Rockefeller Foundation To Fund Urban Resilience

May 14, 2013       Patrick Sullivan      

It’s the Rockefeller Foundation’s centennial birthday and it’s the one handing out gifts — $100 million worth.

The money will go to 100 cities to become more resistant to disasters, natural and otherwise. Dubbed the 100 Resilient Cities Centennial Challenge, the initiative is an “effort to build urban resilience around the world,” said foundation President Judith Rodin, Ph.D., via a statement.

“We knew we wanted to mark our Centennial in a meaningful way,” said Associate Director of Communications Carey Meyers. “One hundred years ago, only 1 in 10 people lived in cities. Today nearly half do, and by 2050 that figure is expected to be 75 percent. At the start of the Rockefeller Foundation’s second century, we see urban resilience as an idea whose time has come.”

Though the Rockefeller Foundation, with offices in New York City, Thailand, Kenya and Italy, will make $100 million available to 100 cities, “the financial input will not be $1 million per city but rather will vary by city,” based on need and capability, said Meyers. The funds will be used to hire a chief resilience officer (CRO) and create a resilience plan.

Winning cities and their CROs will be members of the 100 Resilient Cities Network and will share knowledge and best practices on how to avoid and cope with disaster. “We’re looking for the 100 Resilient Cities Network to take on a life of its own as a global resource for building urban resilience well beyond 2015,” said Meyers.

The Rockefeller Foundation will begin accepting applications from cities around the world in August at Applicants will submit a description of how their city plans to approach resilience and how “multiple stakeholder groups” such as city leadership, the nonprofit sector and private businesses will work together, according to Meyers. One-third of the winners will be announced at the end of 2013, one-third in 2014, and the remaining third in 2015.

A good resilience plan, said Meyers, has five characteristics: robust feedback loops “that sense and allow new options to be introduced quickly as conditions change;” flexibility; limited failure; redundant systems and spare capacity; and the ability to re-establish functionality quickly and avoid long-term disruptions. “Ultimately, each of the 100 cities will need to determine its own needs for building urban resilience and develop a unique plan to address them, and The Rockefeller Foundation will provide technical support and resources to make that possible,” she said.

According to Meyers, no city currently has a CRO, which she called an innovative aspect of the initiative. “A Chief Resilience Officer will be a senior city official who can ensure that resilience-building is a priority within the highest levels of city while also engaging all critical actors in a city, incorporating their views and needs into resilience planning, particularly the needs of vulnerable citizens,” she said.