Measuring Tomorrow

There are piles of critiques of economic indicators driving decision making, and a range of proposals for alternatives. In 2018 Eloi Laurent published "Measuring Tomorrow: Accounting for Well-Being, Resilience, and Sustainability in the Twenty-First Century", which proposes new metrics. The book gives concrete examples of metrics and existing data sets - for those interested in this subject, this is a great introduction.

"The starting point of this book is therefore that, contrary to their etymology, data are the product of values, which in turn influence human attitudes and behaviors via policy when they become indicators by the combined action of scholars and policy makers." (p. 1)

"What happened to economic analysis to make all these key insights largely forgotten for so long? The shift away from well-being and sustainability happened in two crucial steps. First, at the beginning of the twentieth century, economists decided to divorce their study from philosophy – or, more precisely, from ethics – and make it a science of efficiency, modeled on physics… Then, after the Second World War, it purported to become the science of growth. Both metamorphoses were symbolized by a single indicator: gross domestic product." (p. 5).

"…trust is the bedrock of economic activities: without it, no bank, no business, no government can long remain, let alone prosper. Trust reduces the uncertainty inherent in human behavior, turning it into acceptable or unacceptable risk… To measure trust, it is important first to define its different forms. There are essentially three of these: trust in institutions or organizations (which is by far the most important in contemporary societies), trust between people, and finally the problematic notion of "trust in the future," widely used in economic forecasting." (p. 88-89)

"We should therefore not confuse different dimensions of trust with one another, especially what political scientists Pascal Perrineau calls "vertical trust" (e.g., trust in institutions) and "horizontal trust" (e.g., trust between people)." (p. 94)

"The challenge posed to developed countries is that, yes, they are often more advanced in terms of good environmental practices on their own soil, but in so doing they are only paying attention to part of their environmental footprint, one that is visible and directly under their control. As their level of economic development increases, countries reduce the levels of natural resource extraction in their own territory but do not reduce their consumption of natural resources. Instead they outsource the environmental damage caused by their economic development to countries that are willing to pay the environmental costs in exchange for pay. But this cost is often paid by the poorest people who see little of the actual money." (p. 115)

"We have thus arrived, before concluding this book, at an interesting paradox. If sustainability is best measured globally, resilience and well-being are best assessed locally." (p. 189) 

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New Publications (2018, Jan-Mar)

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New Publication: Does diversification enhance community resilience? A critical perspective

Cochrane, L. and Cafer, A. (2018) Does Diversification Enhance Community Resilience? A Critical Perspective. Resilience. https://doi.org/10.1080/21693293.2017.1406849

Abstract: Resilience has become a key component of how practitioners and scholars conceptualize sustainable communities. Given sustainability's focal role in shaping international development funding, policies and programming it is imperative that we critically engage with the concepts embedded within the resilience discourse – including prescriptions for increased diversity. This article contributes to a discourse that questions this common recommendation for diversification, particularly as it relates to agricultural livelihoods and smallholder production. We provide examples from Ethiopia that demonstrate the two limitations of diversification. The first, that some forms of diversification are, in fact, maladaptive and reduce resilience. The second, that diversification is not always equal – some forms of diversification are only accessible to the most vulnerable. As the 2030 Agenda moves ahead in shaping what is considered important, and therefore funded and measured, we argue that much more context-specific nuance is required within the resilience discourse.

From journal here. On this site in full here.

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PhD Studentships: Disaster Resilience

Developing New Approaches to Community Resilience Assessment: Using technology, including web-based software, crowd-sourced data, & knowledge-based systems, as co-creative tools

Resilience across all sectors of society is imperative for global efforts to reduce the adverse effects of disasters and to build a society that is change-ready and seeking opportunities for future wellbeing. Building robust pathways toward resilience begins with assessment: gathering empirical evidence of what factors enhance resilience, under what contexts, and for which shocks; benchmarking a community's capacities, and monitoring resilience over time. The Resilience Trajectories work stream of New Zealand's Resilience to Nature's Challenges research programme is interested in exploring innovative, socially engaged, technology-based solutions to robust resilience assessment.

Applications are now invited for those wishing to pursue a Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) by thesis addressing key challenges in the field of disaster resilience assessment, including:

  • How disaster resilience assessment can be made more accessible to communities; local, territorial, and regional authorities; and national decision makers, and
  • How technical tools, including web-based software, crowd sourced data, and/or knowledge-based systems, can be employed to make resilience assessment a robust and repeatable co-creative process.

The funding for this PhD Scholarship is part of the Resilience to Nature's Challenges research programme (RNC) – Kia manawaroa Ngā Ākina o Te Ao Tūroa –a priority research area under the National Science Challenge (NSC) umbrella. RNC is a New Zealand-wide research programme, launched in July 2015, with the aim of achieving, "transformative resilience, discovering and implementing new research-based solutions for our society, culture, infrastructure and governance to address factors that will enable New Zealand to thrive in the face of nature's challenges," (Jolly 2014).

Within the RNC research programme, Dr. John Vargo and Dr. Joanne Stevenson from Resilient Organisations Ltd. are co-leading the Resilience Trajectories work stream. This work stream aims to guide disaster resilience benchmarking and monitoring across a range of systems (e.g., rural and urban communities, horizontal infrastructure, regional economies), and will help RNC stakeholders identify barriers and opportunities to accelerate progress toward a resilient New Zealand.

The Resilience Trajectories work stream is looking to engage a PhD student to develop and lead the learning frontier of this project. The successful applicant will explore options for co-creative resilience assessment, develop appropriate tool(s) (e.g., web-based software for gathering, integrating, and visualizing resilience measures, or tools for crowdsourcing relevant data) in collaboration with the Resilience to Nature's Challenges researchers, and then prototype the tools 'in the field' with a case study community.

Scholarship Details

Location: University of Canterbury, Ilam, Christchurch, New ZealandScholarship. Stipend NZD$25,000 per annum stipend (+$7000 domestic tuition). Duration: 3 years. Starting Date: February 2017, or sooner if possible. Closing date for Applications: November 14, 2016 (please note applications will be reviewed upon submission).

More details.

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