WhyDAR - Why We Disagree about Resilience

WhyDAR is a multi-disciplinary research project bringing together practitioners and academics interested in investigating the multiple, and sometimes contradictory, perspectives which exist on urban resilience paying attention to the ways in which science and expertise are mobilized in these. There are interesting synergies between WhyDAR and Urban ARK, particulary our research in Nairobi. The projects are collaborating in various ways to further build our community of practice. 

WhyDAR is particularly interested in understanding the extent to which science and technology can be mobilized towards the deployment of a transformative approach to resilience, sensitive to issues of social and environmental justice. In relation to this theoretical objective, WhyDAR uses qualitative GIS and creative practices to explore new ways of visualizing resilience.


- Open a learning agenda on the role of science in resilience programming

- Examine opportunities for methodological innovation in the visualisation of resilience


The concept of resilience is increasingly used in urban planning (e.g. 100 Resilience Cities Programme) and disaster risk reduction. While resilience may appear consensual to some, disagreements exist regarding what urban resilience should look like. Some approaches to resilience focus on infrastructure and materials, whereas other approaches are more inclusive of social and environmental concerns.  Based on this observation, WhyDAR aims to identify different ways in which urban resilience is understood while investigating the role of science, technology and expertise in the making of resilience strategies. We assume in particular:

A number of scientific and technical tools (e.g. maps, quantitative indicators) are increasingly used in the development of resilience strategies – yet science & technology have performative effects that need to be studied.

Some ways of approaching resilience facilitate particular understandings of resilience. Methods matter and have implications for resilience planning and risk governance.

In relation to these two assumptions we explored the potential of creative methods and qualitative GIS to find new ways of mapping for resilience, moving beyond conventional approaches based predominantly on quantitative indicators to include qualitative data and stories. Our primary interest was not to monitor and assess resilience, but rather to document different conceptions of resilience while surfacing underlying tensions or agreements in values. We explicitly addressed moral questions arising from these tensions by using philosophical approaches to ethical analysis.


In collaboration with local partners, we worked in three cities: Manilla (Philippines), Nairobi (Kenya) and Cape Town (South Africa). These cities are currently facing a rapid urbanization rate while being at risk of chronic stresses and disasters such as flooding and drought. These cities also face important inequalities and have communities living in informal settlements that are disconnected from, or have poor access to, basic services and public authorities.


  • How has the concept of urban resilience been deployed so far in Nairobi, Cape Town and Manila?  Which disagreements or tensions exist around different conceptions of resilience?
  • Whose knowledge and expertise counts in the development of resilience strategies?
  • What are the implications for risk governance and social inequalities?
  • How can art and science be used creatively to encourage transformative resilience?
  • What ethical issues are raised by disagreements about reliance and how should we respond morally to them?


This work is intended to be useful for urban planners, civil servants and NGOs demanding a more comprehensive framing of resilience policy. WhyDAR maps for example can be used to trigger a conversation between actors from different departments or organizations. The WhyDAR project will also help identify which forms of risk governance and urban futures are being promoted as well as their ethical implications.

Visit project: http://whydarproject.wordpress.com/