Technology Enhanced Stakeholder Collaboration for Supporting Risk-Sensitive Urban Development [TRANSCEND]

Lead Research Organisation: University of Salford
Department Name: Sch of the Built Environment


During the last decade, many initiatives have been undertaken to make progress in disaster risk reduction (DRR) and response. However the progress in disaster risk reduction has been limited by the failure to acknowledge and address the development processes as the root causes of disasters. Previous initiatives have concentrated on reducing existing risks, rather than on how risks are generated and accumulated in the first place through development projects that are taking place as a part of the reconstruction phase after a disaster or in response to the demand of urban sprawl. Furthermore, work on resilience has attracted criticism for its failure to involve vulnerable communities and address the issue of equity and power. As a result, the Sustainable Development Goals which call for "reduced inequalities", "inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable cities" and "partnerships for goals" and the Sendai Priority 4 that calls for build-back better in recovery, rehabilitation and reconstruction, are hard to achieve due to a lack of research knowledge, current practices and policies.

One of the explanations for increasing risks is that the development and disaster risk reduction decision-making processes occur in silos, conducted by different agencies, institutions and other actors with differing priorities, perspectives and time horizons. Therefore, there is an urgent need to transform current development practices that increase or create risks, as well as unfairly distributing risks to vulnerable communities, to a new form of development practice that is equitable and resilient. This project consortium believe such a transformation can be achieved by enabling cross-organisational collaboration, openness, adaptability, learning, impartiality, power sharing and public participation.

The project aims to investigate processes, governance structures, policies and technology that can enable a transition towards a more risk-sensitive and transformative urban development approach. More specifically, the project aims to investigate the nature of a sociotechnical system, enabled by a collaborative foresight and consensus building virtual workspace, which can promote collaborative governance approach across relevant organisations and support the transparent and democratic involvement of all the relevant stakeholders (including experts from local authorities, disaster management authorities, developers, poor and vulnerable communities, and humanitarian organisations) to analyse, forecast, visualize and debate disaster-risk trade-offs and to choose development plans that ensure sustainability and equitable resilience, giving considerations to climate change adaptation.

The key research questions that the project is aiming to address are: What type of formal and informal collaborative partnerships need to be established to alleviate long-standing tensions between development and DRR and progress towards more risk-sensitive and transformative urban development? What changes are required within the current urban planning process to facilitate risk-sensitive urban development, giving consideration to natural disasters and their impact on the environment, economy and vulnerable communities? What are the type of narratives that need to be developed, presented and discussed to establish a comprehensive understanding of the impact of the proposed developments on the community, economy and environment ? What are the vulnerabilities that need to be considered within the local context? How can we make participatory planning more accessible to a range of communities?

Three countries (Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Malaysia) from the Asia-Pacific region have been selected for this research since the Asia-Pacific region continues to be the world's most disaster prone region. These countries are frequently affected by a multitude of natural hazards including floods, landslides, cyclones and droughts.

Planned Impact

Communities (especially vulnerable communities) who are currently excluded from the decision-making process of urban development project planning will benefit since they will be able to engage in an informed and meaningful discussion with the decision-makers to influence development projects which will enhance their quality of life and resilience to future disasters. They will be able to gain an understanding as to how development projects can either escalate or reduce their vulnerability and influence the design, planning and delivery of housing and local infrastructure.

Disaster Management Agencies who are responsible for disaster mitigation, prevention, preparedness and response will benefit since they will be in a position to work closely with the local authorities and private organisations which are responsible for development projects in housing, transport, utilities, etc. They will be able to bring the risk view (vulnerability, hazard, exposure) into the participatory planning processes to make sure the new development projects have a positive impact on the overall resilience in the local area. The learning that they will gain through the Living Lab research will improve their leadership skills and capacity in disaster mitigation and prevention.

Local authorities who are responsible for creating a safer, healthier and prosperous environment for the local community will benefit because the sociotechnical system created by this project will help them to establish a collaborative culture among the local stakeholders in working together to achieve their sustainable goals. Furthermore, they will be able to develop a coherent strategy for development projects funded by various sources such as the national government, humanitarian organisations or private investors, after a disaster, to build-back better. The TRANSCEND environment will allow them to identify any project which has a tendency to increase local vulnerability and to position their urban growth in a positive trajectory. They will be able to develop strong local capacity in delivering inclusive sustainable development through community-led projects while increasing local accountability.

The national governments (particularly within Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Malaysia) will benefit as the TRANSCEND project aims to help them to understand how best to create a joined-up approach to creating sustainable and resilient environments involving government organisations operating under different ministries. The approaches that will be validated and proven to be successful for implementing adaptive governance can be deployed across the country. Furthermore, they will be able to identify and implement policies that will promote adaptive governance for creating risk-sensitive and equitable urban development.

Technology companies will learn how to transform their technology solutions to support local governments to implement participatory planning involving a range of stakeholders including communities. They will gain a greater understanding of how best to refine their big data platforms, data governance procedures, web-based solutions, and visualisation applications to create products to enhance e-governance practices.

Insurance providers will be able to fine tune some of their offerings and formulate and elevate some of their existing models for achieving resilience and equitable and sustainable goals whilst pursuing their commercial aspirations in risk management.

Academic and scientific communities will benefit from the new knowledge created in areas such as risk-sensitive urban development, system dynamics for modelling community resilience, disaster risk reduction, community engagement, participatory approaches to risk governance, and collaborative workspaces for exploring complex urban problems etc.


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