(How) do flood-prone cities build resilience?
Towards a learning sensitive analytical framework
Urban resilience is almost unanimously identified as an inherently positive guiding principle in the risk reduction policy field. However, limited attention is paid to the learning dimension of resilience-building. To help bridge the gap, this research explores the interplay of learning processes, learning outcomes, and institutional action and investigates how capacities for reflection and collaboration develop in the face of wicked, risk-related problems.
The study focuses on post-flood reorganisation processes developed in cities repeatedly affected by more or less severe flood events. It proposes and illustrates an analytical framework to capture dynamics affecting policy-making processes that tackle risk in contexts characterised by high complexity, uncertainty, and political pressure. The framework is tested by looking at reorganisation attempts carried out to face the "eternal flooding" of the Seveso Torrent, which has affected the Northern neighbourhoods of Milan for decades, with over 100 events recorded after 1976. Results from the Milanese case highlight the existence of a learning and policy deadlock, where the impossibility to amend "historical mistakes" in decision-making and patterns of spatial, discursive and governance fragmentation hamper (reflective) action and contribute to policy inertia.
This research provides a theoretical background and methodological insights for investigating risk-reduction attempts in their interplay with framing and knowledge- related dynamics and broader relational, discursive, and regulatory factors, thus providing insights into the field of policy analysis.
About the author
Irene Bianchi (1988) is a Post- Doctoral Research Fellow at Politecnico di Milano, Department of Architecture and Urban Studies (DAStU) since 2020. She carried out research activities at the University IUAV of Venice, Department of Design and Planning in Complex Environments (2014-2015); at the Berlin Technical University, Institute for Urban and Regional Planning (2016-2017); at King's College London, Department of Geography (2018); and at the Universitat Internacional de Cataluña, Department of Architecture (2021).
Irene holds a PhD in Urban Planning, Design and Policy (Politecnico di Milano, 2020), a Master Degree in European Planning and Policies for Cities, Environment and Landscape (University IUAV of Venice, University of Girona, 2014), and a Bachelor Degree in Economics and Social Sciences (Free University of Bolzano/ Bozen, 2011). She is a member of the Executive Board of URNet – Urban Resilience Network and part of the BIARI Alumni Network (Brown University).