to slow processing of funding in CONACYT, Mexico. Our colleagues in IPN, our partner academic institution in Mexico, only received legal confirmation of funding from CONACYT in July 2019 and received the first payment for the research in January 2020. Therefore, the project's end date in Mexico is July 2023. The Edinburgh-based team received UKRI ODA funding to continue until this date. Despite initial delays, most of the fieldwork has been completed (see Key Findings section). Online team meetings have regularly taken place between the UK-based and Mexico-based research teams to identify methodologies and approaches for the programmed activities. A thorough review of existing research around climate change-related hazards, vulnerability and risk, climate change policy from global and national perspectives, as well as existing practices around co-production of adaptation strategies, has also been completed and this is guiding the theoretical background of academic papers and books which are currently in preparation. In addition, extensive documentation has been collected in relation to smart-city solutions, with particular relevance to Mexico City. Four full team meetings including both the UK-based and Mexico-based research teams were conducted in person in Mexico during fieldwork prior to the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic (May 2019, September 2019, December 2019 and February 2020). Two of these visits (May and September 2019) were attached to another ongoing project in Puebla that part of the research team is involved in, allowing for further interaction and impact across a wider range of academic and non-academic institutions. The fieldwork in December 2019 included meetings with the project team, the presentation of findings from the literature reviews, visits to the pilot study neighbourhoods, as well as interviews with officials and project leaders of other initiatives in the city aimed at increasing resilience and adaptation, such as the Cuitlahuac Park development. During this trip, the team elaborated the full project programme, considering initial delays, and jointly developed interview and focus group guides. In February 2020, the team conducted two focus group meetings in La Colmena, which is the principal pilot study area for the research (further planned focus groups in the second pilot research area, El Peñon, could not take place due to the onset of the pandemic). These focus groups allowed the researchers to identify the specific impacts of hydro-meteorological risk in this area, community needs, and appropriate smart solutions to be implemented. These focus groups also identified the need to undertake participatory appraisals to identify in detail the conditions of the neighbourhood and the areas at higher risk within it. A subsequent virtual workshop was conducted in August 2020 with community members, and served to refine the design of the pilot projects. Finally, to discuss the objectives of the project and its relevance to policy development, throughout 2021 the UK-Mexico project team met with various government officials at the local, municipal and city level, including members of the Mexico City Civil Protection. These meetings have been instrumental to ensure that the project aligns with recently developed city-strategic approaches, under the newly elected administration, as well as to identify relevant areas within the city to pilot the co-created smart-city solutions, in the form of the mobile application which is currently being applied in the context of two vulnerable neighbourhoods. These pilot projects will directly feed into the design of the city and municipality programmes associated with the new Law of Integrated Risk Management of Mexico City (2021), which are currently in development. Covid-19 Impact on project's activities: The project originally aimed to gather knowledge of flooding adaptation measures used by communities in the La Colmena-Ermita Zaragoza area of Mexico City and scale these measures up to a second flood-prone neighbourhood (El Peñon). A set of interviews and focus groups in the second neighbourhood were also planned prior to implementing the identified pilot projects deemed as appropriate 'smart-city' adaptation solutions. However, as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, focus groups could not be conducted with residents of the El Peñon neighbourhood and very few respondents (20 in total) engaged with the survey carried out (compared to 94 respondents from the survey conducted in La Colmena neighbourhood prior to the pandemic) as people in the area were coping with a large number of illnesses and deaths. As a result, the fieldwork and data collection relating to the El Peñon neighbourhood was prematurely halted. Fieldwork has now resumed in El Peñon. However, the co-creation of the 'smart-city' adaptation strategies with the community and local government institutions in La Colmena has led to the creation of a bespoke mobile application aimed at facilitating integrated risk management, which could be adapted for future use in El Peñon, as well as in other vunerable urban neighbourhoods in Mexico City and elsewhere in the Global South. The app is currently being piloted in collaboration with the Civil Protection of Mexico City in the two case study neighbourhoods exposed to flooding risk. The additional research visits by the UK researchers to Mexico planned for August 2020 to participate in the proposed focus groups, aimed at continuing the process of co-creation with the La Colmena community, could not take place due to the travel restrictions brought on by the pandemic. However, a series of virtual focus group meetings were held instead with the community and the pilot activities were implemented. The UK and Mexico research teams met virtually twice per month throughout the project to maintain progress on the research objectives, which are progressing at a satisfactory pace progressed to the co-creation of the first implementation of the app in La Colmena, despite the obstacles posed by the pandemic. In addition, the project methodologies, findings, and outputs, including the mobile application, were shared with local Mexico City risk management institutions at an online 2-day knowledge exchange event in March 2021, titled "Co-producing urban resilience to climate change: Innovation for integrated risk management". The event featured invited speakers from UK and international academic institutions and the reflections gathered from this event form the basis of a special volume that will be published by the British Academy, titled "Urban resilience and climate change in Latin America".
First Year Of Impact 2021
Sector Communities and Social Services/Policy,Digital/Communication/Information Technologies (including Software),Education,Environment
Impact Types Societal,Economic

Title Developing co-created smart city solutions for managed adaptation and monitoring of hydro-meteorological climate change related risk in Mexico > Research Datasets, Databases & Models 
Description The project has developed a unique dataset regarding the perceptions of residents of flood-prone communities in Mexico City on the causes of flooding, the impacts on them, the solutions they have implemented at the community or household level, and acceptable solutions to scale up these efforts at the level of the municipality. The dataset was collated from focus groups and surveys conducted with local residents, as well as interviews with local authorities engaged in flooding risk reduction. This dataset will form the basis of publications and the analysis of this dataset will be valuable for reducing risk in other similar flood-prone communities in Mexico City, as well as other urban areas of Mexico or Latin America. 
Type Of Material Data handling & control 
Year Produced 2021 
Provided To Others? No  
Impact The dataset is supporting the development of a range of academic papers and a book publication. 
Description Developing co-created smart city solutions for managed adaptation and monitoring of hydro-meteorological climate change related risk in Mexico > Collaborations and Partnerships 
Organisation National Technological Institute of Mexico
Country Mexico 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution Researchers based at the UK institutions (University of Edinburgh and Heriot Watt University) have contributed expertise in relation to urban planning, climate change risks and community-based adaptation strategies, as well as a literature review around the concept of smart-cities and a scoping review around flood risk adaptation strategies in the Global South. These reviews form the basis for forthcoming publications.
Collaborator Contribution Researchers based at the Mexican institution (Instituto Politécnico Nacional) have contributed detailed case studies of two flood-prone neighbourhoods in Mexico City, as well as literature reviews around the concepts of co-production and the governance framework around climate change impacts and flooding risk in Mexico and Mexico City. These reports will also contribute to the forthcoming publications.
Impact Three focus groups concerning flooding impacts and adaptation solutions were jointly carried out by UK and Mexican researchers with residents of the flood-prone neighbourhood of La Colmena, in the municipality of Iztapalapa (Mexico City). Two of these were carried out in person prior to the onset of the Covid-19 crisis, and one was subsequently carried out virtually. A survey of residents was also completed, with 94 respondents. These activities have produced datasets and reports detailing the flooding impacts and local adaptation solutions of this low-income community in Mexico City, for inclusion in forthcoming publications. The collaboration has also led to two bi-lateral knowledge-exchange events between groups of Masters students in the Urban Design programmes at the University of Edinburgh and Instituto Politécnico Nacional. These events were organised by the students in both countries and featured student and guest presentations. 65 people attended the most recent event held virtually on 25 February 2021 (event website:
Start Year 2019
Title COLMEHNA, for Collaborative Management for Emergencies and Natural Hazards Adaptation 
Description The collaboration between the University of Edinburgh and the National Polytechnical Institute of Mexico has produced and is currently piloting a new mobile application aimed at facilitating the implementation of flooding risk reduction measures and strategies in vulnerable neighbourhoods of Mexico City. The app was developed through an ongoing process of co-production between local communities, government and academia, and is designed to meet community and government needs before, during and after a flooding event. Based on a series of focus groups and interviews with representatives of local communities and government institutions, the app was designed to meet three identified needs: i) the need for two-way knowledge exchange between local communities and government authorities; ii) the need to systematise the informal communication mechanisms currently used to communicate between communities and government authorities; iii) the need for information sharing regarding risk management and risk reduction. All of these needs have been taken into account in the design of the app, which has been reviewed and approved by the local communities as part of the co-production process and is now being reviewed and piloted by government authorities in 5 vulnerable neighbourhoods. 
Type Of Technology Webtool/Application 
Year Produced 2021 
Impact This mobile application has the potential to be transferred and adapted for the specific needs of other vulnerable communities in Mexico City or elsewhere in the Global South, in collaboration with the relevant local authorities. The proposed name of the app is COLMEHNA, for Collaborative Management for Emergencies and Natural Hazards Adaptation, to reflect the name of one of the original case study neighbourhoods 'La Colmena'. This name also means 'hive' in Spanish, reflecting the interconnections and collaborative efforts between stakeholders for risk management that the app is designed to facilitate. 
Description Focus groups with community members in a flood-prone area of Mexico City (La Colmena, Iztapalapa municipality) 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Study participants or study members
Results and Impact Three focus groups were conducted with residents affected by repeated flash-flooding (2-3 times annually) in the area of La Colmena, in the municipality of Iztapalapa, Mexico City. Two of these focus groups took place with 12 participants each on 20 February 2020, and were conducted in person with researchers from the UK and Mexican institutions prior to the onset of the Covid-19 crisis. At these initial meetings, participants were led in a discussion of the impacts that flooding had on them, the perceived causes of the flooding, the local adaptation measures that residents have been using, and their perceptions of further solutions. Following these meetings, three short videos were prepared by the researchers with details of the flooding impacts, causes and adaptation solutions. These videos were shown to community members at a virtual focus group that was conducted on 12 August 2020, with 8 participants. Although fewer participants could be engaged following the onset of the covid-19 crisis, due to the economic and sanitary crises and their consequences on local people and their livelihoods, participants discussed the videos, agreed with the material being presented and gave additional insights on the causes and consequences of flooding in their neighbourhood. Participants agreed to continue participating in an ongoing co-creation process seeking acceptable and feasible technological adaptation solutions that will be piloted in the final phase of the project.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020
Description Ongoing engagement with Integrated Risk Management and Civil Protection Office of Mexico City (city level government) 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact Ongoing co-production of risk management strategies in Mexico City with the Integrated Risk Management and Civil Protection Office of Mexico City (city level government), based on knowledge gathered by the research project on the needs of local communities affected by repeated flash flooding. In particular, this collaboration centres on the co-production of an app which centralises communication and information relating to actions before, during and after flooding.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019,2020,2021,2022,2023