British Council Joins 100 Resilient Cities to Support Resilience Building through Arts and Culture

The British Council will work with cities within the 100 Resilient Cities (100RC) network to identify how culture and the arts can strengthen urban resilience practice around the world. Its first report for a city in the 100RC network launched  on Septemeber 12, 2018 in Athens.

The British Council joins a group of 100RC Platform Partners, including organisations like Microsoft, Swiss Re and the World Bank. These partners help cities around the world prepare for, withstand, and bounce back from the ‘shocks’ – catastrophic events like hurricanes, fires, and floods – and ‘stresses’ – slow-moving disasters like water shortages, homelessness, and unemployment – which are increasingly part of 21st century life. They do this by providing and developing tools for building urban resilience.

Leveraging a city’s arts and cultural assets significantly boosts its resilience-building efforts, with culture and creativity supporting wellbeing, economy, and leadership. These are underpinned by heritage, knowledge sharing and cultural diversity.

The impact of culture and the arts is evident in resilient communities, from spurring economic activity through entrepreneurship to providing spaces for reflection, reconciliation and remembrance in the aftermath of traumatic events.

The British Council’s global network of offices and trusted links with arts organisations and community groups will help 100RC member cities embed cultural initiatives and considerations into their planning. This will make a critical contribution to designing and implementing citywide Resilience Strategies.

Athens is the first in the 100 Resilient Cities network to work with the British Council. ‘Athens City Resilience Through Culture’, a report drawing on consultations with Athens’ cultural and arts professionals as well as those involved in the city’s wider development, launches 12 September and will include a discussion of the report’s recommendations with representatives of the City of Athens, the British Council and 100 Resilient Cities.

One of the issues addressed in the report is the impact of the Greek economic crisis of 2008 on Athens. While the years of austerity have seen a rise in unemployment, and other social pressures in Athens, they have also provoked a wave of citizen mobilisation, solidarity networks, and the growth of civil society efforts.

On the release of its Resilience Strategy in June 2017, and while hosting internationally renowned cultural events such as Documenta 14, Athens emerged as a social innovator by supporting new models of engagement and participation among its residents.

Among the report’s recommendations are:

  • establishing a creative industries expert advisory board to help drive the creative economy of Athens;
  • exploring new finance models for the cultural sector;
  • identifying leading Athenian cultural platforms such as synAthina, Athens Culture Net and OPANDA to coordinate cultural and arts activities.

It is hoped that the report’s recommendations will serve as a model for other members of the 100RC global network to focus actively on the cultural components of resilience.

Sir Ciarán Devane, Chief Executive, British Council said: ‘Creative expression and collaboration enable cities not just to survive shocks and stresses, but to thrive. The British Council’s relationships with arts organisations and community groups in 110 countries mean we are well placed to help city leaders unlock the unique value that culture can add to urban resilience strategies.’

Michael Berkowitz, President of 100 Resilient Cities, said: ‘In an increasingly complex and challenging world, cities need partnerships with organisations like the British Council to withstand the shocks and stresses of the 21st century. By providing expertise to network cities on leveraging arts and culture in resilience building, the British Council is adding a vital dimension to our global resilience movement, just when it is needed.’

Eleni Myrivili, Athens’ Deputy Mayor for Urban Nature, Resilience and Climate Change Adaptation, added: ‘The City of Athens Office of Resilience and Sustainability has been working closely with the British Council to produce a report with recommendations on how we as a city can harness the power of arts and culture in the face of our unique challenges. Through this partnership, the City has escalated its commitment to cultural aspects of resilience; I hope that this report will further expand the ways we understand the role that arts and culture play in building resilience in an urban environment.’

The British Council is planning a series of engagements for 2019 with other cities in the 100RC network. A consultation will soon begin in the Palestinian city of Ramallah, which is under stress from the sustained conflict affecting the region, exploring ways to establish stronger links between the city’s cultural activity and its education system.

The British Council’s work with 100 Resilient Cities forms part of its Culture and Development programme, which explores creative responses to sustainable development challenges.

Each city in the 100RC network receives access to the Platform of Partners, a curated suite of resilience-building tools and services from the private, public, academic, and NGO sectors, which can be used to help develop and implement their Resilience Strategies.

Platform partners are dedicated to providing 100RC network cities with solutions that integrate big data, analytics, technology, resilience land use planning, infrastructure design, and new financing and insuring products.


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