Building More Resilient Cities Requires Understanding Urban Interdependencies

A healthy city requires its services and structures to also be healthy. These include a city’s utilities, transportation services, public safety services, buildings, social services and its natural environment. While isolating any one of these services or structures can make planning seem more straightforward, changes occurring in one sector will often affect many others.

Planning for urban resilience requires taking a holistic and broad view to understand the complexity of the urban environment and to see the interdependencies between the communities, structures and services that make up the city.  Changes that improve resilience in one area should also improve the resilience of the entire city.

“Urban resilience is the capacity of individuals, communities, institutions, businesses, and systems within a city to survive, adapt, and grow no matter what kinds of chronic stresses and acute shocks they experience.”

100 Resilient Cities [1]

Some systems-theories [2] based approaches to predicting city performance suggest that highly integrated cities are more capable of coping when instability arises than less integrated cities. However, other studies [3] show that higher levels of interdependence can be correlated with higher degrees of failure in response to system shocks. The existence of both perspectives point to the need to clearly understand the specific interdependences between the services and structures in a city when planning for resilience.

On April 27, 2017 the Canadian Urban Institute will host a +PlaceMaker event to look at interdependencies in urban resilience planning. How can cross-sectoral approaches be applied and funded in times of fiscal restraint? How can we enable political guidance and leadership when resilience planning doesn’t always fit our political boundaries?

Toronto’s Resilience Challenges. Source:  100 Resilient Cities  [6]

Toronto’s Resilience Challenges. Source: 100 Resilient Cities [6]


David MacLeod of the City of Toronto will begin the session by discussing the City’s approach to resilience planning, including its work as a new member of 100 Resilient Cities [4].  David will also speak to the City’s focus on addressing the interdependence between key infrastructure service providers through a High Level Risk Assessment (HLRA) that the City led with public and private sector stakeholders to address risks and vulnerabilities of climate change in the Transportation, Utilities/Telecom and Water sectors (see Toronto staff report [5]).

Following David’s presentation, Dr. Anne Kerr, Mott MacDonald’s global head of urbanization will moderate a discussion with leaders in urban resiliency planning from United Way, Toronto and Region Conservation Authority, Metrolinx and Toronto Hydro.  The panel of experts will discuss their own organization’s approaches to resilience planning and how their work interacts with and supports work in other areas, contributing to the overall resilience of the city. 

Register today to receive the early bird rate!


[1] 100 Resilient Cities, What is Urban Resilience? Retrieved from: 

[2] Chief of Staff of the Army, Strategic Studies Group (2014), Megacities and the United States Army – Preparing for a Complex and Uncertain Future. Retrieved from:

[3] Shutters, S. T., Muneepeerakul, R., & Lobo, J. (2015). Quantifying urban economic resilience through labour force interdependence. Palgrave Communications, 1, 15010.

[4] 100 Resilient Cities. Retrieved from:

[5] City of Toronto (2016). Resilient City – Preparing for a Changing Climate Status Update and Next Steps. Retrieved from:

[6] 100 Resilient Cities. Toronto’s Resilience Challenge. Retrieved from: