Leading the Way to a More Resilient Future

In 2013, The Rockefeller Foundation launched 100 Resilient Cities (100RC), to help and inspire cities to innovate and adapt in their growing role as standard-bearers for a more resilient future. In creating 100RC, the Foundation understood the need to work directly with municipal governments to upend the old structures that stymie this potential. With seed funding and training for a new position in city government — the Chief Resilience Officer (CRO) — 100RC — and our city partners — forged a new model for interceding on this systemic scale.

Even the most visionary mayors preside over a governance structure created in the 20th century that has solidified over generations and administrations. The agencies they oversee have been optimized for efficiency, but those silos often hinder the kind of integration cities need to successfully address their challenges. Transport people talk to transport people, as do economic development, housing, and immigration. Those conversations are more efficient at least in the short-term. But that approach has risks, and misses significant intersectional benefits. How many times in the 20th century has road construction damaged existing development (or missed upside) because it was planned and built by people using a single metric — moving cars. Similarly, how often do social services operate in silos, where a coordinated approach would provide better impact, more cheaply.

100 Resilient Cities — Pioneered by the Rockefeller Foundation (100RC) is dedicated to helping cities around the world become more resilient to the physical, social and economic challenges that are a growing part of the 21st century

Taking a more comprehensive systems view has allowed cities to begin to address this issue. Hiring a Chief Resilience Officer is a rare opportunity for the disruption city leaders seek to change this status quo. A CRO is a senior city official that often reports directly to the city’s chief executive, and works, across departments and city sectors, to help a city address its complexities systemically.

In Melbourne, CRO Toby Kent is working across the city’s fragmented metropolitan area and has catalyzed the collaboration of its 32 separate councils. Together with the Nature Conservancy, the city’s resilience office has developed a metropolitan urban forest strategy. Rather than pursue greening projects piecemeal, the project will allow for the broad coordination of reforestation and natural asset development that will mitigate many of the city’s shocks and stresses, such as the urban heat island effect and flooding and will foster positive public health outcomes and social cohesion benefits.

The CRO also works to ensure that the city applies resilience thinking to local decision making to achieve multiple goals. In Paris, CRO Sebastien Maire has spearheaded a project to transform the city’s schoolyards into local “oases” for cooling, recreation, and well-being in the city by replacing their impermeable asphalt covering into vegetation or other surfaces. Along with mitigating the urban heat island effect, the schools will be open after school hours to the surrounding communities, most of whom live within 200 meters of a school. This has required planning from school officials, climate specialists and social service agencies.

In New Orleans, former CRO Jeff Hebert created the Resilience Design Review Committee to integrate resilience into every aspect of public storm-water infrastructure projects so they not only provide the benefits of flood mitigation, but provide other co-benefits as well. Jeff’s legacy also includes the establishment of the Office of Resilience and Sustainability, reforming the city’s procurement system to focus on outcomes, the creation of a climate action strategy, and securing major federal funding to change infrastructure design. This work perfectly illustrates how seed funding for one critical position catalyzes systemic change that cascades into all aspects of how a city can function.

In recognition of how pivotal a CRO can be, almost all our cities continue to fund the position beyond the 2-year 100RC commitment. And in Los Angeles, Mayor Garcetti recently signed a historic executive order that commits City departments to appoint CROs. Through the work of his CRO, Marisa Aho, Mayor Garcetti understood resilience as a value that every city leader should embed in their department. Together they developed a coalition of change agents throughout City Hall to contribute to a successful Resilience Strategy — change agents from departments that do not typically collaborate or see their mandates as similar, contributing to goals and initiatives that will bring tangible change to Los Angeles. . For example, the Building Forward LA initiative convened several agencies and external partners to develop recommendations for more resilient and sustainable buildings. This collaborative project includes the work of the Los Angeles Department of Building and Safety; The Bureau of Engineering; The Bureau of Sanitation; the Department of City Planning; the Department of Water and Power; the Los Angeles Fire Department; the AIA LA; A+D Museum; the Now Institute; Structural Engineers Association; US Green Buildings Council, and 100RC’s Rebuild by Design.

This institutional change, in how a city governs and works with new partners, is exactly what we envisioned when creating this philanthropic model. Local governments stand at the forefront of the challenges and opportunities of the 21st century. Enabling them to innovate and catalyze change is key to our collective resilience. By working directly with them, and supporting CROs to create an environment for systemic change, we are already seeing the impact and resilience dividend our funding has sewn.

Image: Resilient City

Source: Medium Corporation

This article is culled from daily press coverage from around the world. It is posted on the Urban Gateway by way of keeping all users informed about matters of interest. The opinion expressed in this article is that of the author and in no way reflects the opinion of UN-Habitat.