Great, diverse minds gather for 'The City Resilient' design charrette

City Resilient

A diverse, multi-disciplinary crowd gathered at the Brooklyn Academy of Music on June 25 for a daylong design charrette and intense brainstorming as part of PopTech's 'The City Resilient' event, made possible by The Rockefeller Foundation. Around 100 technologists, community activists, landscape architects and other experts participated in the workshop, which included small group discussions and exercises designed to spark creative thinking around the concept of urban resilience. 

This was no ordinary crowd: The diversity and intellectual horsepower at BAM Tuesday was exceptional. It's a remarkable thing to have a coastal environment official,  an urban forestry guru, a hyper-local community activist, and a compassion researcher all sitting around the same table discussing the best way for a community to respond to a hurricane, or a dirty bomb or other disruption. The whole gathering was like that. 

City resilient

The day started with a brainstorming session managed by the Pomegranate Center's Milenko Matanovic. Matanovic posed a question: "What do you think are critical elements of neighborhood resilience?"

Participants responded by developing a list of 66 elements. Examples from that list: social capital; volunteerism; ownership; knowledge retention across generations; communication within and between neighborhoods; access to resources; humor and play; trust action and compassion; diversity; and, people who act as nodes.

The event also included breakout sessions managed by frog in which groups of 6 to 8 participants worked for hours to develop new ideas for how a hypothetical city could respond to a disaster. In one exercise, for example, the made-up coastal town of Faraway Beach, population 100,000, is struck by killer storm Hurricane Hartmut. The scenarios were further complicated by the addition of "slow" disruptors, like economic collapse. 

This precipitated a flurry of small-group discussions about specific proposals for preparing for and then dealing with the chaos that follows major disruptions of the kind that are only likely to increase in frequency and severity over the next century. Participants considered how to communicate when electricity and technology are gone. People weighed how to forge and utilize relationships across communities, rather than just in them. And they brainstormed how to get a community to enthusiastically embrace disaster preparedness — by making that preparation fun.

It was all part of a discussion that has just begun. Matanovic told the participants, "We know the journey is not complete, but you have done an amazing amount of work."

Photos by PopTech.

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