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Posted on 20 December, 2017 by

Categories: Events, Featured,

Infrastructure resilience: where do we start?

In setting out an ambitious programme to catalyse change in terms of how resilient critical infrastructure is planned, procured, delivered and maintained in practice – how do we know where to start, and what we really need to do?

An important activity in our first year in the Resilience Shift programme was fact-finding, defined as “Agenda Setting”. Essentially, we want to start from an informed and robust position and we wanted to test our perception of the current state of practice, building on the Foresight Review of Resilience Engineering. We won’t be able to shift anything if we don’t get our starting point right….

As part of this, we ran an engagement process with colleagues across the Arup world. I am a practicing civil engineer, working on a number of Arup’s infrastructure projects at any one time, and am also acting as technical advisor to the Resilience Shift team. As a member of Arup’s growing Infrastructure Resilience community, I knew there was a lot of activity and interest in the subject, but was really keen to reach beyond this immediate community and understand what else was going on. It was really important to get views from those who don’t actively work in the resilience space, as well as those who do.

In such a diverse field, it would take forever to fully baseline current practice across all disciplines, globally. We used a targeted approach to achieve the widest coverage we could of the status quo of people, projects and organisations within a short time. Even within this consultation we got mixed messages and differing views – which was not surprising. We spoke to many people who are truly passionate about our subject area, and we also received some pretty robust challenge which gave us pause for thought.

Our engagement process took a three-way approach: an online survey promoted across the entire company; a series of focus group sessions and a number of 1-to-1 interviews with industry leaders selected to cover as many regions and sectors as practical.

For me, a message that came loud and clear was that practitioners have a wide range of needs, and current state of practice is a spectrum, not a single defined point. If we want to promote ‘doing things differently’ (which we do), we have to embrace the challenge of both supporting and engaging early adopters, who are already on this journey, but at the same time ensuring that our outcomes will deliver a shift in how others work. Many designers, planners and engineers are, understandably, comfortable with classic engineering approaches, which tend to consider single assets not systems, and design to fixed thresholds not diverse and uncertain futures. If we want to catalyse change, communication with those on all stages of the journey is going to be as important as what we do technically.

Our findings from this consultation have contributed towards the planning of ‘what next’, and will help us to be mindful of the pains and gains of stakeholders across critical infrastructure. We’ll share some of our specific findings over the coming weeks, and would love to hear your views on where current practice is in your world.

 

Read the Foresight Review of Resilience Engineering here

Read our latest report on Understanding the Landscape here.

 

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