Dynamic Partnerships Deploying Resilience Solutions Around the World

The World Resources Institute (WRI) is a global research non-profit working “at the nexus of environment, economic opportunity and human well-being.” Cities are one of their core program areas, and they have developed an Urban Community Resilience Assessment (UCRA) tool as part of their work. In their efforts to increase the capacity of cities to build their resilience, 100RC and WRI identified a key barrier impeding progress: cities often have little information on how resilience varies across neighborhoods, nor do they have a good understanding of the knowledge, skills, and risk perceptions of community residents.

The UCRA tool “helps cities incorporate individual and community capacities—social cohesion, familiarity with local climate risks, early warning systems and disaster readiness—into broader urban resilience evaluations. By analyzing these local capabilities, the UCRA provides a snapshot of preparedness behaviors, risk perception and the strength of neighborhood relationships. These findings… allow policymakers to engage community members in urban resilience planning.”

Given WRI’s history of partnership with 100RC, they turned to our network of cities to pilot the UCRA, and the tool is currently being deployed in four member cities on two continents: Rio de Janeiro and Porto Alegre in Brazil, Surat in India, and Semarang in Indonesia. The pilot is supported by funding from the Cities Alliance, and deployed with assistance from Slum Dwellers International.

While individuals from across society will benefit from resilience interventions, the UCRA allows the four pilot cities to focus on the particular vulnerabilities experienced by slum dwellers and other members of informal settlements. Accelerated urbanization has led to the proliferation of uneven urban development and informal settlements across global cities. Today, roughly one billion of the world’s urban dwellers live in slums. The UN defines slum households as having one or more of “five deprivations,” including lacking sufficient access to water, sanitation, living space, land tenure, and structurally sound dwellings. Such informal settlements are frequently associated with high rates of crime and extreme poverty; yet they are often remarkable examples of community ingenuity and resilience, with residents working collaboratively to supply basic services, including sewage, education, and housing to support the needs of their families and neighbors.

While slum populations are declining in the Latin America and Caribbean region, they still comprise a high proportion (24%) of urban residents. Nearly one third of Porto Alegre’s population resides in slums, while 1,600 kilometers to the north, a full 20% of Rio de Janeiro’s citizens still live in the city’s infamous favelas. Across the world, South Asia has been undergoing rapid urbanization, particularly in India, and Surat and Semarang likewise have high numbers of informal urban dwellers.

WRI and 100RC are now working together to provide a methodology to cities that will build their capacity to support resilience-building at community level by empowering individuals. The UCRA will be leveraged to develop operational project plans for priority activities in Surat, Semarang, Porto Alegre, and Rio de Janeiro that will increase the resilience of 100 to 500 households in informal communities of each city. The findings of the UCRA will be incorporated into the operational plans to enable cities to track the impact of their resilience-building activities. By piloting the UCRA in these four member cities, we hope to demonstrate “a process of ‘bottom-up’ resilience planning that is participatory, gender responsive, and empowers community members to access and participate in urban planning processes.”