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(5) About the diversity and redundancy in a resilient system

I see now what you mean by “real” resilience. It is a very intuitive concept, but at the same time, you must admit, it is pretty abstract. Can principle of resilience actually be used in a concrete way on higher, complex scales of interrelations? You are the expert in urban governance networks. How do you apply this in your work?


I believe it can. The main principles in today’s literature for designing a resilient system are derived form observing ecological resilient systems, and they also work in human systems. When I use term resilience in my research, it is connected to the resilience of the social-ecological systems, where the social and ecological structures are seen as a one unit. I would point out four practical ways forward for building resilient social ecologic systems. Those are maintaining diversity and redundancy, optimising connectivity, encouraging learning and experimentation, and broadening participation.




How the diversity topic relates to the cities? Diversity of what exactly? And, why is it important anyway to maintain the redundancy and diversity in the city?


The rationale behind the discussion about importance of diversity and redundancy in any system is that the more diverse species, landscape types, knowledge systems, actors, social groups or institutions are, they can provide more ways to responding to change and disturbance.


When we’re speaking on organisational level, it is proved that variety of organisational forms, e.g., government departments, non-governmental organisations, community organisations, with overlapping domains of authority can provide redundancy and diversity.


The reason for that is that organisations with different sizes, cultures, funding mechanisms and internal structures are likely to respond differently to various economic and political changes, so the chance to successfully implement any project increases. For example, if there’s a city office, and a NGO, and a grass root organisation all dealing with the green infrastructure project implementation, and there’s a sudden change of funding, or crucial actor suddenly leaves the project, there’s higher chance to keep the project going efficiently, than if there’s just one office in charge.


So, those are the reasons for sustaining diversity on the organisational level. Does that logic also apply on the individual level?


Yes, sustaining diverse groups of individual actors with different roles are also critical, with their overlapping functions and different strengths in performance during different phases of project implementation.


In my work I’ve been concerned with the effective knowledge management, trying to figure out how can knowledge that actors hold actually be utilised. One of the fundamental points in knowledge management in any organisational system is that higher diversity of knowledge enhances resilience of the governance network.

Greater actors’ diversity of knowledge and experience leads to greater range of possible responses, of finding creative solutions to changes or disturbances that threaten the project implementation.

In this regard, there is growing need to deliberately increase diversity of knowledge by combining various types of knowledge, such as local ecological knowledge and scientific knowledge, or local knowledge and expert knowledge. Today’s technology allows us to collect local, real time experiences and integrate them with expert knowledge in planning, and how to do so is today’s hot topic in contemporary urban planning.


Is there any limit to the level of diversity that we desire in our social systems? It is clear that high diversity can increase system’s resilience, but what happens when diversity explodes, where everyone has its own understandings and agendas?


There is a limit to the diversity that system can absorb indeed, and that limit is unique for every system. Very high levels of diversity or redundancy can cause negative impacts, like stagnation, or losing the direction. For example, high diversity of interests, preferences, understandings of climate-change impacts among nations has been identified as a bottleneck in climate negotiations. Even more, diversity of ideas, experiences, mindsets and perceptions about problems we are facing can lead to conflicts and to poorer outcomes in resource management. Similarly, high redundancy in management organisations increases administrative costs, coordination and other types of transaction costs, possibility for contradictory regulations, which may hinder governance processes.


If every system has its own limit of the diversity that can absorb, there is as many solutions as there are systems. It there a way to guide process in effectively increasing diversity and redundancy?


General rule to follow for any government is to invest in diversity and redundancy by considering both social and ecological interactions across different spatial and temporal scales, and finding an appropriate balance between the costs and benefits of too much or too little diversity and redundancy. As usual, that is easier to say than do. For those rules to follow, we need to have a clear, precise indicators to show where the system’s diversity and redundancy is, in comparison to where it needs to be to successfully implement any policy or project. I see the great tool to do so in using social network analysis. That method provides us to see the features of actors and how connected they are in any decision making process, it allows us to locate the lack or excessiveness of heterogeneity and act accordingly.

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