The Rockefeller Foundation has announced the 100 Resilient Cities Challenge, a $100 million effort to improve urban resilience. Their goal is to help cities build resilience to all sorts of social, economic, and physical challenges. Winning cities will receive funding to hire a Chief Resilience Officer, assistance in creating a comprehensive resilience strategy, and access to a “platform of innovative private and public sector tools.” The foundations says each city will not receive $1 million, but instead, get valuable resources to push forward their own well-defined resilience efforts.
Each city is only allowed one entry into the challenge. Cities will be evaluated against their commitment to “lead the resilience movement.” The city will have to show there is a broad base of support for their resilience program, and they already have multi-sector partnerships in place. They will need to identify areas where they are most vulnerable. And they will need to include the “voice of the city’s poor” in their efforts.
The foundation articulates the reasoning behind their effort: “We can’t predict the next disruption or catastrophe. But we can control how we respond to these challenges. We can adapt to the shocks and stresses of our world and transform them into opportunities for growth.”
Rockefeller Foundation judges will look at whether there is a real commitment, a “willingness for building and scaling the overall resilience of a city and using adaptable strategies.” They are looking for support from the leadership of the city. Judges will be looking for “ability to adapt,” including “flexibility to test new techniques, processes, services, or systems that expand the city’s ability to respond and emerge stronger when experiencing acute shocks (such as earthquakes and floods) and chronic stresses (such as violence and crime, pollution, pronounced inequality, serious energy shortages, lack of economic diversity, and inadequate housing).” Lastly, cities must demonstrate readiness to move with a comprehensive resilience plan and have a set of feasible activities ready to go.
We hope the Rockefeller Foundation will increase its support for the use of green infrastructure at all scales to enhance resilience.
And while these efforts are necessary, we’d like to see a greater discussion of how resilience connects with long-term sustainability, which is still the central goal. Resilience is merely a facet of sustainability. A singular focus on resilience seems to imply there is little chance for sustainability and we must gird ourselves for inevitable changes.