Answering your Questions about the Future of Urban Resilience

Since we announced our first 100 cities, we’ve gotten a lot of questions about the future of our organization and about the future of urban resilience. As our organization and network grows, we’re excited to work with cities and resilience practitioners around the world to answer them.

To start, we’ll be answering your questions both in our Facebook event and here at 100resilientcities.org. Stay tuned for more!

Markets – and governments – are responding to the emergence of cities’ resilience-building efforts but more work is needed to provide cities the proper incentives to pursue resilience. Programs such as Rebuild by Design and the National Disaster Resiliency Competition are important examples for several reasons. As competitions, both required deeper collaboration between local, regional, and state governments in order to surface innovative approaches and solutions. They called on applicants to consider multi-benefit, cross-cutting solutions.

Rebuild by Design competition finalists convened outreach events ranging from community meetings and site tours to parades and dance parties. Their focus was to develop design opportunities into fundable solutions to address future natural disasters and existing challenges, such as waterfront access, social inequities, and environmental justice. The result of the collaborative, community-oriented process has been innovative and comprehensive design solutions, such as The Big U.

The National Disaster Resilience Competition asked applicants to address not only the immediate effects of recent disasters, but also to explore how solutions could help communities address the related social and physical infrastructure in the future. A community that suffered a devastating flood could consider offering flood buyouts and property acquisition in the heavily impacted areas, in addition to restoration of wetland areas to mitigate future flooding and also provide a nature preserve or recreation area. The NDRC’s funding included significant funding for New York City, New Orleans, Louisiana, and Virginia, specifically in support of projects that were laid out in New York, New Orleans, and Norfolk’s respective resilience strategies, demonstrating the power of having a single unifying plan that serves as a magnet for investment.

What’s encouraging is that others are building on this collaborative approach and drawing on the most innovative and community-driven ideas to solve critical challenges. MIT’s Climate CoLab recently announced 60 finalists in 14 contests on climate change, including on smart cities, buildings, and low-carbon energy supplies.

In Melbourne, 100RC announced a unique grant to amplify the impact of the city’s Resilience Strategy. To generate further local ownership, collaboration, and contributions, 100RC agreed to award an additional $50,000 to the City if the local community was able to match the investment a minimum of four times. The first of its kind, this idea has the potential to be a replicable model within our Network and sends an important signal to participating cities and to cities outside of our Network that delivering on the actions cities set out is critical.

And markets are starting to respond. In June, Moody’s called on coastal cities in the Hampton Roads region of Virginia to continue investment and proactive planning to protect against increasing weather-related flooding risk. The Moody’s report detailed the regional approach to mitigating flood risk and boosting resilience in the Hampton Roads, VA region, led in part by 100RC city Norfolk. This work is recognized as mitigating potential credit risks for Norfolk and the region, and thus helping to stabilize credit worthiness for the region. The recognition of demonstrable positive financial impact of resilience building is both a key milestone and validator of 100RC’s resilience work. The impact and success of projects supported by efforts such as RBD and the NDRC are not yet fully realized, but it’s clear that more needs to be done to incentivize cities, private sector actors, and others to build their resilience.

 

Universities are an essential part of building resilience in cities and also in growing and spreading its practice globally.

In its aim to become a more resourceful steward of the environment, the City of Byblos, Lebanon seeks to establish environmental awareness programs in its schools and universities to establish sustainability in the next generation of leaders. Students in Byblos schools will participate in at least one interactive education class and waste awareness sessions. At the university level, the City will look to establish exchange programs between Byblos universities and model European cities to promote environmental stewardship and intra-university competitions on environmental themes.

Universities in Semarang, Indonesia, are key stakeholders or owners in many of the city’s major resilience initiatives. To stem the increase in dengue fever incidence, the City seeks to identify and implement new technologies and methods, which will require greater cooperation and knowledge sharing among Semarang’s universities. Together, these efforts will help improve immediate disease prevention and also strengthen public health services and responsiveness.

In the City of Medellin, Colombia, universities are well-represented on the City’s Resilience Committee, a body responsible for creating and delivering the City’s resilience strategy. In Norfolk, United States, architectural and engineering students from regional universities help calculate address-specific rooftop rain runoff as part of the City’s tactical urbanism efforts. In cities across the world, universities are anchor for high-tech districts and creative districts, which can be engines for a city’s growth and economic development. Cities should continue to make universities key partners and stakeholders in the processs, and consider ways to incentivize universities to pursue and develop innovative approaches to support the resilience-building work in cities.

 

Each city stands to benefit when the region as a whole becomes more resilient. In addition to facilitating partnership and collaboration between cities with common challenges, 100RC’s network also focuses on developing and enhancing regional partnership. Regions often share common qualities — physical, social, economic. Their challenges are interrelated and interconnected, and, in turn, their solutions require significant collaboration and coordination.

Our three cities in the Bay Area are taking a number of states to deepen their collaboration. The cities of San Francisco, Oakland, and Berkeley are establishing a Regional Lifelines Council to support regional energy, water, transportation, and communications systems. Together, the cities are also developing a regional Resilience by Design challenge, which will unite multi-disciplinary teams of architecture, landscape, urban design, ecology, and finance experts with community members and local and regional government leaders to identify innovative, actionable urban design solutions.

In our most recent round of member cities, the metropolitan areas of Miami-Dade County, the City of Miami, and the City of Miami Beach joined 100RC’s network together, a recognition that these areas face common challenges, as well as highly inter-dependent solutions.

Just this week, Chief Resilience Officers and resilience teams in the Asia-Pacific are gathering in Singapore for a Regional Summit, which coincides with the World Cities Summit. Together, these cities will learn from challenges that unite them, and together develop solutions that build on existing expertise and knowledge. However, cities also benefit from cross-regional collaboration. Building from last year’s Rotterdam network exchange of cities affected by water management challenges, the cities of Norfolk, New Orleans, and Rotterdam began collaborating around ideas for enhancing port resilience. While their regional contexts differ, these coastal cities share many characteristics. Mexico City and Rotterdam began to exchange technical information on ways to implement water plazas, a signature infrastructure project in Rotterdam, in the Mexican capital.

 

Measuring resilience is a significant undertaking but one that will make a big difference in allowing cities to quantify their progress and uncovering new financing sources and mechanisms to fund their programs.

The Rockefeller Foundation’s City Resilience Index is the first-ever comprehensive tool to help cities assess their resilience, identify their vulnerabilities, and better prepare themselves for the future. Working with Arup, a 100 Resilient Cities Platform Partner, the Rockefeller Foundation took steps to approach urban measurement from a clear understanding of what matters in order to deliver resilience outcomes.

100RC uses the City Resilience Framework to better understand the complexity of cities and their challenges, with a focus on the unique drivers that contribute to their resilience. Using the CRF, cities can assess the extent of their resilience, identify critical areas of weakness, and identify actions and programs to improve the city’s resilience. This process includes various assessment and actions inventory tools that cities can use during the resilience strategy process to score their resilience overall, but more importantly to understand how the drivers of their resilience are interconnected and interdependent.

 

Cities face common challenges but solutions don’t always scale, which forces cities to recreate work that has already been done elsewhere — efficiently and successfully. One of the ways 100RC aims to solve this problem is through our Network Exchange Program. The program is city-led and organized, offering Chief Resilience Officers and their resilience teams a chance to share knowledge, innovations, and best practices with other cities that face similar challenges.

In October 2015, CROs and teams from 9 cities gathered in Rotterdam, the Netherlands for a Network Exchange on integrated water management. Water management happens to be a common challenge for many of our cities — the majority of our applications list coastal and rainfall flooding as a major challenge — so this opportunity provided practical and concrete ideas for resilience leaders from Bangkok, Berkeley, Mexico City, New Orleans, Norfolk, Rome, Rotterdam, Surat, and Vejle to take back to their cities and spark new, scalable solutions.

Another benefit of our global network has been greater regional partnership. In the Bay Area, the cities of Berkeley, Oakland, and San Francisco seek to grow regional resilience by collaborating on the common resilience challenges that threaten the entire region. For cities around the world, this type of regional and cross-regional collaboration are a critical aspect of resilience planning.