Pursuing greater collaboration and integration can have a dramatic impact on a city’s resilience. Every city’s take on these qualities differs, but it’s clear that when cities work together with their citizens, local businesses, and other stakeholders, promoting collaboration between agencies, results improve and have longer-lasting benefits. When diverse groups organize, share ideas, and communicate, decisions draw from a broader insight base, priorities are better aligned, and outcomes achieve multiple goals instead of one—often producing a cascade of benefits.
Cities around the world are learning to combine resources and to integrate housing, transport, services, and civic spaces into, among other things, efficient, inclusive systems—from Asia to Scandinavia to South America—building flexible models to suit their contexts. For example, in Da Nang, Vietnam, an upgraded affordable housing project boosted the entire city’s ability to rebound after a destructive typhoon in 2013. Other cities are making running railways faster and more efficient, while converting former rail beds into bike paths, improving and connecting every type of commute. Similarly, some cities are transforming abandoned malls into innovative community hubs, supporting cohesion, government relations, neighborhood health, and local businesses.
Citywide coordination in action
Rio Operations Center
Rio partnered with IBM to create a city operations center based on a centralized real-time data-gathering system that improves the city’s operations by allowing agencies to monitor and manage all its ongoing functions, including “traffic and public transportation systems, and the efficiency of power and water supplies.” It integrates “information and processes from across 30 different city agencies into a single operations center that provides a holistic view of how the city is functioning on a 24 by 7 basis.”
The Rio Operations Center streamlines the city’s vast traffic arteries and has created a robust, advanced emergency response system that simultaneously benefits Rio’s municipal agencies and citizens. This project also reflects a nationwide effort to cultivate collaboration between public and private sectors to improve livability and resilience.
Multiple Indonesian cities are practicing broad collaboration, implementing policies that reduce social vulnerability and “contribute to building urban resilience to climate change,” according to the IIED report, “Asian Cities Climate Resilience.” For example, in Solo City, the Department of Public Works has extended water supply services to dense informal settlements by partnering with community members and organizations.
Metrobús. Ciudad de México, DF. Foto: Mariana Gil/ EMBARQ Brasil
Mexico City is investigating private/public partnerships to revitalize its public parksm, and seeing great success with this approach to public transport. The Metrobús received the Harvard Kennedy School Roy Award for Environmental Stewardship in 2009 and is credited with reducing carbon emissions significantly in the city, as well as supporting more than 180 million passengers annually after 11 years of operation, providing improved access to affordable transportation and jobs. This is just one example of Mexico City’s broader coordination efforts to reconnect communities with one another and with the city center—increasing Mexico City’s resilience now and over the long term.
Hong Kong is mastering service integration via its multipurpose Octopus card, a thin, plastic rectangle that can be used to pay for transport—buses, trams, and the city’s super-efficient subways—as well as public recreation facilities, groceries, and much more. Single-point merging of multiple public services, including efficient transportation and leisure activities, makes things easier for citizens, but also empowers the city to pursue holistic resilience.
These examples of successful, ongoing coordination and integration efforts offer valuable lessons for other cities, both about the value of systemic collaboration and the various ways it can be nurtured within a city. The benefits make cities better during periods of calm, as well as in the face of future disruptions, whether expected or not.