Approach

The following diagram gives an overview of our approach and how the elements relate to each other.

Transforming city-region resilience

  • A: We have a range of current analysis tools and methods available able to conduct a systems-based analysis of the grey, green and blue systems at a regional level. We are also developing a new open-source urban-rural tool to provide a quantitative analysis of the system interactions between the economic, ecological and societal aspects of the region’s resource flows and their connection to national and global resources. This will help to better understand the ‘here and now’ of a region’s situation regarding energy, water, food and economically important resources, as well as the exploration of future scenarios.
  • B: There is a big opportunity to combine earth observation data with local social and economic data. Whilst there are a number of initiatives aimed at providing cities with open-source data platforms to improve city management, we believe this approach needs to be undertaken at a regional level to support investment in low-carbon growth and resilient development. Our network and approach underpins this and we are developing appropriate metrics and key performance indicators (KPIs) to guide effective regional procurement and investment. This is more than an exercise in data gathering and information development, it’s about getting people to start working together with a shared regional focus.
  • C: There’s a growing recognition that using a systems approach is important to develop effective investment in climate adaptation, green sector development, and skills and job creation against the backdrop of increasing resource scarcity and regional-global demographic pressures. Whilst it is relatively ‘easy’ to understand the system’s components, harnessing the scientific, engineering, economic, ecological and societal aspects to produce meaningful and useful analysis requires deep cross-disciplinary skills applied in a systems analysis. We have this capability and are developing teaching and learning programmes to introduce city-region stakeholders across the public, private and civil society sectors to a systems perspective of their region. We have prioritised developing modules aimed at public policy and service delivery, as well as cross-sector business development opportunities.
  • D: All too often, the urban and rural aspects of a region are treated separately and subject to different planning regimes. Our approach is to create an integrated regional planning framework to guide planning and investment in sustainable and resilient urban-rural development. Quantifying resource and trade flows within the region, and to the wider economy, is part of this process. The aim is to empower city-regions by providing them with the insight to better manage their macro-economy and the critical eco-systems that support it.
  • E: In each region, our priority is to work with local stakeholders to develop an integrated programme of high-value public-private sector initiatives, incorporating infrastructure, technology and service-delivery project portfolios, aimed at job-creation, green sector development and new routes to sustainable finance and investment. We attach particular priority to projects that combine improved resource efficiency and resource re-use, with the restoration of ecological & fresh water systems, and an increase in food productivity. The aim is to ‘fast-track’ implementation in a 5-year programme.
  • F: Attracting investment is critical to taking forward any major project portfolio. Our approach is to work with finance, insurance and governance sectors to improve risk and investment analyses to underpin the integrated approach we advocate and use this to focus interest on the region’s needs, strengths and potential. In developed economies the current economic situation has constrained capital flows and distressed capital, unable to find ‘good’ projects. In developing economies, the lack of credit rating or risk analysis for city-regions makes it difficult to create investment that delivers regional priorities. The critical skills required to meet this challenge are a key part of our network capabilities and we are working with a range of actors from the bilateral and multi-lateral donor sector to refine this approach.

  • G: Forming the appropriate mechanism to start this joined-up approach is critical for each region. Each region will have its own preference, but we are attracted to models built on a ‘social enterprise’ approach that involves the public, private, knowledge and civil society in collaboration and we are able to provide advice on how to establish and shape this approach.
  • H: Delivering health and wellbeing benefits are high on the agenda for most city-regions. Yet there is often a poor understanding of how air, water and soil quality impacts on health and long term economics and how good nutrition and improved well-being can be supported by improved land use and access to biodiversity. Our integrated analyses and design-led systems approach, coupled to regional capacity building offer the chance to provide a stronger evidence base for linking physical and policy interventions with health and well-being outcomes.
  • I: Providing a physical context to act as a regional innovation hub at the centre of taking forward this regional approach is something that has attracted interest in each region we’ve talked to. We are therefore developing a range of models for a regional collaboratory aiming to act as the technical hub for cross-sector collaboration and new business models, as well as being a focus for informing local communities and a teaching and cultural centre – in the region, for the region. Our network involves the full range of skills in taking forward such initiatives successfully including advanced visualisation techniques.

Application

TEST was established with the aim of working with a small number of carefully selected regions globally, to demonstrate how an integrated systems approach can be developed and applied at city-region scale to define validated, successful pathways to sustainable and resilient development. We are aiming at city-regions with populations of up to 5 million citizens.

Working with five likely city-regions – in China, India and an African country (under selection with our partners), and probably two regions in Europe – in developing new modelling and analysis tools, and accessing information, TEST’s framework will facilitate access to relevant world-leading global technical expertise and corporate partnerships.

Promoting international links between these regions has the potential to provide knowledge transfer and see them become exemplars for sustainable development, boosting regional recognition and inward investment nationally and internationally.

TEST sees the need for urgency in stimulating transformative change. But we also acknowledge the challenges of embedding an understanding of a design-led understanding of meeting systemic challenges with systems solutions. We also recognise the need to develop projects that build collective confidence in the tools and methods we are able to deploy now, and those under development. Therefore, we have adopted a phased approach to (a) developing sector specific projects to build capacity and understanding, (b) developing understanding and commitment within the regions we are talking to and (c) moving to embed the full extent of our programme in developing a fully-fledged network of demonstrator programmes. It is our aim to begin (c) by 2015 and initiate a 5-year fast-track programme in 5 regions to demonstrate the benefits of this integrated approach by 2020.