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Urban Resilience Challenge Design Principles

Design principles describe the most important elements that guide how and what we design. 

For the Urban Resilience Challenge, we have five design principles that all of our solutions to the challenge question should keep in mind: 

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Plan for the ordinary, not just the extraordinary


Storms and floods are some of the crises caused by climate change that demand our immediate attention. But resilience is not only about being ready when disaster strikes, it’s also about thriving in the face of slower, long term changes – like increasing urban populations and rising temperatures.  In this challenge, let’s develop solutions for everyday life that better prepare slum communities for both types of stress: chronic and acute.


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Consider the system


Surviving, adapting and thriving in response to the varied effects of climate change requires robust solutions and involves the efforts of many actors, including: governments, civil society and city residents. In both slums and cities, these people and organizations form an ecosystem with the potential to increase resilience. Consider how your idea links into these existing urban systems and supports them – both in slums themselves and in the cities that they are part of.


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Build in flexibility


Cities are ecosystems that include a dynamic mix of people, infrastructure and services. And, while we know about some of the effects of climate change, their corresponding level of severity is still unknown. Sea levels are rising, how much will they rise? Which cities will be most affected? When? The informal nature of slums makes the need to design for our uncertain future even more crucial. Let’s develop solutions that can be flexible, and respond to an ever-changing environment.


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Maximize limited resources


Urban slums are areas where demand – for space, water, employment opportunities – generally exceeds supply. Yet many are vibrant communities where people live, work and thrive by doing more with less. How might we extend the lifecycle of resources by using them multiple ways? Or take advantage of resources and spaces that already exist?


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Design for gender equality


Women and girls bear the burdens of poverty disproportionately, and this fact is compounded in urban slums. Although they are caregivers and role models in their communities, they often have less power and access to fewer resources than their male counterparts. As we consider ways to make slum communities more resilient, let’s ensure that our solutions include the perspective of women and girls, respond to their needs, and involve them in the process of implementation.


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Design with, not for


People are at the heart of human-centered design. Let’s keep the needs and aspirations of the communities we are designing with at the center of our ideas. Remember the strength and agency of people who live in urban slums – they have created homes, jobs and lives with limited means and amid a lot of uncertainty. Make sure to work closely with the communities your idea is meant to serve – and to get feedback from them every step of the way.