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Concept: Urban Resilience

What is Urban Resilience?

Resilience is the capacity of individuals, communities, institutions, businesses and systems within a city to adapt, grow and thrive in the face of both shocks—sudden, traumatic events like earthquakes and floods—and more long-term, chronic stresses, like poverty and housing shortages. By addressing both the shocks and the stresses, a city becomes more able to respond to adverse events and is overall better able to deliver basic functions. City resilience is about making a city better, in both good times and bad, for the benefit of all its citizens, particularly the poor and vulnerable.

Qualities of Resilient Systems and Cities

When looking at individual systems, it is helpful to think about what qualities of those systems enhance their resilience:

REFLECTIVE using past experience to inform future decisions

RESOURCEFUL recognizing alternative ways to use resources

ROBUST well-conceived, constructed and managed systems

REDUNDANT spare capacity purposively created to accommodate disruption

FLEXIBLE willingness and ability to adopt alternative strategies in response to changing circumstances

INCLUSIVE prioritize broad consultation to create shared ownership in decision-making INTEGRATED bring together a range of distinct systems and institutions

Following the Urban Resilience paradigm, Athens joined the 100 Resilient Cities (100RC) Network -pioneered by the Rockefeller Foundation- in 2013, with Resilient Athens bureau lead by Vice Mayor Lenio Myrivilli, until 2019, when the foundation decided to discontinue the project.

Urban Resilience and participation

Core value of the resilience model is participation . Αctive engagement of all relevant stakeholders is considered fundamental to resilience building. Participatory processes and structured dialogue build relations and are believed to enhance trust between different parties, when facilitated in consistency, and in respect to each party’s diverse characteristics, background, needs and perspectives.

A wide range of participant stakeholders expand the depth and diversity of knowledge exchange, and break down silos between different departments, stakeholder groups and levels of authority. An informed and well-functioning team can conclude to a shared understanding and collective vision and principles.

Including people from a diversity of backgrounds and perspectives, can uncover perspectives that may not be acquired through more traditional design processes. Participation can also help strengthen the link between information gathering and decision-making.

Creating a robust and open participatory process is highly context specific, and determining who to involve and the most appropriate tools and methods to use are challenging. Common pitfalls found in operationalizing participatory processes include:

  • underestimating the financial, time and human resources needed to carry out successful participation,

  • insufficient training in communication and facilitation skills,

  • lack of clarity on the roles or rules of participation, and

  • stakeholders becoming involved too late in the process to have meaningful impact.

There are several overlapping guidelines that can contribute to a more effective participation:

Clarify your goals and expectations of the participation process

Get the right people involved

Find inspired and motivated leaders that can mobilize the team

Provide capacity building

Deal with power issues and potential conflicts

Secure sufficient resources to enable effective participation

Build Strong, Inclusive Support

You have to conduct detailed and broad outreach to understand the full landscape of stakeholders who will partake in the development and are impacted by playful design processes.

Stakeholders are individuals and groups within and outside of city government with the influence or capacity to build resilience; they represent the diverse ecosystem of the city and the many different interests and needs of the civic, private and public sectors. Rather than being limited to experts or individuals or groups with sectoral specializations, identified stakeholders should include a diverse and representative constituent base, including vulnerable populations or communities that have previously recovered from a shock or stress.

They can also be people who are prominent in the community and who can influence the way your work will be received. Mapping key stakeholders is one of the first activities team should undertake in the design process. Create a stakeholder map to help identify the specific skills, capacity, experience and influence of potential stakeholders. In the 100RC methodology it’s recommended that the working team map stakeholders as a group activity, leveraging multiple perspectives and insights.

Please note that stakeholder mapping is intended to be a dynamic tool to guide engagement and will be amended through game development, implementation and updates as teams have new insights.

Audiences to consider:

Local community stakeholders: residents, business owners, activists

Academic-Research Community

Government Officials (local, regional, national)

Business Sector

Civil Society: non-profit organisations | grassroots groups / organizers


Design community


Subject Matter Experts

Playfulness & Urban Resilience

In the Urban Resilient context, urban games and playful activities, public art and installations have been applied as methods for encouraging public engagement to the urban decision-making processes, and to generate a common ground for public deliberation, crowd-sourcing intuition, ideas-pooling, and enacting problem-solving scenarios.

The Values at Play design methodology provides a very intuitive framework for a design research methodology that focuses on the values at stake –be it common or diverse- among a working group of stakeholders, that further looks into the process of integrating those values into your game –in other words, to translate values into concrete design features within your game.

The VAP methodology consists of three stages: discovery > translation > verification.

First, designers discover the values relevant to their project, and decide which values should be integrated into the design. Then, they translate those values into concrete design features. Finally, they systematically verify that those values have indeed been embedded in the game.

The Values Card exercise, by think2perform, is a card game that can help you identify, discuss and negotiate shared or diverse values between a group of stakeholders that you intend to work with. It is a useful way to do this before designers attempt to create a new game, wherein a value may be intrinsically tied to the mechanic or core of game interaction.

In Values Card exercise, participants draw a card from the deck, and discuss the value it represents in the context of their prior play experiences. As the Values Card exercise progresses, participants collectively explore how the value under discussion is expressed, promoted or violated in particular games and through particular game mechanics. Comparing different interpretations of a particular value is especially useful in helping designers and participants understand differing points of view on how game interaction can be culturally or socially interpreted.

Following a different perspective, Openspace architect collective in collaboration with the Faculty of Architecture and Planning at Thammasat University, Bangkok, Thailand, developed the Urban Resilience Board Game,. Under the threat of climate change, a five-year research project of the 4-city network of Coastal Cities at Risk (CCaR): Building Adaptive Capacity for Managing Climate Change in Coastal Megacities (Bangkok, Manila, Vancouver and Lagos, funded by Canada). The project examined issues of climate change and the threats posed by and urban resilience. Openspace drew upon the reports of the research and built the board game, aiming at:

  • providing a key tool for public deliberation and feedback that would inform state policies

  • familiarize the wider public with the concept of urban resilience.

In lead researcher Wijitbusaba Marome’s own words,

" The key deliberative tool produced by the research team is the urban resilience board game, which is designed to encourage reflexivity and deliberation among stakeholders through creative interaction. The game was tested with different interest groups and was officially used in workshops involving researchers and both state and non-state urban practitioners. The aim of using this innovative method was also to determine whether the format of a game can help stakeholders experience transformative learning, whether the differences in professional background influence how partici- pants approach the game, and how the deliberation and outputs of the game play can be translated into strategic policy suggestions.”

(in: Marome, W., Thitirat Pholcharoen, Natthaphon Wongpeng (2017), Developing and Using a Board Game as a Tool for Urban and Social Resilience and Flood Management Planning in the Bangkok Metropolitan Region , Urbanisation 2(1) 1–10 © 2017 Indian Institute for Human Settlements SAGE Publications DOI: 10.1177/2455747117708932

Next to its innovative approaches, the urban resilience paradigm has also received a variety of critique and even polemics, in regards with some controversies emerging from particular manifestations within its applications:

Critical commentators have identified several controversies in the application of the resilient paradigm in practice. There are several lessons to be learnt from this critique, such as:

  • By focusing of the particular urban/systemic properties, the paradigm is prone to fail in identifying other aspects that permeate urban systems, such as equity, justice and power.
  • Although the paradigm emphasizes the need to address and include disadvantaged groups, in many cases it often addressed stakeholders that were already in the privileged position to negotiate with, or represent only different levels of authority. Applied this way, it might become a controversial mechanism between legitimizing decision making processes, and providing a platform for those decisions to be made in a fair way.

For an extensive critique and bibliographic references on the subject, see also:

Two more brilliant contributions that take playful deliberation, transparency, gamification of decision making processes and imag(in)ing community engagement and bonding to another level:

a) As invaluably informed by TiP’s dearest Simon Johnson, Free Ice Cream ( was commissioned by UN’s Global Festival of Ideas to design a game on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) set by the organization, discussed (and played) in 2016.
The 2030 Hive Mind ( is not only a game, but an inspired deliberation device, and a “playful way into big conversations” concerned with the UN goals about no poverty; zero hunger; good health & well-being; quality education; gender equality; clean water & sanitation; affordable & clean energy; decent work & economic growth; industry, innovation & infrastructure; reduced inequalities; sustainable cities & communities; responsible consumption & production; climate action; life below water; life on land; peace, justice & strong institutions; partnerships for the goals.
Issues to play with? No! But issues to play, think for and act upon? DEFINITELY!

b) Athenian artistic intervention/research/community initiative -whose Katerina Protonotariou has also enchanted the TiP ranks- initially developed the Demos | the Game project ( in 2017 Labor Games (also co-funded by the Creative Europe program). Demos - the Game is “an alternative educational model to acquire and cultivate the “soft skills” of participation and collective decision making”. Playfulness upon a board-map that represents a specific urban area becomes the methodology to investigate collective processes, prospects, subjectivities and collectives, as they virtually wander, discuss and decide upon matters of their neighborhood.