Building resilience in 2020

Building resilience in 2020

The construction industry has been left reeling from the body blow delivered by COVID-19. But this will pass, and being resilient will help navigate the crisis and prepare for recovery and future opportunities.

COVID-19 has impacted every corner of society and will do so for many months to come. With most construction work initially suspended, construction companies have struggled to manage cash flow, retain staff and remain viable.

There is some light at the end of the tunnel for the sector with the government’s pledge to fund significant built infrastructure projects. The challenge is bridging this immediate crisis and positioning to excel and take advantage of the economic stimulus activities.

Continue reading the full article.

Applying cross-cultural research methods to COVID-19 research

Economic recovery: Enabling comparative research on COVID-19 - Research agenda-setting paper

The global nature of COVID-19 presents some unprecedented opportunities for cross-cultural research, which can help us to better understand the impacts of culture, public policy and resilience on economic recovery.  Charlotte Brown is part of an international working group, convened through the CONVERGE centre, that has developed a research agenda for economic recovery research.

This short paper outlines the research methods and principles from natural hazard research we can apply to research related to COVID-19, as well as the notable differences and challenges.

Read the full paper

Visionweek NZ 2020 – day three

Visionweek NZ 2020 - day three

Sustaining NZ

The COVID-19 response demonstrated New Zealand’s leadership. Our leaders looked at the science and took early and decisive action to address the threat. We need to extend this approach to address other sustainability threats and opportunities that we face. That was the overarching message that we took from Wednesday’s Vision Week webinar entitled “Sustaining NZ”.

The initial COVID-19 recovery investment needed to be quick and relatively coarse – there simply wasn’t time to do otherwise. Subsequent waves of investment can and need to be more considered and nuanced. By applying a sustainability lens to our COVID-19 recovery actions we can ensure the very substantial investment being made is truly no regrets, maximises the benefits for future generations (from whom we are borrowing) and avoid locking us into costly or unsustainable pathways.

The speakers highlighted that while climate change is less dire in the short term, the long-term consequences are severe. Like COVID-19, the science is sufficiently clear, and the benefits sufficiently obvious, that early action is warranted. We need to address both emissions and adaptation to the effects, such as rising sea levels, more severe weather events (floods, droughts, wind) and bio-security threats. Failure to act will only increase the long term economic, social and environmental costs.

The opportunities for improving sustainability apply across the board, including infrastructure (three waters, transport, energy) as well as natural based systems such as agriculture and tourism were all spoken about. The point was made that businesses that embrace sustainability tend to be more profitable, in part because they are more forward looking and better prepared to take up opportunities.

A strategic approach is needed. Some investment decisions are easy and obvious – such as home insulation that delivers multiple benefits to the nation as well as home occupants. In some cases, wise investment may mean delaying large long-term investment decisions to ensure we are not locking ourselves into short-term fixes that we have worse outcomes in the longer term (Dr Carr gave the replacement on the Cook Straight ferries as an example).

Several speakers highlighted that changes are already starting and the need to stay ahead of the pack. Kirsti Luke and Tāmiti Kruger gave an example of looking at overseas technology and applying it locally. Similarly, Ian Proudfoot and Alan Sutherland emphasised the need to learn from others. NZ is blessed with resources and opportunities. We need to get creative, use local knowledge and innovation but also draw from overseas experiences and expertise to inspire and stretch our imagination and creativity. This cannot be left to Government, businesses are critical to this.

Much of the discussion was related to managing risk. This includes ensuring our investments are ‘no regret’ options.  It also means addressing issues such as the vulnerability of our supply chains highlighted during COVID-19, as mentioned by Alison Andrews. Being prepared for, and resilient to, low probability but high consequence events, such as pandemics, are part of being sustainable.

Leadership, consensus and a long-term approach is needed. The role of iwi in providing a long-term perspective was noted, as was the need to avoid the short-termism of the three year election cycle. Our sustainable future can be built on the shared values and vision that allowed us to lead the world in our COVID-19 response.

For us the speakers highlighted the tight coupling between resilience and sustainability.  To be sustainable and meet the challenges of climate change we need to be resilient to disruption, as well as be adaptable to a changing world.  We need to be inclusive, innovative, open to opportunity, flexible, and we need to move together towards a clear and common goal.

Go to #visionweekNZ to see details of the speakers and to listen to webinar.

Visionweek NZ 2020 – day two

Visionweek NZ 2020 - day two

Connecting NZ

Day two of #visionweekNZ highlighted the opportunities present in our tourism, technology and transport sectors to connect and create a future proof New Zealand. From new technological innovations in tourism that enables people to virtually bungy jump from their couch (if you haven’t done it yet, try it here!) to improved connectiveness in our technology and infrastructure sectors to enable better planned developments that address the needs of digital equity and lower carbon transport options.

COVID-19 is seen to provide a great opportunity to these sectors in enabling them to stop and reflect on past issues, lessons learnt during lockdown, and how they see the future of their sectors.

Although currently in survive mode, the tourism sector is embracing the opportunity to create a more sustainable tourism sector that reflects New Zealanders values including a larger emphasis on being more inclusive of community needs, a more restorative approach to nature and increased productivity.  One suggestion included moving from a profit-based, input-output model to a cooperative closed system model that is a partnership between community, environmental and industry groups.

Highlighted was the timing New Zealand is offered during COVID to rethink their infrastructure networks in tourism hotspots so that they better meet the needs of both the community and international tourists whether that be increased connectivity in mobile coverage or congestion on roads. The ability and willingness to reflect, learn and grow from experiences is the sign of resilience in an organisation/industry sector.

In technology, the focus is on how this newfound flexibility in how we work can be harnessed and integrated with wellbeing and physical connection to create a better work environment to all. This is along with utilising our innovation and creativity as entrepreneurial kiwis to develop new technologies that can be shared on a world stage, whether it is on or off planet (how many of you thought of the satellite networks that made it possible for your daily zoom calls?!). Innovation and people, two core tenants of a resilience paradigm, again at the forefront of conversations about our post COVID future.

The infrastructure sector is working towards being able to offer more choice of lower carbon options to communities either by the electrification of aviation and rail or by well thought out approach to developments to ensure there is a greater focus on being more walkable and community focussed. Also highlighted was the need within the sector to connect better and become less fragmented in order to produce more integrated solutions for New Zealand.

Many of these key lessons covered key resilience themes.  This included innovation and creativity to change what we were doing to what we want to do, breaking down silos and engaging in effective partnerships outside your own sectors to create more integrated approaches, and how we proactively position ourselves to meet the post-COVID future and ensure we are creating a New Zealand we want that is futureproof.


Visionweek NZ 2020 – day one

Visionweek NZ 2020 – day one

Opportunity NZ

Today #visionweekNZ kicked off with interviews from 14 fantastic New Zealanders, sharing their ideas for the future of New Zealand.  The uplifting set of speakers spoke about the opportunity presented during and beyond the crisis and the unique position that New Zealand has to capitalise on these opportunities.  Below we summarise some of the points that stood out to us (with our trademark resilience spin added, of course).

Opportunity taking – The success of our health response, not least due to our ability to come together around a common cause, puts us in a strong position globally to be a leader and to pull investment toward us.  Rob Campbell asks, can we be a leader of a team of 5 billion?  We need to focus on strategies that leverage our strengths – renewable energies, food production, science and technology and our clean green image.  We also need to take the opportunity to address some of the underlying challenges and crises that we face as a nation – inequality, climate change, poverty; and support underlying societal needs of education, health, water, environment and research and development.

Forward looking – We need to embrace that we are recovering toward a new normal: a ‘reset’.  Stephen Tindall observes that COVID has allowed us to race forward into a digital age and we are seeing that working on line is very efficient with potential benefits to the environment, business productivity, and well being.  We need to learn these types of lessons and draw them into the future so we can meet visions like that of Peter Beck’s ‘prosperous, high productivity, high-wage, smart economy’.  Conversely we need to critically evaluate what of our past is no longer valuable.  In Shamubel Eaqub’s words we may need to let some ‘zombie businesses’ fail as we reimagine what our economy should look like.  While of course supporting those who need help with those impacts.

Values driven – NZ is typically good at being in the moment (think number eight wire mentality), and weaker at taking a long term approach.  At the same time, we have a window of opportunity while we are working as a team of 5 million, under effective leadership to come together and define our values and bake them into our recovery.  We need to balance the urgent need to keep people employed, while taking the time to get the investment decision right.  We want to ensure current and future generations are better off – not just financially but in terms of wellbeing.

Adapatability – The uncertainty ahead is clear and we need to be adaptable in our approach.  The government’s decision not to allocate a significant portion of the recovery stimulus is an example of this.  It is  recognition that we will need to respond and adapt as the global extent of the situation arises.

Kirsti Luke put it best, as she described how the future always has to involve stretch and improvement.  It is the essence of species evolution.  Without that we will die.

Learning – As part of vision week you can send in short videos sharing your vision for NZ.  One community idea that stood out to us was to create a “Learning society” that embraces and values holistic, whole of life learning.  We love this idea.  A learning culture builds an openness to new ideas, change, and diversity.

People – Kindness and community were mentioned today but much of the focus was on economic and governance response to COVID.  We’d love to see some more discussion in the coming days on the vision from a community perspective – not necessarily as receptors of economic activity and investment but as partners and collaborators.

Looking forward to tomorrow’s discussion…what’s your vision? #visionweekNZ

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