Editorial. Risk-Based, Pro-Poor Urban Design and Planning for Tomorrow’s Cities
Carmine Galasso, John McCloskey, Mark Pelling, Max Hope, Chris Bean, Gemma
Cremen, Ramesh Guragain, Ufuk Hancilar, Jonathan Menoscal, Keziah Mwang’a,
Jeremy Phillips, David Rush, Hugh Sinclair
Reference: IJDRR 102158
To appear in: International Journal of Disaster Risk Reduction
Received Date: 24 February 2021
Accepted Date: 24 February 2021
Please cite this article as: C. Galasso, J. McCloskey, M. Pelling, M. Hope, C. Bean, G. Cremen, R.
Guragain, U. Hancilar, J. Menoscal, K. Mwang’a, J. Phillips, D. Rush, H. Sinclair, Editorial. Risk-Based,
Pro-Poor Urban Design and Planning for Tomorrow’s Cities, International Journal of Disaster Risk
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Editorial. Risk-Based, Pro-Poor Urban Design and Planning for Tomorrow’s Cities
(email@example.com), John McCloskey
, Mark Pelling
, Max Hope
, Chris Bean
, Ramesh Guragain
, Ufuk Hancilar
, Jonathan Menoscal
, Keziah Mwang’a
, Jeremy Phillips
, and Hugh Sinclair
1 University College London, UK
2 The University of Edinburgh, UK
3 King’s College London, UK
4 Leeds Beckett University, UK
5 Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies, Ireland
6 National Society for Earthquake Technology, Kathmandu, Nepal
7 Boğaziçi Üniversitesi, Istanbul, Turkey
8 Facultad Latinoamericana de Ciencias Sociales FLACSO, Ecuador
9 African Centre for Technology Studies, Nairobi, Kenya
10 University of Bristol, UK
is the £20m United Kingdom Research and Innovation (UKRI) Global Challenge Research
Fund (GCRF) Urban Disaster Risk Hub. The Hub aims to support the delivery of the United Nation’s
Sustainable Development Goals and priorities 1 to 3 of the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction
(DRR) 2015-2030 . We work in four cities: Istanbul, Kathmandu, Nairobi, and Quito. We collaborate with
local, national, and global organisations to strengthen disaster risk governance by undertaking integrated,
multi-scale, and multi-disciplinary research to better understand natural multi-hazard risks and their
Ongoing rapid urbanisation and urban expansion provide a time-limited opportunity to reduce disaster risk
for the marginalised and most vulnerable in tomorrow’s cities . We aim to catalyse and support a
transition from crisis management to pro-poor, multi-hazard risk-informed urban planning and people-
centred decision-making in expanding cities worldwide.
Tomorrow’s Cities is a fully-functioning, fully-funded international collaboration of communities,
governance organisations, researchers, and risk professionals. We are developing our Phase 2 programme
planned for 2021-24, which will build on the Phase 1 research and partnerships forged since our inception
in early 2019. We seek global partners to co-produce and implement a new approach to risk reduction,
through risk-sensitive design of tomorrow’s cities.
The Sendai Framework for DRR 2015-2030 identifies an urgent need for a global effort by researchers,
practitioners, and governments to integrate science with action to support risk-sensitive decision
making . The Hub aims to co-produce methodologies and guidelines for this action-oriented, pro-
poor, multi-hazard risk-based decision-making agenda.
Understanding and acting on risk is complex. Risk
assessments are necessarily based on significant
simplifications of the underlying physical and social processes, they are difficult to validate, and the
reporting process often obscures caveats implicit in underlying assumptions (e.g., [3-4]). Technical
outputs may have an inappropriate impact due to inaccurate expectations and limited comprehension
Experience also shows that state-of-the-art risk modelling on its own is not sufficient to build risk
reduction into development planning and to support a movement to pro-poor, resilient actions (e.g., [7-
8]). Institutional inertia, exclusive decision-making structures, and competing interests can mean even
the best new knowledge is used only to enhance existing policy and practice (e.g., [9-10]).
This means that risk science has to be built on the best current methods and must also understand the
development context within which risk and resilience are positioned by competing actors in a city. It
must then be used to convene policy and practical spaces for new coalitions of interest to cohere and
bring pro-poor resilience into policy and action.
Current approaches to DRR decision support in both research and practice are hampered by historical
inertia, and display many common problems limiting their use in forwarding planning of urban
expansion and transformation (Figure 1). They typically:
• Concentrate risk-quantification efforts on existing exposure and vulnerability rather
than on a better understanding of the consequences of today’s decisions on
tomorrow’s risk and resilience (e.g., [10-11]).
• Neglect the dynamics of hazard, exposure, capacities, and vulnerabilities, treating each
as static over time, and ignoring their interactions and dependencies (e.g., ).
• Avoid considerations of the drivers of governance, planning priorities, and broader
socio-economic processes in uneven vulnerability and risk creation (e.g., ).
• Do not adequately synthesise vulnerability across different physical and social
contexts, qualitative and quantitative metrics, and local city-scale analysis (e.g., ).
• Ignore current advances in physics-based natural-hazard modelling, deploying dated
representations of hazard that often rely on limited empirical data (e.g., [14-15]).
• Employ only a limited set of risk metrics, emphasising asset value, providing
incomplete measures of the total impact of natural hazards, and undervaluing risk
experienced by marginalised communities (e.g., [16-18]).
• Neglect disruption to socio-economic and technical networks and systems and to the
communities they serve (e.g., ).
• Underemphasise social vulnerability as a policy domain for reducing urban disaster risk
• Examine the impact of single hazards, overlooking interactions and dependencies
between hazards and human activity (e.g., [21-22]).
• Exclude users from access to an examination of, or control over, underlying
assumptions or weightings in the risk quantification process (e.g., ).
• Limit involvement of local stakeholders (e.g., ).
Figure 1. A conventional risk modelling framework. An exposure module contains details on the location and
characteristics of the (existing) inventory at risk, possibly including human exposure to death or injury. The hazard
module generally deals with a representative catastrophic single hazard, assessing the resulting hazard intensity
across a geographical area under consideration. The vulnerability module quantifies the susceptibility to damage or
other forms of loss to structures/infrastructure and their contents. Typically, vulnerability is confined to comprise
only direct economic losses, often described in terms of their repair/replacement costs. In some cases, social
aspects of vulnerability are also considered (often simplistically). The effects of natural hazards on coupled social-
engineered systems are conventionally studied using computational models representing the behaviour of each
asset in isolation. Moreover, current modelling approaches generally estimate risk using a snapshot of the
conditions at one point in time. The main output of a conventional risk model is a description of the annual
probability of exceeding certain economic loss levels and related statistics. Results are generally delivered to
decision makers through a one-way process in which many of the underlying assumptions and details of the various
modules/models are not adequately communicated and made accessible to end users.
Risk & Uncertainty in Tomorrow’s Cities
Existing threats from natural hazards, social drivers of risk, and the vulnerability of existing building stock,
housing and infrastructure, present a major challenge to the well-being of marginalised communities in the
world’s cities (e.g., ). However, Tomorrow’s Cities is dedicated not to the reduction of existing risks but
to the systematic and systemic reduction of risk in future development (e.g., ). We aim to advance
holistic assessments for multi-hazard risk within complex engineering- social systems and develop new
stakeholder partnerships for DRR.
We recognise the concept of potential risk, a property of yet-unbuilt infrastructure, yet-unknown socio-
economic characteristics, and as yet-unmade decisions, which can be reduced by modifying urban design
and planning as well as the institutions that deploy them. Extending existing evaluations based on the
economic value of physical assets to include the livelihood consequences of systems disruptions results in
more inclusive urban planning and action (e.g. ).
Our aim, therefore, is to develop a two-stage Tomorrow’s Cities Decision Support Environment (DSE) based
on detailed multi-hazard scenarios co-developed with stakeholders to provide 1) a transparent and rigorous
assessment of potential risk inherent in urban design, housing and infrastructure planning, around which 2)
decision makers and those at risk might consider the risk consequences of particular decisions (Figure 2).
Both stages elucidate the consequences of particular choices, and both provide opportunities to
foreground the perspective and experience of the at-risk poor. Using customised visualisation and multi-
faceted communication strategies, the selected scenarios also provide learning loops through which
different perceptions of risk can uncover novel risk metrics and modify risk models and assessments.
We bring a deep understanding of the inherent uncertainties involved in integrated social and physical
vulnerability analysis, and the expertise to deal with these in a sophisticated way (e.g., ). We embrace
uncertainty as an opportunity rather than a hindrance, ensuring the most effective deployment of models,
transcending simplistic single perspectives and exploring multiple, quantitative and qualitative approaches
to risk (e.g., ).
In this way, we use the convening power of interdisciplinary science and simulation, rather than the
frequently unspoken implication of scientific certainty, to enable inclusive decision making. Scenarios cover
a wide range of scales from single high-magnitude events through to repeated small disruptions,
connecting intensive risk to extensive or even every-day multi-hazards, and bridging the near-real-time
priorities of the urban poor with longer-term strategic planning. Disaggregation of impact on different
sectors of society (income classes, ages, genders, and marginalised communities) will help identify different
intervention options to reduce impacts. Further, by framing these analyses with assessments of social and
economic drivers of vulnerability and exposure through co-produced, participatory community-level
research, we build on established social impact and risk assessment methodologies.
Rather than usurping local decision authorities, these two DSE stages enable science to become a tool for
decision support in a collaborative environment , where decision makers and local partners are involved
early in framing and addressing the research questions. Rather than scientists and engineers providing
definitive forecasts, they provide a critical but supporting role in an ongoing multi-disciplinary process,
where local authorities and communities are integral to the risk analysis process.
Figure 2. The Tomorrow’s Cities approach to DRR in planned urban transformation or expansion. Draft urban plans,
including the design capacity of individual elements, social indicators, and models of networks and functioning
systems, are described in detail. These planning suggestions inform event scenarios, for which high resolution,
physics-based simulations of the important multiple hazards (incorporating detailed descriptions of uncertainty)
coupled with dynamic physical and social vulnerability analysis provide an array of potential risk metrics for
consideration and weighting. Multi-disciplinary teams integrate these metrics into impact assessments and detailed
descriptions of the consequences of the chosen events, using a wide range of expertise and methods. The entire
process is interactively co-produced by decision makers, facilitators, community representatives and technical
experts, using advanced visualisation and communication capabilities to facilitate deep understandings of the
consequences of different aspects of the original plans and of the impact assessments under different transparent
assumptions and planning options. Feedback loops, which potentially give decision-makers influence over all
aspects of the process, provide opportunities for interactive, evidence-based, and inclusive planning decisions.
Components of the Tomorrow’s Cities Decision Support Environment
The Tomorrow’s Cities DSE is built around complex, layered understandings of urban risk with particular
consideration for the priorities of marginalised urban populations who bear the brunt of disaster impacts.
This emphasis necessitates novel approaches to understanding risk and its quantification, built on a flexible
virtual space in which future development scenarios and detailed urban design and policy options can be
considered, evaluated, modified and rated by a range of stakeholders.
To achieve the Hub’s desired transition to multi-hazard urban risk-based planning, the Risk DSE must be
designed as a component of existing, wider Hub activity and be co-designed with city-level decision makers.
Most important is to integrate the best physical, engineering, and social science in the Risk DSE and co-
produce the methods with city-level urban planning partners within the context and at the fora in which
decisions are being made. It must be co-owned from the start by city actors and, in this way, will enable
inclusive, evidence-based policy advocacy and debate. Navigating this shift from risk management to
integrated risk-based planning as part of a city and community-level urban development is the Hub’s core
challenge. Existing Hub city institutional mapping can identify the needs of specific policy groups so that the
Hub understands how best to communicate and co-design the vision, mechanisms, and outputs of the Risk
DSE. Skills and capacity in risk sciences that are developing across the Hub combined with substantial Phase
2 funding, enable us to address this challenge confidently.
Building on research and partnerships developed in the Hub inception phase, Phase 2 of the Hub will bring
diverse stakeholders into shared processes of co-production, and the Tomorrow’s Cities DSE will open a
new decision-making space to explore novel evidence-based solutions to difficult policy challenges.
The DSE will:
• Be co-produced with local, national, and global decision makers and research partners.
• Have a global application but will succeed through city-level deployment and local action.
• Concentrate on reducing the potential risk inherent in today’s decisions appropriately through
the design and planning of tomorrow’s built environment and social systems.
• Foreground the role of governance, planning, and community capacity in risk
• Enable assessing different policy and planning options in terms of their impact on various
economic, environmental, and social objectives.
• Deploy state-of-the-art hazard and physical vulnerability models to develop validated
simulations around which multi-layered physics-driven scenarios can be constructed and
• Deploy state-of-the-art social vulnerability assessments and examination of risk creation
processes through local, participatory methodologies and historical Forensic Investigations of
Disasters (FORIN) analysis.
• Combine physical and social sciences in innovative integrated analyses to reveal the pathways
to, and drivers of vulnerability.
• Employ a wide range of risk metrics, including those that capture the risk experience of
marginalised communities and the outcomes of socio-political and technical system analyses.
• Account for the loss of function of systems and networks.
• Examine the impact of multiple hazards and the resulting risk interdependencies.
• Emphasise the use of appropriate visualisation to communicate the complexities of the
underlying modelling and its inherent assumptions.
• Perform rigorous uncertainty modelling for each component of the risk assessment framework
and ensure open dissemination of the related results.
• Provide all data and models as open-source tools, including complete documentation and
records of the development and previous case studies.
Tomorrow’s Cities have convened a group who are actively working on this approach to risk, building on
the Phase 1 research effort in our four cities.
We are now looking for partners to work with us to co-produce the details of the methodology to achieve a
good fit between the concept and its delivery.
Expressions of interest from and meetings with appropriate partners are welcomed and actively
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Declaration of interests
The authors declare that they have no known competing financial interests or personal relationships
that could have appeared to influence the work reported in this paper.
☐The authors declare the following financial interests/personal relationships which may be considered
as potential competing interests: