Rockefeller renews call to help cities become stronger

The Rockefeller Foundation is looking for more cities willing to build economic, social and physical resilience amid a rapidly urbanising world. Submission of applications for the 100 Resilient Cities Challenge ends on September 10.

As part of a global initiative to help cities cope with increasing urban challenges, the Rockefeller Foundation is inviting cities worldwide to apply for its ‘100 Resilient Cities Challenge’.

Cities selected under this initiative, first launched in May last year, will benefit from a ‘resilence-building process’ that will help them prepare for intense environmental challenges from natural disasters to daily stresses such as a growing population, pollution from inefficient public transport, as well as water and food security.

It defined a city’s resilience as “the capacity of individuals, communities, institutions, businesses and systems within a city to survive, adapt, and grow no matter what kinds of chronic stresses and acute shocks they experience”.

Cities have until September 10 to apply in this second round and 33 new cities will be selected to be part of the growing network of urban communities that will eventually comprise the 100 resilient cities.

While cities across the globe can’t predict which disruptions will come next, they can plan for them, learn from them, and grow after them. This is the crux of resilience

Judith Rodin, President of the Rockefeller Foundation

The non-profit organisation said some of the assistance selected cities will get include:  

  • Grants that will fund the hiring of a Chief Resilience Officer (CRO), who will lead the resilience-building process and bring together the various stakeholders within a city
  • Technical support to develop a resilience strategy that reflects the city’s distinct needs
  • Access to a host of services from 100 Resilient Cities’ partners that include private, public, and non-profit sectors. These platform partners could offer support in developing urban planning strategies and implementation, as well as tools in areas such as innovative finance, technology, infrastructure, land use, and community and social resilience
  • Membership in the 100 Resilient Cities Network where member cities can share knowledge and practices with each other

Michael Berkowitz, president of the 100 Resilient Cities Challenge, said the group has learned significantly from the 32 cities that made it to the list last year. “Since last December, we’ve travelled thousands of miles to cities around the world, hosted 30 resilience workshops, helped select 12 Chief Resilience Officers and launched three “resilience strategy” planning processes,” noted Berkowitz in a blog.

After a massive earthquake, Christchurch, New Zealand looks to build a smarter, stronger city. Image: 100 Resilient Cities

In Asia Pacific, seven cities that made it to the list included Christchurch in New Zealand, Melbourne in Australia, Surat in India, Da Nang in Vietnam, Bangkok in Thailand, Mandalay in Myanmar and Semarang in Indonesia.

With nearly 400 applications received last year, Berkowitz said the team found four key strengths and common traits from the selected cities that could help other aspiring cities applying this year:

  1. An innovative, engaged and committed chief executive – A city government with a strong leader shows strong potential to lead a stronger, more empowered CRO. It also requires that the city has some measure of ‘political stability’, in order to establish continuity of the programme.
  2. A recent catalyst for change – A city that has recently encountered challenges that can be a catalyst for change, such as natural disasters or a pressing environmental issue such as receding shorelines due to rising sea levels. These cities are likely to be more engaged in the resilience-building process. 
  3. A demonstrated ability to work with a broad range of invested stakeholders – Cities that are able to demonstrate collaborative efforts or initiatives from various stakeholders - from business leaders, to social workers, to the academe - who show interest in participating to city planning processes. This participation by a range of stakeholders is important to make sure everyone’s resilience needs, especially those of the poor and vulnerable, will be addressed.
  4. A willingness to engage in a partnership – 100 Resilient Cities looks for cities that can work closely in partnership with the organisation for over several years on resilience building, have an open mind towards the process, and that can incorporate feedback from a wide variety of sources.

This list is a guide and not a guarantee that cities will be chosen solely based on these criteria, added Berkowitz.

Judith Rodin, president of the Rockefeller Foundation said: “While cities across the globe can’t predict which disruptions will come next, they can plan for them, learn from them, and grow after them. This is the crux of resilience.”

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