Diversity, resilience and innovation in standards: conversation with Josune Hernantes, University of Navarra (Tecnun) 

CEN and CENELEC are happy to publish an interview with Josune Hernantes, professor and researcher at Tecnun-University of Navarra.
Ms Hernantes was one of the members of the team working on the EU-funded Smart Mature Resilience Project (SMR), which was awarded CEN and CENELEC’s 2019 Standards + Innovation Awards. 

On the occasion of the International Day of Women (8 March), SMR is an especially relevant study case because of the diversity of its team: in a sector which is traditionally still male-based, 40% of the participants, and six out of the nine researchers in Tecnun involved in the project, were women. For this reason, CEN and CENELEC asked Ms Hernantes to share her perspective on the role of diversity in innovation and the importance of an inclusive and gender responsive approach to standardization.

1. Please describe the SMR Project and the team working on it.

The Smart Mature Resilience (SMR) Project was a three-year (2015-2018) project funded by the European Union within the framework of the H2020 Secure Societies call.

Its aim was to be the seed of a European network of resilient cities contributing to the achievement of a resilient Europe. The current context presents many challenges for the security and sustainability of our lifestyle: our cities face threats such as climate change or trends like social dynamics, population ageing or dependency on critical infrastructures. This situation requires resilient cities capable to evolve, adapt, and transform. In this sense, the main objective of the project was to provide European cities with effective tools to help them increase their resilience in face of the big challenges of the present and the future.

The outcome of the project is a European Management Guideline supported by five strongly interconnected resilience-building tools, which together assess the level of resilience of a city and provide a roadmap to progress. The main tool in this guideline is the city resilience maturity model

The consortium was composed of 13 partners: three academic partners (TECNUN-University of Navarra as coordinator, University of Strathclyde and CIEM-University of Agder, and Linköping University), two stakeholders organizations (ICLEI, a network of local governments for sustainable development and DIN, the German National Standardization Institute and CEN member) and seven European cities (Bristol, Glasgow, Kristiansand, Riga, Rome, Donostia-SanSebastian and Vejle). All partners have been proactively involved in developing the tools.  Professor Jose Mari Sarriegi from Tecnun (who died in an accident in 2018), with the assistance of Jose Julio Gonzalez from CIEM, University of Agder, Norway, providing scientific coordination, coordinated SMR.

2. The project received CEN and CENELEC’s Standards + Innovation Awards in November 2019. What role has standardization played in the project? In general, what is in your experience the relationship between research, innovation and standards?

The CEN Workshop Agreement 17300 series on 'City Resilience Development' supports cities to become more resilient against various kinds of threats. The series consists of the following three CEN Workshop Agreements: CWA 17300 ‘City Resilience Development – Operational Guidance’, CWA 17301 ‘City Resilience Development – Maturity Model’ and CWA 17302 ‘City Resilience Development – Information Portal’.

The objective of the City Resilience Development series is twofold. On the one hand, they serve the scientific community as a base to develop new research projects and improvements that increase the creation of knowledge in this area. On the other hand, they serve cities, the end users, as a reference guide when developing and implementing their resilience strategies. 

Our work has shown that research, innovation and standardization are complementary to each other. In a way, standards work as tools to transfer research into real applications in companies and society. In addition, they constitute an important support for the improvement and development of innovative solutions, facilitating the exchange and applicability of these solutions in different disciplines and sectors.

Through the involvement of the German standardization body DIN in the SMR consortium, we have learned how standardization can support research and innovation activities. With the support of standardization, our project results were disseminated to external stakeholders and circulate on an international level. Thus, the impact of our research and innovation activities was significantly enhanced.

3. On the International Women’s Day, it is worth mentioning one particularity of your team: it is mainly composed of women. How did this diversity help the project?

The percentage of women involved in the SMR Project represents around 40%. Taking into account that many of the involved entities were universities with a very definite technical profile, this percentage can be considered high. Such a percentage should nowadays be considered normal; however, it is still considered high in the scientific and technical community. Particularly relevant is the fact that six out of the nine people in the team of Tecnun, the coordinator of the project, were women. The key to the success of this team, more than their technical capabilities and coordination, was their high level of hard-working capacity, commitment, trust, support and respect among each other. Based on my experience, I believe these characteristics are especially present in teams where there is a high presence of women. 

As an anecdote, three of us in Tecnun’s team became mothers during the project’s development, so it can be said that it was also an enriching experience on the personal side!

4. The SMR project is about making cities resilient. What is the role of diversity and inclusion in generating resilience?

Diversity is what drove the project since its inception: current societies are diverse in many aspects and our cities reflect this diversity. Therefore, the recognition of diversity is a fundamental starting point when speaking about the improvement of our current society’s resilience. Diversity and inclusion are a part of the development of resilience because they are transversal aspects for any city. In this sense, the project was developed from a perspective of collaborative creation: the methodologies that were used allowed the transfer of different knowledge, realities and sensibilities from the participating cities to the results of the project.

The cities participating in SMR agree that one of its main benefits was that it helped break existing barriers between the different departments to work in a more transversal manner. In the same way that the adoption of a gender approach was managed in the administration and in companies from a transversal perspective, the development of resilience needs to be adopted across the board by cities at all levels, including citizens.

5. CEN and CENELEC have signed the UNECE Declaration on Gender Responsive Standards. How do you think the world of standards could benefit from a better gender balance?

Women represent more than fifty percent of the global population and are present in every aspect of society. This fact should naturally be reflected in every organization, at all levels and in sectors. However, today there are still some areas of work in which women’s work is less visible: the scientific and technological field is a clear example. In my opinion, the adoption of gender equality practices is a step of recognition and social justice towards the work done by women.

Regarding in particular the contribution to standardization, diversity is always enriching: standardization means integrating different points of view, new needs and challenges into a single deliverable. Therefore, the more diverse the input, the more high-quality and innovative developments we will have.

The development of standards, such as ISO 26000, promoting the empowerment of women, recognising their value for society and providing practical mechanisms and guidelines is a crucial step for making gender balance a reality. Furthermore, the participation of women in the standardization process is crucial to ensure the integration of different perspectives and experiences and to enhance the human capital. As a consequence, standards will become more relevant and effective, thus guaranteeing a better and more sustainable world.

In May 2019, CEN and CENELEC signed UNECE’s Declaration on Gender Responsive Standards.














On the picture from left to right (four of the members of Tecnun’s research team working on the SMR project): Josune Hernantes, Leire Labaka, Cinta Lomba and Marta Iturriza.

To know more about CEN and CENELEC’s involvement in making standards more inclusive, please contact Deborah WAUTIER.