Urban profiling for urban crises: a development tool to actualise liveable places?

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Submission Summary
What is our premise? Urban profiling is “a thing” again. It’s not new, but particularly given the scale and scope of urban crisis globally (of which COVID-19 is just a small bump in the road) being well equipped to make decisions which enable sustainable development trajectories efficiently is more critical than ever. There are improvements in methodology and the process is multiplying as a recognised valuable tool under the efforts of a wide range of entities (100RC, GAUC, IDMC, UNHCR) working on urban crisis and sustainability issues. This paper aims to examine how profiling can provide substance beyond a snapshot context of a given time, how can they more effectively be mainstreamed into city systems to be used as ongoing decision making tools to initiate longer term sustainable development. What is urban profiling? Urban Profiling is a collaborative process for collecting and analysing data on the interconnected elements of a city and its populations in order to inform decision-making and planning. In particular, urban profiling has gained momentum in recent years particularly in a context of scarce resources and in the aftermath of a crisis situation. As an analytical tool for humanitarian, development, and government actors, urban profiling outputs can be effective in formulating a common understanding of a situation to build the foundation for coordinated, complementary and holistic urban responses. As a process of collating and sharing comprehensive findings, it provides an inclusive platform to involve a wide cross-section of urban stakeholders to supported informed decision making. How do urban profiles respond to context? The importance of the context is a fundamental step for delivering tailored results that respond to the local particularities of specific settings as opposed to a rigid, imposed top-down approach. What this often means in contexts of scarce resources and crises, is to clearly define the dimensions and key focus areas. How can the stakeholder be well enough informed within a timely manner? What is considered to be good enough baseline? Furthermore, considering how this data, analysis and recommendations will manifest as a tool for utilisation given the enabling environments and local capacities is an essential consideration. How do urban profiles actualise advancement of the global goals? Urban profiling in crises settings often focuses upon what is available and what is needed within the short term, which may appear to be the obvious thing in an emergency but undermines the “nexus” approach. On top of the need for profiles to be contextual and action-oriented and achieve wider impact, there is a is need for it to be a more rigorous and measurable development tool. In order to so, it needs to be aligned with a simple but effective indicator framework. It is important for local governments and actors to monitor interventions and implementation processes to be able to reasonably assess progress. Through this, response actions can be optimised to move beyond solving immediate problems and be better systematised into long-term development perspective, compare vulnerabilities and worthwhile outcomes with peer-cities, and deliver upon commitments set out in transnational declarations. This paper will scrutinise various past and ongoing urban profiling exercises particularly in protracted crises settings to understand and make recommendations for urban actors to optimise urban profiling approaches to develop context-specific but comparable approaches to urban profiling and thus direct sustainable urbanization.
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1: Understanding Urban Metabolism
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