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Author's profile photo Ryan van Leent

A fish out of water – my expedition into Social Enterprise – episode two

Well, we survived our first encounter with the customer! In fact, our team is off to a great start, collaborating well and adding value to the customer even before landing in Christchurch. Our assignment is ambitious and everyone agrees that our major challenge is going to be covering all the stakeholders and delivering an executable strategy in only 8 working days (24 person days of consulting). But we do have C-level sponsorship and the involvement of their Board, so we are at least as optimistic as we are nervous. I’ll write more about the project once I get to Christchurch, but in this blog I’d like to discuss another topic from our pre-work exercises…

This week has included familiarisation with local news and research into local issues. During my research I came across the Greater Christchurch Resilience Strategy (, prepared as part of Christchurch’s bid to join the Rockerfeller Foundation’s 100 Resilient Cities network ( I must admit that I was previously unaware of this network, but it’s a great initiative and Christchurch’s submission is well worth a look.

The concept of a Resilient City got me thinking about the Smart Cities and Future Cities nomenclature that is more commonly used and is eagerly embraced by many technology companies (including SAP). Personally – and at the risk of speaking out of school on a company forum – I’ve always found these labels a bit cringe-worthy. Is a city only smart if it buys our technology – and what do we call a city that doesn’t buy our stuff? And what does it even mean to be a future city – are these today’s towns? Anyway, the idea of a Resilient City really resonates with me, and these extracts from Christchurch’s strategy paper explain why…

  • From the introduction: Resilience is a word we have heard a lot in Greater Christchurch over the past five years. No matter what extent to which we are familiar with this word in our day-to-day lives, it is important that we collectively understand the concept of resilience. We know that we will encounter future challenges. This is not simply about preparing our infrastructure or our built environment and it’s not about bouncing back to the way things used to be. For us, resilience will be about understanding the risks and challenges we face and developing ways to adapt and co-create a new normal. The strength of our resilience lies in us, not just as individuals, but as communities and whānau.
  • Mayoral statement: Resilience is about the capacity to plan and prepare for adversity, the ability to absorb the impact and recover quickly, but more importantly it’s about the ability as a community to adapt to a new environment, to thrive in the face of adversity and co-create our new normal.
  • 100RC definition: Resilience is the capacity of individuals, communities, businesses and systems to survive, adapt and grow, no matter what chronic stresses and acute shocks they experience.

Isn’t this what we really mean when we talk about a city being Smart or Future? And aren’t our technology initiatives really intended to improve the city’s capacity to survive, adapt and grow?

Christchurch’s strategy goes on to outline 11 Resilience Actions, grouped into 4 Action Areas:

  • Connect: connect people; create adaptable places; and improve the quality, choice and affordability of housing.
  • Participate: build participation and trust in decision-making; and support community organisations and leaders.
  • Prosper: connect internationally; foster a culture of innovation; and sustain the vitality of the natural environment.
  • Understand: improve community understanding and acceptance of risk; manage the risks we face; and secure our future.

So I say, well done to the people of Christchurch! I for one will be adopting the term Resilient Cities going forward, and I will be encouraging my colleagues to consider doing this also.

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