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Embracing Change: Building Resilience with Communities

Keio University, Hiyoshi Campus, Yokohama
January 15, 16 2014

Our ambition in the 4th International EI Symposium is to bring together actors and pioneers carrying out concrete projects directed at building resiliency around the world. Presentations and honest discussion will be our chief tools. We expect to uncover common solutions and problems across disciplines and hopefully to inspire new ideas for how to deal with massive change, whether it is climate change, disaster response, or social and economic transformation.

Change is the new normal. How we deal with it, however, is far from standardized.

By definition it is difficult to speak about change with anything like certainty, but it seems clear that ignoring it leaves us vulnerable. Worse, by letting it go unnoticed we miss opportunities to solve a host of inter-related problems, from climate change to economic, political, and cultural transformation. For this gathering we assume resilience is connected to the capacity for adaptation and that it will play a central role in managing those issues successfully. A truly resilient society - capable of blunting the worst from happening, but prepared to deal with unavoidable change - could develop in the right circumstances. Learning how to make that happen is of paramount importance.

Building resilience is a process of self-learning and reorganization. It requires the accumulation of knowledge, on-the-ground practice, and collaboration among many groups. While these needs are understood, the potential to act has not yet been developed enough, partly because of the weakness of our modern communities, but also as a result of the limitations of the infrastructures that frame our daily lives (financial, technical, political, education). A coordinated effort that unites governments, businesses, research organizations, academia and communities is ideal, but can only be accomplished by breaking down the walls between them and creating partnerships formed around shared problems.

Keio University’s fourth annual symposium, organized by the Environmental Innovators Program, brings researchers, professionals, community leaders and social entrepreneurs together for two days to present their work and to talk about how to use what we already know. The topics we expect to look at this year are loosely grouped around the goal of planning and carrying out transformative change, with a focus on emergent issues such as renewable energy, post-disaster reconstruction, population dynamics, and social entrepreneurship. We will look to practical issues including how to measure and understand vulnerability, as well as the tools needed to develop a culture of practice with regard to change. Speakers will bring concrete and innovative projects to the tables as the basis for a deep discussion that will span across disciplines and help with the development of resilient and sustainable communities.

With each session composed of a multi-disciplinary group we hope that we will gain insight to the following questions:

  • Can adaptation be addressed through resiliency building (in advance), must our actions always be reactionary, taking action after a disaster?
  • How can we scale the solutions developed at the local scale in order to have an impact regionally, nationally, or globally?
  • How can scientific knowledge be transformed or applied in the built world in an active way?

For those interested in learning where we are coming from, take a look at last years symposium, as well as excerpts of the conversations (proceedings). We are firm believers in acting. We are also firm believers in discussing what we can learn from our actions, and bringing people together to spread their wisdom is an essential tool for dealing with changing environments.

There will be 4 Sessions this year, covering three communities dealing with change in Asia and followed by a wrap up session to try and tie the issue together so that we can make policies and theories more clear, and offer suggestions for where to go to next.

Change is different depending on where we are standing. To get a feel for that difference we will look to problems in Bangladesh, Mongolia and Japan. In the case of the first the context is an emerging economy combined with migration. In Mongolia the challenges are quite similar, with the added issue of massive resource wealth. In Japan the context is entirely different as the economy is mature but the population is radically shrinking and aging. Taken together they cover many of the problems of the region and for the world.



Day One
Session One
Climate Adaptation and Community - Trans-boundary networks and resilience of communities in a time of change
Countries in South East Asian are facing challenges of climate change and social transition. It may be that social innovation and international cooperation can help to stabilize the imbalance created by uncertainty. Bringing enterprises, local leaders and researchers with on the ground projects, this session discusses the shape of financial and social networks at local communities, the role of actors and their performance in building resilience to both climate change and social transformation.

Session Two
National and Local Resilience - Trans-boundary Interfaces of science and policy for national and local resilience
Countries like Mongolia are emerging as new economy with dramatic resource development and urbanization. Weathering this shift so that the new society can stand up to global markets as well as climate change is a serious challenge. Key is here how to close the gap between advanced scientific knowledge and the political needs on the ground. This session presents the latest scientific and political achievement in resilience and adaptation to climate extremes in the country. We will discuss the design and practice of technological and social interfaces connecting stakeholders at multiple scales, and picture a blueprint for the transformation to green and resilient economy of the country.

Side Event - Workshop - Designing for Perpetual Change (pdf: 578KB)

Day Two
Session Three
Really Resiliency - Reconstruction After Disaster and the Shift From Small Scale Reaction to Large Scale Transformation
Rebuilding communities and nations after disaster is challenging in itself. In such a situation can reconstruction be used as catalyst for rebuilding nations and preparing for a future filled with change? This session explores the possibility of crossing disciplines to find a way to scale solutions in order to have a significant impact at the scale of nations while working at the scale of communities.

Session Four - Discussion
Looking Forward - Where Do We Go From Here and How Do We Make Use of What We Know?
Bringing knowledge together from multiple sources is increasingly difficult, but ever more important. In order to build resiliency what kinds of transformation are necessary and what tools do we need to make change work for us all?