GIZ & Siemens Workshop on Trasportation & Energy Resilience

GIZ (Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit) and Siemens hosted a vibrant late-afternoon workshop together, asking participants to share stories from their own cities regarding five resilience criteria.

(Session name: Mind the Gap: Embedding Infrastructure Solutions into Sociopolitical Contexts. Facilitators: Volker Hessel (facilitator), Manager for Energy Efficiency and Sustainability, Siemens; Martin Dirr, Planning Officer, GIZ; Gesa von Engelbrechten, Project Manager, GIZ.
Rapporteur: Almut Nagel, Senior Desk Officer for Water and Urban Development, German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ)

Refreshingly and contrasting to all the sitting during the conference (necessary, of course), GIZ and Siemens had the audience standing up and being maximally involved for a full hour – a win-win for everyone and from all perspectives.

The hosts moderated three separate but interrelated discussions that attendants rotated between: one on the two resilience criteria “Robustness” & “Redundancy” (having protective layers or, say, appendices, that can be lost while the protected function continues to remain in place); one on the two resilience criteria “Flexibility” (services may be supplied via a number of pathways) & “Responsiveness“; and one on the resilience criterion “Coordination and learning“.

The idea was for participants to play around with the criteria, wrap their heads around them and exchange experiences and ideas. The discussions were centered around Energy on the one hand and Transportation on the other hand, but the output can be applied both for those two areas as well as much further beyond.

The session saw much energy, many smiles, a few wrinkled eyebrows and omnipresent illuminated eyes. What each of the participants took away from it all is impossible to capture here, but that the organizers concluded the Friday by sending all of us away with a few new thoughts and concepts is definitely more of an understatement than the opposite. What constituted new thoughts of course differs from attendant to attendant – which means that the purpose of the workshop was fulfilled excellently! – but what follows are a few of mine.

For one, the dichotomy between what should be “sacrificed” first, if push comes to shove, was discussed: the most vulnerable parts of the city or its most critical functions? Or, similarly, should we prioritize power to industry or to homes, if we have to choose? An unpleasant topic but one that nonetheless needs to be addressed.

Another new concept for me was “Ties off”, i.e. the need to recognize that cultural behaviour sometimes impedes crucial action. When water is flooding the basement or gusts are thrashing your walls, it is time to roll up your sleeves and tear off your tie. Metaphorically speaking, it means that we all have to leave our cultural comfort zones from time to time; cultural taboos are bad excuses for endangering lives.

According to participants, reluctance towards data sharing is more prevalent than one might think. No matter the reasons, be they pride or vested interests, this silliness needs to stop – we have bigger problems!

Lastly, it is important to not always think of infrastructure only as assets but rather to look at the services provided behind the infrastructure and through it, in order to open up for thinking about new solutions for redundancy and robustness.

Tim Isaksson
Student, Lund University

Tim Isaksson