Leverage data to ensure resilient leadership

The converging forces of climate change, urbanization, and digital transformation are putting under scrutiny the way Cities are built and managed. Covid-19 and the health emergency inflamed the debate, so there is an increasing attention about the best possible approach to design pandemic-resilient and sustainable communities, while preserving local economy, social and cultural life.

An interesting viewpoint comes from the recently established think tank The Resilience Shift, which focuses on resilient urban infrastructures to investigate how Cities can improve their critical systems and continue to secure essential energy, water, transport and communications services, and underpin food, healthcare and education.

Their Resilient Leadership: Learning from Crisis report examined Covid-19 response from a selection of corporations and Cities around the world, and provide some useful insights about the personal and societal skills a leader should have to effectively manage a crisis situation, and the technical dimensions to be sought to build resilience.

These technical elements include the availability of reliable systems to monitor key urban infrastructures and environmental changes, and contingency plans and secured back-up systems to maintain operational continuity even in emergency. Shortage of financial resources as well as competences might become a relevant issue, so it might be worth for a City or a company to run periodical assessments and plan accordingly.

Not surprisingly, the Resilient Leadership report highlights that the use of data to understand critical changes within and around Cities and organizations is still to be fully explored. The massive, interconnected uncertainties of Covid-19 pandemic contributed to accelerate the journey of many Cities toward the use of data and modelling as central elements of their decision-making.

“There are things that we’ve done now with data and Covid that have probably advanced by years our change strategy for getting the organization to be data-driven”, said Craig Kesson, Chief Resilience Officer for the City of Cape Town, South Africa.

But it is clear that smart, data-driven infrastructures can neither be extemporized, nor been planned when a major crisis arrives. Resilient leadership should begin in ordinary, peaceful times, and feature a wise management of data to turn them into tangible value for the benefit of all. According to Piero Pelizzaro, Chief Resilience Officer for the City of Milan, Italy, data and smart infrastructures will pave the way of a new green wayfinding and the transition towards a truly resilient urban community – a community that can rely on solid infrastructures and can withstand, adapt to, and recover quickly from anticipated or unexpected shocks and stresses.

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