SAGE Journals

Governing urban resilience: Organisational structures and coordination strategies in 20 North American city governments

Posted on 2020-03-15 - 12:08

This paper describes how urban resilience governance is structured and coordinated in 20 North American cities (19 US and one Canadian) based on interviews with city officials. This co-produced research evolved out of conversations with city officials in Portland, Oregon, who were interested to learn how other cities were organising resilience work. Interviews focused on emerging definitions, organisational structures, internal and external coordination efforts, and practitioners’ insights. The paper includes a descriptive summary of how cities are structuring and coordinating resilience efforts. Additionally, we discuss how current trends in resilience coordination can inform future directions for urban resilience scholarship. We compare what practitioners view as key success factors against six commonly theorised characteristics for effective resilience governance. Overall, we find considerable overlap in lessons from theory and practice, including the benefits of a systems approach, the need for a clear definition of resilience, strong leadership, and stakeholder engagement. Practitioners use resilience to diagnose the overall health of their cities. Additionally, practice tends to emphasise limitations such as political turnover, trade-offs between centralised and dispersed organisation, and the need to carefully diagnose and scope resilience work, whereas the academic literature calls for multi-level and cross-scale governance and feedbacks and more transformative action. Given these insights, we highlight opportunities for new resilience scholarship, including analysing the benefits of the diagnostic phase of resilience planning, evaluating resilience goals to determine the best departmental fit, and understanding local barriers and trade-offs to adopting a broad systems approach.


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