Resilience Value Realisation (RVR) workshop for Bristol’s Street Homelessness Challenge

By Sarah Toy


When Mayor Rees came into power in Bristol in May 2016 one of the first issues he focused on was the noticeable increase in the number of people sleeping rough on the streets each night. He quickly made a call to action to tackle street sleeping; this was featured in Bristol’s Resilience Strategy and in December 2016 it was identified as a Mutual Priority Action.

The question then became how to add value to the work already going on and how to link to resilience value. Our 100RC Relationship Manager spotted the opportunity to pilot a new methodology developed by the Rockefeller Foundation – the Resilience Value Realisation (RVR) workshop. The idea was that we could use the RVR process to align the homelessness work with resilience drivers and produce a shared roadmap for action that all the stakeholders could sign up to.

The next step was to identify the key stakeholders to be invited into the process. These were people in the local authority, the business and not-for-profit sectors and faith communities who were already actively working on street homelessness. People with “lived experience” who had previously been homeless were also invited to participate. A total of 25 people, including the Mayor and Strategic Director for Neighbourhoods, were invited to the two day workshop.

In advance of the workshop about 10 participants were interviewed by the RVR facilitator to get their views, insights and expectations for the RVR session. This, in my opinion, was one of the most innovative and valuable parts of the process because it gave the facilitator a unique in-depth view of the current system.

The two day workshop was extremely well-attended (approx. 15 people each day) and the participants remained highly engaged and energised as they worked together on a series of thought-provoking exercises to understand the resilience drivers related to homelessness and to build a roadmap for action.

The outputs from the process – an Opportunity Statement, a Stakeholder Analysis and a Roadmap for action – were co-created in a dynamic and open environment and this has led to improved alignment and collaboration between different groups and organisations. One of the most striking effects of the RVR was the enthusiasm and commitment it generated. The group is now committed to collectively reducing street homeless to less than 10 people by December 2019 and their first shared task is to reshape the governance structures that will help them to get there.

As Chief Resilience Officer I was really impressed by the way that the RVR process brought people together, focused on resilience value and generated meaningful actions to be taken forward by others. I will certainly be looking to use this approach to progress other priority actions and would encourage others to consider it too.


A Resilience Building Workshop: The Hot House Method

By James Snelgrove


In July, the Bristol Resilience Team used a workshop method called “Hot Housing” to help progress the design and delivery of a city dashboard for Bristol. A “Hot House” is a workshop defined by a number of particular principles and features, which has been successfully used to deliver transformational change within Bristol City Council over the past 18 months.

The City Dashboard is a priority delivery initiative for Bristol resilience and will be a platform to highlight resilience challenges for Bristol as well as the social, environmental and economic dynamics between different parts of the City. It aligns to the Mayoral narrative for the City of greater accountability, shared responsibility and the initiation of positive action.

One of the challenges of the city dashboard is to accelerate the delivery of a workable prototype which meets the interests of a diverse group of influential stakeholders. In this situation, the Bristol Resilience Team set-up a Hot House workshop to provide a collaborative, inclusive and engaging process where everyone was encouraged to contribute.

The one-day Hot House for the City Dashboard contained 15 key stakeholders, including representatives from the council design, data and innovation teams, as well as from the Mayoral office and external community partners.

The day began by participants developing a shared goal and vision. This was achieved by focusing on three key questions – why a dashboard is important, who will use it, and what are the key things the dashboard will measure. This was captured visually and established some key themes which could be built-on during a later design activity. The session then moved into some “lightning demos” of examples of other city dashboards with reflection on which features would benefit our own design. The final part of the day focused on design where a “sketch and vote” approach was used to achieve a number of designs to emerge, followed by a vote on the most popular ideas and features.

Throughout the workshop, two experienced Hot House facilitators encouraged participants to “take the pen” and capture their ideas, questions and challenges visually. This meant that the previously blank walls of the room became covered with the emerging “story” of the Hot House. At the conclusion of the workshop, the city Mayor joined the session to be “walked through” the story and offer his thoughts and guidance as well as support for the next steps.

The Hot House approach has a number of principles including; a defined goal at the start of the Hot House which is owned by the whole group; a senior decision maker to provide overall direction; impartial facilitators who are comfortable with giving control to a room and enabling a free-flowing creative process;  trust in the workshop participants as subject matter experts; and a dedicated space and time which enables participants to escape the distractions of business as usual work and collaborate with colleagues in a safe and open manner.

The Hot House approach is also a tool which intentionally achieves some key resilience objectives. For example, it provides a framework for divergent thinking, experimentation and adaptation, as well as the pursuit of a multi-disciplinary approach and creative problem solving. At the same time, the Hot House creates an environment which builds strong relationships between different groups and shared ownership for common challenges.

The most basic Hot Houses can be completed in a few hours and produce new ideas that can be used immediately. More complex challenges require longer periods of consecutive time, but can prove transformational for service delivery or city resilience.

A day in the life of a Chief Resilience Officer

Written in September 2015

By Sarah Toy, Chief Resilience Officer for Bristol


It’s nearly a year since I saw the advert in the guardian for a Strategic Resilience Officer for Bristol. The idea attracted and terrified me in equal measures.  How can one person be in charge of a city’s resilience?  And what does “resilience” really mean anyway? When I asked my six year old daughter she told me it meant being hard and shiny, like a Brazil nut! Well I couldn’t resist the challenge.

So here I am now seven months into the job as Bristol’s Chief Resilience Officer and writing my first blog about it.  It’s been a whirlwind, I haven’t paused for breath or stopped to look down. Now seems like a good time to ask, how am I doing, what have I achieved so far?

The job is unusual, there’s no doubt about that. I am one of a small but growing band of Chief Resilience Officers (CROs) who are urban resilience pioneers supported by the Rockefeller 100 Resilient Cities programme.  By the end of this year there will be 99 other people like me around the world, each leading their city through a thoughtful but practical resilience assessment process. This process has been developed by the 100 Resilient Cities team to help understand complex urban challenges.  The CRO’s job is to make sense of complexity and work out where efforts should be concentrated to make the city more resilient to both sudden shocks such as a floods as well as long term challenges like tackling child poverty or improving air quality.  Yes, the job is huge, some might say impossible.

Like any job you can only do what you can do and I have constantly found myself shifting priorities and adapting to new knowledge or ideas as they come into my field of vision. Sometimes it feels like I’m making up it as I go along.  Which, actually, I am because no-one has ever done this in Bristol before! No two days are the same and each week I marvel at the range of conversations, meetings and visits I have made in my quest to understand what resilience means to the people that make this wonderful city (my home) what it is. I’ve found myself visiting so many new places – Avonmouth to see how important the operations there are to our daily lives – apparently all the alcohol imported into Bristol passes through the port, the Forest of Dean to hear the Youth Council’s manifesto and Knowle West Media Centre to see a group of fantastic Junior Digital Producers in action.

So far I’ve had one to one meetings with more than 100 people and workshops with more than 70 people who are all involved in some way in keeping Bristol’s systems going (or perhaps challenging or trying to change them). These people have been academics, council officers, politicians, private sector employees, health professionals, “blue light” responders and residents. What I wanted to learn from them all is “what does resilience mean to you?” and “what should we be focusing on NOW if we want to be a flourishing city 50 years’ time?”  The responses were wide-ranging (as you’d expect because there are no “right answers”) but some powerful themes are emerging.

The most striking of these is that we (and when I say “we” I mean everyone in the city and the region, not just the council!) need to find ways to help all citizens, communities and institutions play an active role in shaping the future of the city.  This will require us to work in different ways, listen more and learn to share power.  Watch this space as the question of how we really do this in practice unfolds.