Christchurch 2.0

To build Christchurch 2.0, the legacy systems of the past, on computers, in organisations, and in people’s brains will not be adequate for the task. We have to upgrade.

At the TEDxEQChch event today, 3 months after the devastating earthquake in Christhchurch, Bjarke Ingels, an architect from Denmark, sent us a message encouraging us to build ‘Christchurch 2.0′. His architecture is based on thinking in new and very different ways.

Since the week before Easter I’ve been working with the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority (CERA), setting up online communications and engagement processes. I had the privilege of going into the EOC in the Art Gallery and talking to the web and geospatial information systems (GIS) staff involved in providing information on the web and social media during the emergency response.

I learned that before the earthquake, it was very difficult for staff in local government to use social media, cloud computing and open data. To do so would have required a large and detailed policy, and no one initiative could afford to develop that policy. After the earthquake staff piled into the Art Gallery, set up temporary desks and laptops, and got the response underway.  They used whatever worked, and had permission to experiment, make mistakes and continuously improve. They found that social media let them gauge the social mood in real time, and identify where people were frustrated, upset or confused due to lack of information. They answered questions directly, and fed information through to the media and web teams to plug the gaps. The GIS staff set up open data APIs to get water and sewage network data to the construction contractors in real time.

The earthquake was terrible. 30-40% of the buildings in our central city have been destroyed. I’ve said goodbye to six sets of friends in the last three weeks who’ve had to leave the city due to lost homes, jobs and businesses. One of my accountants died, and his colleagues were trapped under desks in the dark, in a collapsed building for several hours. There are many people still doing it hard, and in real need.

The silver lining is that much of the inertia that prevented organisations from using new and innovative approaches, has been swept away. We’ve seen that new ways of thinking work, and they work better than legacy thinking of the past. The CCC have understood this, and will be using a web based planning and consultation tool for drafting and seeking feedback on the Central City Recovery Plan.

We have an incredible opportunity before us. People have learned that it can be safe to do things differently. They have experiential evidence that doing things different works. As a friend said “bullshit has gone out the window”. The pressure on us, and the speed at which we must get things done means legacy methods just won’t be sufficient.  We have an opportunity to use the latest thinking, our own, and from overseas. Just like Japan used the leading thinking of Edwards Demming to rebuild after World War II and create a dynamic economy, we can use the leading edge approaches today to build a city of tomorrow.

We have the opportunity to build Christchurch 2.0

To do so we’re going to have to upgrade our thinking.

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To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.
Captain James Cook