School of Natural and Built Environment

Resilience Planning in an Era of Neoliberalism

Research Theme: Cities, Communities and Contested Urbanism
Supervisors: Dr Phil Boland ( and Dr. Stephen McKay (

In an era of neoliberalism and rapacious economic turbulence there is significant theoretical and policy emphasis on building resilient economies, but the literature on planning and resilience is in its embryonic stages, despite being regarded as a ‘promising’ yet ‘problematic’ concept for city planning (Pizzo, 2015; Vale, 2014). This project focuses on excavating, analysing and problematising the role of resilience in planning theory and practice in an era of neoliberalism. Specifically, the investigation would seek to develop a normative model to enable the planning system to respond to the negative impacts of social and economic turbulence. The project will be focused on a set of key case studies from the UK and Ireland, and is framed by important research questions:  How is resilience understood and operationalised by professional planners?; What are the key drivers of resilience planning?; What is the relationship between neoliberalism, planning and resilience?; What lessons can be learned from different cities in their approaches to resilience planning?

The research design will involve the adoption of both qualitative and quantitative techniques, including, participant observation, documentary analysis, semi-structured interviews with professional planners and elite stakeholders and focus groups with a range of community activists, local residents, environmental groups and other interested parties. It will also employ a survey of local businesses in each city to explore their perceptions of resilience planning.  The project is intended to make a contribution to contemporary theoretical debates and empirical studies on resilience planning and facilitate more marginal groups in society  to have an input into how resilience planning is understood and authenticated. This will enable them to have more influence in terms of how resilience is operationalised. It will also facilitate a more effective and democratic policy approach to resilience planning that is more rooted in ideas of social and environmental justice.

How to Apply