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Methods for Community Resilience Tradeoffs


Communities facing natural hazard risks are often concerned with other risks as well, including sea-level rise, resource depletion, and pandemics. Thus, community resilience planning occurs in the context of multiple, potentially competing objectives, such as adaptation, sustainability, and public health. The goal of this project is to provide communities with the tools and resources they need to evaluate whether resilience planning efforts can complement other community-level objectives, as well as potential tradeoffs between investing in increased resilience and investing to meet other objectives. 


Objective - To support community resilience planning in the context of multiple competing objectives, including sustainability, adaptation, and public health, by evaluating complementarities and tradeoffs.

What is the technical idea? Communities face multiple competing objectives in planning processes, including shocks (e.g., resilience to natural hazards), chronic stressors (e.g., climate change), and social goals (e.g., equity); however, they are also limited by availability of resources (e.g., budgets, personnel, resources, and bandwidth). Much of the existing guidance on community resilience planning is formulated independently of other objectives that compete for a community’s limited resources. The idea is to provide communities with the foundation to understand and evaluate the range of options, constraints, and interdependencies across multiple competing objectives. In particular, the goal is to identify: (1) areas of overlap where limited resources can address multiple objectives and (2) the opportunity costs of adopting one objective at the expense of another. These efforts will assist communities in evaluating policy tools (e.g., zoning) as well as potential market mechanisms (e.g., PACE energy program for seismic retrofits) for supporting planning to address multiple objectives.

The research team will leverage modern methods in statistics, econometrics, and machine learning, as well as sources of big data such as social media, location data, and open data portals, in order to evaluate the tradeoffs communities are already facing as well as areas for potential complementarities. The research may be supported by primary data collection as needed.

What is the research plan? In the first year, the goal of this scoping project is to identify both: (1) areas of overlap where limited resources can address multiple objectives; and (2) the opportunity costs of adopting one objective at the expense of another. The primary research activity is focused on addressing (1) and (2) from the perspective of communities. This activity will produce foundational measurement science, as well as lessons learned (in the form of a summary document), with respect to both (1) and (2). These outputs are expected to provide decision makers with actionable information that is not readily available at the moment.

The primary activity will focus on determining how communities are thinking about resilience in the context of competing objectives by applying text mining and natural language processing (NLP) methods to analyze existing documents such as capital improvement plans and economic development plans. This activity entails:

(i) Documenting which objectives, if any, are competing with community resilience,

(ii) Identifying the current tradeoffs communities are making,

(iii) Evaluating potential areas of mutual benefit across objectives, and

(iv) Identifying potential market mechanisms and other policy tools available to communities for addressing multiple objectives.

A key question for this activity is whether experience with a disaster event leads to reallocation of resources towards resilience at the expense of competing objectives. It will also be important to distinguish how planning changes pre- and post-COVID-19.

Created May 12, 2021