This paper argues that the learning from the disaster risk management (DRM) practices of Manizales, Colombia needs to be accompanied by a nuanced understanding of the historical trajectories that have allowed the city to create and consolidate its current enabling environment for DRM. The city has been widely recognized as a good practice case in DRM and previous research has sought to amplify learning from Manizales through examining the characteristics of its innovative practices. The argument derives from an analysis of fieldwork data, including semi-structured interviews, participant observation and secondary data, through a critical juncture approach. Focusing on the critical juncture of seasonal heavy rains in 2003, the paper illustrates how institutional changes configured cultural–cognitive, regulatory and normative conditions for the emergence of one of Manizales’ most recognized good practices, the Guardians of the Slope programme.
This paper indicates that good practices do not occur in a vacuum but are embedded in a complex institutional palimpsest, in which a myriad of actors have over time carved the structural conditions under which these practices continue to have the potential to emerge, adapt and consolidate. This manifests, for example, in the institutional cultivation of a risk culture and risk awareness in residents living in sloped areas. The enabling environment for the city’s good practices is not simply the sum of current favourable conditions that have built up over time. The paper adds that enabling environments have to be understood as a dynamic and interdependent process. These historic and relational dimensions are relevant for efforts to learn from good practices in DRM, which are currently underway through initiatives like the “Making Cities Resilient 2030 Campaign” as well as UNDRR’s “Words into Action” Guidelines.