(International) Expressive Mapping of Resilient Futures (E-MoRF)

Lead Research Organisation: King's College London
Department Name: Geography


Africa is rapidly urbanising and with this growth has come a proliferation of informal settlements. Residents of informal settlements often have limited access to services, insecure tenure and high exposure to shocks and stresses such as flooding and disease. Several global and national frameworks have indicated that a key tenet of sustainable urban growth is building 'resilience'. Yet, resilience can mean different things to different decision makers - an engineer might measure it as the number of alternative cables in the electricity network if one breaks; a psychologist might describe resilience as a person's ability to adapt to adversity. Indeed, resilience often does not have a direct translation in many languages. Those involved in making cities more resilient to natural hazards (e.g., floods) such as engineers and planners tend to have highly technical training. Within these groups, traditionally there is a tendency to quantify resilience in terms of what can easily be placed on the map - such as housing, infrastructure and critical facilities. This can result in some tunnel vision about what types of projects should be taken forward when local experience and perceptions are not taken into account.
In spite of these challenges there is a genuine desire in our study city of Nairobi (Kenya) to include the voices of residents in decision making. However, it is not always clear how this more qualitative, experiential information on resilience (e.g., narratives) can be incorporated to existing ways of working by city actors, nor is there necessarily the capacity to undertake major new ways of working. The Expressive Mapping of Resilience (E-MoRF) project aims to mainstream innovative, low-cost ways of representing these community voices on the map, coupled with simple ways for decision makers to incorporate this data into their existing systems to result in more inclusive planning for resilience. The work here builds upon a previous NERC funded project 'Why we Disagree about Resilience' (WhyDAR) that was delivered with Kounkuey Design Initiative (KDI) in Nairobi (who we work with in E-MoRF). In WhyDAR, artists and residents of informal settlements worked together in a collaborative environment to define a broad range of ways that people cope with flooding, and the threats to their resilience. Using themes that came out of the workshop, coupled with data collected in the settlement using smartphones, we generated immersive maps combining 360 deg photos, audio and text to communicate a broader perspective of what resilience meant to the community. These prototype maps were made publicly available online using free software. We showed these prototype maps to decision makers such as urban planners, consultants and NGOs who stated that these maps are an engaging way to better understand what planning interventions might support the community, and commented that the data layers could be incorporated into their existing mapping software. At present these maps are static and there is no method in place to continually update them to make them regularly useable. In the E-MoRF project, we will move from prototype to operational maps through:
A. Creating and distributing training resources for community groups to identify key components of resilience specific to them and then generate expressive map data to visualise this
B. Creating an open, online platform where this map data can be uploaded, viewed and distributed to a range of decision makers
C. Creating and distributing training resources for decision makers to help understand these new types of map and how they can be incorporated in their daily work
D. Throughout the project, having a continuous cycle of feedback from community groups and decision makers to ensure the maps are useful, useable and used
E. Exploring how the process affects decision making with regards to resilience
F. Disseminating resources to encourage uptake of the approach in additional cities

Planned Impact

The intended long-term outcome of this project is for the urban poor to be more resilient to natural hazards. There is a strong element of co-production with boundary organisations sitting between the urban poor and local government for shaping the methods and platform throughout the lifecycle of the project. The benefits of our approach are:

A. A replicable method for community groups to generate and visualise spatial data on the aspects of resilience that are important to them.
B. An established means of bringing a body of evidence generated by communities to local government and city stakeholders through the open online mapping platform.
C. Enhanced understanding of the complex social and physical components of resilience which may vary spatially and temporally through the training methods and maps we present to city stakeholders.
D. A clear method and set of tools for meeting the demand for more participatory processes to be incorporated into urban design in Nairobi and beyond.
E. In the longer term, through the enhanced understanding and sensitivity to the resilience needs of the urban poor developed through the maps and training we generate, a benefit will be improved urban planning policy and interventions in Nairobi (and possibly beyond).
F. Through creating a method and platform for communities and local government to work together, there will be increased buy-in from communities in planning interventions, and reduced expenditure on ineffective planning measures and retroactive responses that do not factor in the voices of the urban poor.
G. Through the implementation of more effective planning interventions, the resilience of the urban poor to a range of natural hazards will be enhanced, reducing the social, economic and physical impacts from hazards and with flow-on effects to the broader urban area.
H. Through equipping community groups with low-cost methods of data generation and demonstrating the impact this can have, we seek to empower the urban poor to self-organise to collect evidence to negotiate with local government. This complements the growing body of community-based data collection initiatives taking place across urban Africa and further demonstrates the utility of using community generated data to supplement, enhance, and even challenge official data collection activities.

Co-produced refinement of methods will be undertaken through a series of small informal workshops throughout the lifecycle of E-MoRF to present prototype maps developed in WhyDAR and elicit feedback. Access to these stakeholders will be obtained through follow up with 12 groups involved in the original WhyDAR workshops and active connections. KDI has established connections to a range of stakeholders from local government, other community groups (e.g., Slum and Shack Dwellers International), NGOs (e.g., Red Cross), intergovernmental organisation (e.g., UN Habitat) and private consultancies (e.g., ARUP) - see letters of support. KCL work in the DfID-ESRC project 'Urban ARK' and the DfID-NERC SHEAR FORPAC programme creates access to practitioners and academics. Policy briefs will be developed and the platform launched in a dedicated event. Following the platform launch, we have dedicated two months of flexible time with stakeholders to embed the platform into their practice.

The strength of the relationship between the research team and the end-user developed through previous collaborative working will underpin the application of these translational and knowledge-exchange activities and ensure their impact. The consultant KDI has been extensively involved in the development of the methodology and has identified three high-impact planning processes that are suited to the application of these tools and is also a potential end user. All of these planning processes aim to engage a wider and deeper range of stakeholders in the decision making process as compared to traditional approaches.


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