Tuesday, 10 May 2016

Reykjavik to be First City in Europe to Use Social Progress to Map Wellbeing of All Residents

by Social Progress Imperative: http://www.socialprogressimperative.org/blog/posts/reykjavik-to-be-first-city-in-europe-to-use-social-progress-to-map-wellbeing-of-all-residents

HandshakeThe Social Progress Imperative and the City of Reykjavik announced today that the capital of Iceland will be the first city in Europe to use the Social Progress Index to map and improve the well-being of all its residents.

A memorandum of understanding was signed at today's conclusion of the "Social Progress-What Works?" event. “Iceland is already a leading country in the world on social progress, and we’re used to thinking that life is pretty good in Reykjavik,” said Dagur Eggertsson, Mayor of Reykjavik.

“This new effort to map what is and is not working for people in different parts of our city will allow us to make sure that there is a chance for all residents to enjoy social progress. This initiative should also give renewed confidence that government exists to improve the lives of residents.”

Read the press release.

 

Friday, 6 May 2016

Framings of Resilience: How to Think and Act in a Complex World

by David Chandler, MUN Planet:  https://www.munplanet.com/articles/fridays-with-munplanet/framings-of-resilience-how-to-think-and-act-in-a-complex-world
 


This article is published as part of Fridays With MUNPlanet, and its special series dedicated to world politics.
 
The aim of this series is to bring you the analysis of global affairs by the established and upcoming scholars, decision-makers and policy analysts from various world regions.
 
This week, David Chandler (University of Westminster) writes about the concept of resilience and how it matters for the understanding of a complex world at the beginning of the 21st century that requires thinking and acting in terms of "relations and contexts" rather than "fixed essences and linear causal chains".
 
The author discusses various approaches to resilience, a way to "rethink traditional policy approaches" and points out to the possibility of using the concept to understand various policies and structures,  as well as the "calls for high tech forms of awareness, real time responsiveness or temporary hacking" that "involve fundamental questions of policy development, community engagement, feedback effects and interactive relationships."

Resilience has risen rapidly over the last decade or more to become one of the key terms in international policy and academic discussions. Whatever the subject matter of concern - whether it comes to questions of conflict management, the mitigation of climate change, the challenges of urban poverty or disaster risk management - questions of resilience will be at the forefront. However, with the rapid rise of resilience has come uncertainty as to how it should be built and how different practices and approaches should come together (Chandler & Coaffee, 2016).

Perhaps one way to introduce the concept is by thinking of how it operates in the context of contemporary political and philosophical discussions, which have problematized modernist binaries of nature/culture, subject/object or mind/matter. The idea of progress (in the abstract, but also in relation to specific questions of security, the environment, development or urban planning) is no longer one where the external world is seen to be uniform, linear or law-bound and unchanging: merely waiting for human knowledge to develop adequately to solve problems.

Progress today is not so much about storing up, extracting and universalising knowledge but rather about being more relationally aware of our own systems of organisation - politically, culturally, socially and economically - and about the interactive effects of these forms of organisation with the external, changing environment and international context.

In this sense, resilience approaches seem to be much more about relations and contexts than about fixed essences and linear causal chains (Chandler, 2014). Resilience approaches are often about how to engage in processes of interaction in more aware and reflective ways.

It is perhaps useful to heuristically explore three broad and inter-related framings of resilience, ranging from more conservative approaches which seek to maintain the status quo to more radical approaches which see the world as a much more interactive flux.

Firstly, the approach, which may be best known: that of maintaining the status quo or ‘bouncing back’. This could be seen as a homeostatic approach, one which seeks to regulate a return to the pre-existing equilibrium. This is a resilience approach that seeks to organise internally to enable a smooth and efficient return to functioning after a disaster or setback.

Within this broad framing, some ‘bounce back’ approaches might focus upon internal properties of the community or society - levels of social or communal capital; levels of redundancy, slack or spare capacity; perhaps also on questions of variety and diversity, avoiding over reliance on particular resources, sources of supply or centres of coordination. The focus on internal properties and capacities is also sometimes connected to ‘engineering’ or ‘psychological’ vocabularies of resilience as a set of internal properties.

This approach sometimes makes a distinction between the society or community - the inside, to be made resilient - and the threat or problem - on the outside, as something to be resilient against. Here, the threat of terrorism may serve as a good example, terrorism is often conceived as an external threat, one difficult to prevent and therefore necessitating ways of bouncing back to normal functioning should major infrastructural facilities be damaged or massive outrages take place.

The ‘homeostatic’ approach, rather than working on the external world in a direct way, tends to work indirectly, often starting with the process of working on the self. This is an important shift away from traditional or modernist approaches to problem solving.

The ways in which this work on the self is understood are relationally-orientated; not to achieve linear goals in themselves but to be able to respond to external disturbance, much as a thermostat works on the basis of feedback and response to changes in the external environment (think about how our bodies regulate heat by perspiring on a hot day or shivering on a cold day).

Approaches within this framework often involve the development and use of real time responsiveness, sometimes with the application of new technologies, referred to as Big Data, digital sensing, machine-learning and the Internet of Things: seeking to adapt to the emergence of conflict, infectious diseases, climate change or other problems or threats.

An important alternative to the homeostatic approach is the autopoietic one: bouncing back is not the aim but rather growth and development, through an increased awareness of interconnections and processes. Societies or communities are understood as being able to grow and develop through the shift towards resilience approaches, independently of whether there is a disaster, crisis or unexpected development.

Resilience thereby becomes independent, standing on its own as a way of thinking about problems; creating a shift towards organising and governing on the basis of resilience per se. Here, the process of being or becoming ‘self-regulating’ is seen as key. Resilience is no longer about returning to the equilibrium or maintaining the status quo but seen to be a process of on-going self-transformation.

Rather than aiming for the maintenance of stasis the aspiration is to generate new and innovative ways of thinking and organising. Judith Rodin, for example, sees this as the ‘Resilience Dividend’ (2015). Thinking in resilience ways thus enables communities and societies to ‘bounce back better’, in terms of learning more about themselves and building new forms of interconnection and self-awareness. External or outside stimuli or disruptions are therefore vital to enable this process of self-reassessment (see also, Taleb, 2012).

Even if there is no disastrous event, these sensitivities to changes and reflective approaches can be applied to improve and rethink everyday processes and exchanges; discovering new possibilities in the present.

This approach of resilience as self-transformation is taken further in Kathleen Tierney’s influential book The Social Roots of Risk (2014), which argues that resilience approaches bring together the natural and social sciences enabling forms of recursive governance, i.e. forms of governance based on the awareness of problems and threats that emerge out of interactions between the social order and the external environment.

Classic examples would be the construction of flood barriers or levees, tending to make water systems more volatile and undermining natural protections or the case of antibiotics, held to facilitate more virulent and resistant strains of viruses. Thus governance is seen as a recursive process of governing the consequences of previous attempts to solve problems, being wary of the possibility that this stores up further problems for the future and attempting to break out of this loop through new, more imaginative, approaches.

In these framings, problems are no longer considered as entirely external threats but also as products of social processes, with resilience practices and policies as, similarly, a matter not merely of technical but also of social and political adaptive change (see Pelling, 2011).

A third range of resilience approaches has less emphasis on temporality and direction and is often more concerned with rethinking contextual possibilities in the present. This framing is more focused on developing resilience at the level of micro-politics or life-politics, using more reflexive and self-aware approaches to repurpose or to re-envision ways of engaging communities.

This approach to resilience is highlighted in the idea of public service ‘jams’ or civic hackathons, where Smart City Labs, the UN Development Programme or other donors invite ideas and proposals to deconstruct problems and try out prototype solutions with volunteer hackers, technologists and designers immersing themselves in the problem.

These ad hoc forums are lauded as mechanisms for reaching out to citizens to develop new ideas, exposing governing authorities and international institutions to new tools and skill sets, and for re-envisioning problems − seeing issues in a different light. Hacking is an iterative, gradual approach to policy interventions, where each hack uses and reveals new inter-relationships creating new possibilities for thinking and acting.

Here, resilience is an on-going transformative process of building engaged communities through experimentation and grasping momentary and fluid connections and interrelations in a highly context-dependent way. International policy interventions on this basis thus neither seek to exercise hegemonic control and direction but nor do they seek to ignore and disengage from the problems. Instead, the problems themselves are reinterpreted as enabling and creating opportunities.

Resilience can thus be seen in a number of ways, which can easily overlap, or be seen as contradictory, depending upon our angle or level of analysis. Rather than focusing on fixed definitions of resilience it is perhaps more useful to see resilience as forming the basis of - or cohering - a range of policy discussions in a number of fields that seek to rethink traditional policy approaches.

Resilience begins with the assumption that problems cannot be prevented, ring-fenced, solved or cured in traditional ways (often described as reductionist or linear). Thus, resilience operates to frame discussions of a quite fundamental nature, of how we might rethink forms of social, political and economic organisation.

These ways of reflecting upon social and organisational changes then range in focus, from preparatory policy-making to bounce back, to more radical calls for changes in structures and habits and forms of understanding, to calls for high tech forms of awareness, real time responsiveness or temporary hacking, all them involving fundamental questions of policy development, community engagement, feedback effects and interactive relationships. 

References

Chandler, D. (2014) Resilience: The Governance of Complexity. London: Routledge.

Chandler, D. and Coaffee, J. (2016) The Routledge Handbook of International Resilience. London: Routledge.

Rodin, J. (2015) The Resilience Dividend: Managing disruption, avoiding disaster, and growing stronger in an unpredictable world. London: Profile Books.

Taleb, N. (2012) Antifragile: Things that Gain from Disorder. London: Penguin.

Tierney, K. (2014) The Social Roots of Risk: Producing disasters, promoting resilience. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.
 
David Chandler is Professor of International Relations, Department of Politics and International Relations, University of Westminster, London. He is the founding editor of the journal Resilience: International Policies, Practices and Discourses. 
 
His recent authored books include International Statebuilding: The Rise of Post-Liberal Governance (Routledge, 2010); Freedom vs Necessity in International Relations: Human-Centred Approaches to Security and Development (Zed Books, 2013); Resilience: The Governance of Complexity (Routledge, 2014) and (with Julian Reid) The Neoliberal Subject: Resilience, Adaptation and Vulnerability (Rowman & Littlefield, 2016).

Thursday, 5 May 2016

INTERVIEW: Renato Galliano of Milan's Sharing City Project

by LabGov, on Shareable: http://www.shareable.net/blog/interviewed-renato-galliano-of-milans-sharing-city-project


Milan, Italy, home to Milan Sharing City (Photo: M Mantel/Flickr)
As the foci of experimentation in technologically-enabled sharing practices, cities have become the center of discourse about sharing economy policy. Municipalities around the world including Seoul, Amsterdam, London have begun implementing programs, legislation and regulatory frameworks to support the local sharing economy. One such city is Milan, Italy, home to Milan Sharing City, a project within Milan's Smart City Program.

We recently sat down with Renato Galliano, the supervisor of Milan's Smart City and Sharing City project. We asked about the origins of the project and he gave an early assessment of its successes and shortcomings, including on the issues of participation and inclusion.

This article is the first in a series co-produced by LabGov and Shareable highlighting public policy fostering the sharing economy and the urban commons. Forthcoming articles will examine other case studies throughout Italy and the European Union. 

Monica Bernardi and Christian Iaione: How did Milan Sharing City begin?

Renato Galliano: The Smart City Division has always taken a keen interest in innovative processes, especially in the urban setting and, above all, in a period - like this - of economic paradigm change. We looked at the sharing economy as we [had] previously looked at other [developments], such as innovative spaces (ex. co-working) and the relationship between [startups] and traditional industry. Recognizing [the potential of the sharing economy to become] an important phenomenon from different points of view, in early 2014 we decided to accompany its development.

[At that time], there were already several groups working on the topic. Sharexpo and Sharitaly were the main ones. [Sharexpo encouraged] reflection on the potential of sharing economy to [mitigate] the extra load on the city that [Expo Milano] would bring. We engaged with all the actors involved an open and collaborative dialogue, to learn about their needs, goals and problems.

[Our] working method, based on a listening phase, followed by a participatory phase and, as a last stage, the delivery of [a public policy instrument], has been adopted also in other policy areas: in a macro way for the Smart City theme, involving big urban players such as universities, businesses and [voluntary and community organizations]; and also for specific phenomena like co-working.

[Regarding co-working], listening to the actors involved [encouraged] us to rethink our first idea of intervention. [Instead] of creating a public co-working [space, we decided to] support the existing structures, without becoming a player in opposition [to them]. We developed ad hoc public policies such as the Co-working Register and the coworking spaces' voucher supply system.

The same path has been followed for the Sharing City. [During] the initial phases, we collaborated [with the public] on a draft document on the topic. [We brought the final document] to the City Council [pdf] for approval and published guidelines for the sharing economy [pdf], launching a series of collaborative tools. One example is the Register of the Sharing Economy’s Actors [pdf], [which includes a list of] experts and operators (to date more than 100), followed by other activities [brought to our attention] during consultation, such as: civic crowdfunding platforms; Co-HUB, a physical space to cultivate the culture of sharing and the collaborative economy; and a call from our social innovation incubator, FabriQ, for startups working in the field.

I'd like to underline that we worked on two levels: at the local level, as seen, but also on [the national and international] levels. [We liaised] with the EU Committee of the Regions, which was working on the Opinion on the Sharing Economy at the EU level. On the national level, we worked on a proposed national law on the sharing economy with, the Italian Inter-parliamentary group for innovation, Forum PA, and ANCI. [We also worked] with some international operators such as AirBnb to define specific agreements. However, I believe that public policy [should not aim] to lock the sharing economy within stringent regulatory frameworks, since it responds to a real need - social or economic - that goes beyond the policies adopted at local, national and international levels. 

What unites Milan's various sharing economy policies?

We framed the Sharing City project [within the larger] Smart City process. The latter is a transdisciplinary public policy, and the mandate is of coordination - not of realization. The topic of the smart city is [appreciated less for its] technological dimensions and more from the citizens’ perspective. Within this "human smart city," the sharing economy represents a tool, among others, to improve the quality of life of city-dwellers and enterprises.

[It is essential that the] different divisions [working on the smart city] dialogue and work [together]. The real problem is related not to the content of the projects, but to the traditional, "siloed" approach of public administration. To overcome this attitude is not easy, but in Milan the entire smart city process has been conducted in a horizontal way, analyzing internally the city's projects, in a multi-purpose approach and speaking with the individual directors. 

What difficulties did you encounter in developing policy for the sharing economy?

The main difficulties are not related to the city itself but to the phenomenon. First of all, the issue of regulation of new unplanned activities that touch corporate interests stratified over the decades. For this reason we decided to work [beyond the] the local level, since some regulatory arrangements depend on national and EU [authorities].

Another general difficulty is connected to the extreme diversification of the sharing economy's actors, from multinational corporations with international technological platforms to community experiences, such as Social Street, and non-economic exchange platforms of goods and services. The diverse actors hold dissimilar skills, competencies, backgrounds, and economic power, and sometimes don’t recognize themselves as part of the same phenomenon. The approach must be different [for each case], based on specific languages and features.

On the [other hand], the feedback from citizens has been excellent. The public administration's intervention has been perceived in a positive, non-invasive way, as an accompanying relationship. The current difficulty is to switch from the city level to the metropolitan level. We would like the Register, for example, to take a metropolitan dimension to formally intercept actors and experiences outside of the city. 

Which projects have been most successful?

Fifteen high-quality projects were selected through a call and incubated at FabriQ; among them, only two are experiencing some difficulties. [But keep in mind that] the municipality intervened more [at the level of] governance [than at] the projects level. We don't [directly supervise the projects]. After [an understandably] difficult first phase, the local projects, like Social Street, are doing very well, and are involving a growing number of citizens. The big platforms, like AirBnb, could count on the flywheel effect of universal exposure and are thriving in the city. [Some projects face challenges] related to a series of obligations introduced to respond to real local needs (fees for use of public land, taxes for marketing, etc.).

In terms of projects initiated directly by the municipality, the civic crowdfunding [scheme] is receiving positive feedback. We chose the platform, Eppela, through a public call, instead of creating one by ourselves, and now we are evaluating the projects received [through it]. 

How would you rate Milan Sharing City’s record on participation and inclusion?

About participation: yes, our process is facilitating participation. It is a subject of interest for [those citizens working on responding to local needs]. These needs can be of an economic nature or related to community building. [In the former case, sharing projects] can produce income for someone or save them money; [regarding] the latter, [projects foster community] relations by encouraging residents' participation. In addition, the participatory budgeting process, with one million Euros for each of the nine zones of the city, is clearly reinforcing this aspect.

[The issue of inclusion is more closely related to] the content of the projects. For some of them, the main goal is exactly the inclusion of vulnerable subjects; others have cross-cutting [goals]. In general, the topic of inclusion is defined more in terms of social innovation. Therefore, even social businesses' projects, which aim to solve social problems and favor integration, are able to reduce social exclusion.

An example is the FabLab that will open soon in D'Azeglio Street: the project includes associations, the third sector, schools, other FabLabs, etc., in a logic of deep integration. Other projects that have a clear goal of including specific groups, such as NEET (addressed to young people not engaged in education, employment, or training), or OpenCare, can count on the active participation of FabLab. 

The governance dimension is clearly crucial. What new relations and collaborations were established through the project?

The main governance tools that we use are the public calls and the Register, which are inclusive tools by design. They allow a phenomenon to emerge instead of selecting or evaluating the actors that are part of the phenomenon. For example, the Register is public and presents the description of each actor registered. We called them with specific [follow-up] questions [that helped initiate] new interconnections and relations.

In general, new relations are emerging, thanks to the call that allow us to enter into contact with subjects interested in the topic, or through the community's projects, or in a direct way, as [with] AirBnb. The calls for the Co-HUB space, the crowdfunding platform, and the FabriQ incubator are all important governance tools that are opening new sets of relations. 

Are any key actors missing from the Milan Sharing City process as it currently operates?

The entire traditional financial world is still not involved in this discourse. The reason, [I imagine], is that their internal rules do not allow financial institutions to [respond] quickly [to new economic phenomena]. This [affects] not only the sharing economy, but also the smart city discussion as a whole: banks are not able to finance smart city projects, unless they [fall into very specific categories], such as energy projects. In some cases, banks are unable to evaluate the market value of the new platforms, [especially] if they generate a low economic return (as with the platforms for the exchange of goods).

Paradoxically, the stock market [should be] able to assess the value of these platforms, since it doesn't value only the [projects'] budgets, but also their potential for development, the involvement of other actors, and so on. At some point, the involvement of the financial world will become necessary; otherwise [these initiatives will suffer from a lack of funding]. 

What will happen to Milan Sharing City in the future, especially in view of the coming elections?

The phenomenon has started, and in my opinion it cannot be stopped. The future is uncertain; [soon we will hold] elections, and a lot will depend on the political approach of the new city government. But even if [the new government is] completely against the sharing economy, the phenomenon will keep going, since it responds to authentic needs. I hope the new City Council will add value to [what we've] built [over the past] five years. There are unequivocal figures about the position of Milan in terms of our focus on the smart city, the sharing economy, and social innovation, with awards and recognitions at national and European levels. It would be such a waste not to enhance this legacy and thus lose our competitiveness. 

What are the next steps in the Milan Sharing City process?

After working on the emergence of the phenomenon and on the dialogue and agreements with new actors, the goal of the next five years, in my opinion, should be the setting-up of concrete but flexible structures through which the administration can directly dialogue with other stakeholders. Milan should adopt a kind of innovation agency to create new relations and partnerships, and [to address the city's international standing].

[On the metropolitan level, it would be interesting to see emerge an authority who could] partner with the different municipalities, the chambers of commerce, the universities, and so on, aggregating all the different actors [in order] to promote innovation at all levels.