Thinking Resilience: International Conference on Regional Development and the US Election

Guest post by Sarah Eggert, University of Hawaii at Manoa Master’s program in Urban and Regional Planning 

From November 9-11, joint studio participants had the opportunity to attend the third annual International Conference on Regional Development (ICRD). The theme this year was “Enhancing Resilience: Bridging Knowledge and Policy for Cities and Regions.” Conference attendees had the privilege of hearing from Professor Felicitas Hillmann of the Leibniz Institute for Research on Society and Space, Seetha Raghupathy of the World Bank’s City Planning Lab, and Professor Paul Burton of Griffith University in the opening session.

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Professor Hillman shared about resilience from a migration perspective, pointing out that cities are the number one destination of migrants in today’s world. She shared initial trends from research conducted in Semarang, and emphasized the need to distinguish between people who do not choose to migrate away from a place because they feel an attachment to place compared to people who are “trapped.” Although her research in Semarang is ongoing, Professor Hillman mentioned misperceptions about resilience and migration are due to short-term thinking; a long-term perspective, focused on including socio-economic solutions in addition to technical ones is recommended. Also of note was the idea that a mobile population may in fact improve or increase resilience. Such an idea is certainly one to be researched further.

Following Professor Hillman’s discussion, Ms. Raghupathy shared a lively and inspiring presentation entitled “Realizing Resilience: Making it Happen.” In order to realize the “hopes and dreams of resilience,” Ms. Raghupathy recommended four solutions: increasing government capacity, building confidence in the private sector, improving project preparation, and addressing financing. Ms. Raghupathy encouraged the audience to approach these solutions with a collaborative spirit, working to bridge the gap between national and local government agencies. She also reminded us that it is okay to celebrate victories in improving resilience- even small ones- and to continue to dream big.

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Finally, the plenary session was closed by Professor Burton, who was focused on the complex relationship between science and policy when discussing resilience. Professor Burton talked about thinking about a city “as it is, as it should be, and as it might be.”

With such a fantastic opening session, the conference was off to a great start. However, as great lessons in resilience were being shared with the audience the morning of November 9 in Indonesia, it was the end of a long day of voting in the United States for the Presidential Election. With access to WiFi provided by the conference, the Americans in the room, as well as other concerned global citizens, would refresh the electoral map on their smartphones to see the most up-to-date results. As states went from blue to red and vice-versa, the reality of how close the race between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump was as evident as ever. As Professor Hillman was encouraging a long-term perspective, Ms. Raghupathy encouraged collaboration, and Professor Burton discussed complexity in terms of resilience in Indonesia, those at the conference dividing their attention between the conference and what was happening with the American presidential election couldn’t help but wonder if the lessons being taught might also be applicable for the next four years in the United States. As divided as the United States may be right now, it will certainly be a test in the resilience of the country to overcome such division and continue to engage in an inclusive, patient, and forward-thinking manner.

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