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Planning for Resilience

30 November 2020

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Reported by CSaP Policy Intern Julia Amtmann

‘Can resilience be planned for?’ The Covid-19 pandemic has shed light on the need for resilient systems, so how do you design technical systems to be more flexible, adaptable, so they can respond to changes in the environment?

In the second seminar of our workshop series on resilience, Dr Eloise Taysom and Dr David Cleevely guided a lively debate on the balance between optimization and resilience within a system, with participants ultimately reaching the conclusion that the key to building a resilient system is to develop a balance between optimization, flexibility, and resilience.

Resilience is about the balance of change and systems consistency over time, emphasized Dr Eloise Taysom, Head of Product at open banking start-up Bud. She noted that in technology, development and technical systems, changes are human made. Consequently, one needs to think of the interrelation of technology, people, and complex systems when addressing resilience in technical systems. Understanding the users’ needs and the technological approaches one could take to solve specific problems is crucial. Moreover, in the case of complex systems, keeping various perspectives of the stakeholders in mind has proven to be valuable. As every person has a different viewpoint on the systems structure and motion, realizing the varying levels of abstraction is useful to achieve a balance between optimization and changeability. Additionally, Dr Taysom stressed that an increase in the speed of feedback loops between the different parties will strengthen resilience in the system.

Here, Dr David Cleevely, Chairman of the Raspberry Pi Foundation, questioned whether there could be simple rules that can be employed in organizations to enhance resilience. It was subsequently suggested that a promising strategy would involve setting special goals, then reassessing and restructuring in accordance with a systems’ cycle of change. Within the reassessment phase, it was suggested that timescales, cost minimization, and the connection of feedback looks should be carefully considered. Too much feedback can result in noise causing unnecessary high costs. Hence the right level of feedback focusing a specific goal needs to be found with which the proper amount of change can be implemented to build up resilience.

Throughout the discussion, it was noted that hospitals' disaster response plans, which include exercises to plan for unknown potential future shocks, have helped hospitals to be resilient. It was suggested that other sectors could learn from the resilience-boosting practices which aid and encourage hospitals in planning for unexpected systems-disrupting future events.

Julia Amtmann

Technical University Munich