Urban Resilience: Engaging your Community through Data

What is resilience?

Resilience for a city (sometimes called urban resilience) means its people, businesses, government, institutions—even daily processes—have the capabilities to survive, adapt, and grow in the face of continual stresses and intense shocks.

For cities like my hometown of Indianapolis, resilience initially meant being prepared to handle both physical (blizzards, tornadoes) and economic (loss of a massive manufacturing base) shocks. But, as economies rebounded and populations grew, it became clear new stresses—the burdens of success so to speak—also needed attention.

To me, resilience goes one step further. Ideally, it would include a thorough blending of technology, processes, and culture, with culture being much more important than you might think. But the culture of the city cannot be mandated by law. It can only be powered by the people, and that means building a solid process for community engagement.

How to increase community engagement

My hometown of Indianapolis has done a great job increasing community engagement and addressing citizen needs through a total revamp of its My.Indy.Gov digital city hall, plus a variety of other technologies. My general feeling is that merging new technologies and approaches (such as gaming, apps, and a citizen engagement lab) with traditional outreach methods (like neighborhood meetings, design charrettes, and walk-abouts) may be the best way to increase community engagement, and should be a city’s first step to resiliency.

You can start building a culture of resilience in your own town by increasing opportunities for citizen engagement, including:

  • Developing an easy-to-use digital city hall, paired with a mobile app, to empower citizens with access to the same data that city agencies, vendors, and other organizations do
  • Using apps and other mobile solutions to provide transparency across your city’s agencies in a consistent and regularly scheduled manner (Play in our Cisco Smart Cities app developer and sandbox)
  • Using gaming as way for citizens and city employees to retrieve, better understand, and better apply data (what is gaming?)
    Ensuring your network infrastructure can handle the added traffic so that their customer experience is consistent and reliable (find out how).

Moving your data from “potential” to “kinetic”

Thanks to the Internet of Things (IoT), the world is suddenly awash in collaborative tools, sensors, and solutions that can empower citizens and governments to share or access video and data in real-time, from anywhere. These tools could be significant players in increasing both resilience and community engagement. But a big stumbling block has been how to connect and manage this constant stream of data to reap the tremendous value it has once aggregated, interpreted, and released into the wild. This capability has been a sort of Holy Grail for communities, until now.

That’s why, as a landscape architect who has dealt with a variety of urban and community planning issues, I am so excited about Cisco Kinetic for Cities. It enables a unifying, single pane of glass for communities to view and manage the massive amounts of information around them. It then turns that potential data into something actionable—something kinetic—moving their cities from static to interactive. And, in the end, empowering both government and citizen to become more engaged and resilient.


Kenn Dodson
Subject Matter Expert – Government, Cisco
Kenn Dodson is a Cisco Subject Matter Expert for Government (Smart Cities, Public Safety, DoD). He’s also a Licensed Landscape Architect with Urban Planning experience.

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