Bringing the human element and complexity thinking to rebuilding resilience in Puerto Rico

March 19, 2019

Cognitive Edge, through the Cynefin Centre, is part of an exciting project team funded by a United States National Science Foundation grant. This project focuses on the rebuilding of Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria and provides us with an opportunity to collaborate on the real-time decisions being made around the reconstruction.

We will focus on bringing the transdisciplinary human element and complexity thinking to a fascinating mix of disciplines, ranging from hydrological, electrical and mechanical engineering, meteorology, climatology, and social ecology to data science and social science. The 3-year project will focus on understanding the impact of the interdependencies of critical infrastructure systems, such as the power and water networks, when exposed to weather extremes, and how those interdependencies cause failures of physical assets, leading to dramatic impacts on the health and socio-economic wellbeing of communities in those regions.

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Zhen Goh, from Cognitive Edge, in discussion at the project workshop.

The first field trip to visit the site was held in mid-January 2019. The University of Puerto Rico Mayaguez, our local partner, hosted a week-long engagement where we were given the opportunity to hear from local government and local community leaders. It was also an important session for the different disciplines to discuss the development of a truly interdisciplinary definition of resilience. The development of a white paper to contemplate how an integrated definition of Resilience looks through multiple disciplinary lenses is now underway. SenseMaker® is being deployed to collect narrative input on how citizens and institutions experienced Maria.

SenseMaker® will also be utilised at a later stage in the research to provide decision augmentation around new recommendations that come out of our research. This grant falls under the Critical Resilient Interdependent Infrastructure Systems and Processes (CRISP 2.0) arm, with an aim to “Enhance the Resilience of Islanded Communities”. Working through our partner, New York University, this is a three-year grant with an interdisciplinary mix of academics from New York University, City College New York, Arizona State University, University of Puerto Rico, Brookhaven Laboratories and Sandia National Laboratories.

Check out the project website at

Read more about this project (in Spanish): RUM en millonario proyecto de la NSF para resiliencia de la isla


Contact us if you are interested to learn more about our work, and how we could partner with you.



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About the Cynefin Company

The Cynefin Company (formerly known as Cognitive Edge) was founded in 2005 by Dave Snowden. We believe in praxis and focus on building methods, tools and capability that apply the wisdom from Complex Adaptive Systems theory and other scientific disciplines in social systems. We are the world leader in developing management approaches (in society, government and industry) that empower organisations to absorb uncertainty, detect weak signals to enable sense-making in complex systems, act on the rich data, create resilience and, ultimately, thrive in a complex world.

Cognitive Edge Ltd. & Cognitive Edge Pte. trading as The Cynefin Company and The Cynefin Centre.


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