How to Develop a Resilience Strategy

Cities consist of vast networks of individuals, institutions, and systems. The same networks are shaped by centuries-old structures that make deep collaborations and innovation within government agencies and across sectors all too rare.

In the 21st Century, it is financially and socially imperative for cities to operate differently. The City Resilience Strategy is one of the tools that propels 100 Resilient Cities member cities in this holistic and integrated direction. The City Resilience Strategy is the product of a six-to-nine month process during which a city develops a better understanding of the challenges it faces; reviews its ability to address those challenges; and unites people, projects, and priorities, so that cities can collectively act on their resilience challenges.

The document that is produced at the end of this process is not a master plan, but rather an expression of the cities’ priorities for building resilience.

Cities around the world, from New York and Medellin to Melbourne and Rotterdam have produced their first-ever resilience strategies. As more and more cities prepare to take this important step, we want to share more about the process of developing a sound resilience strategy, so that other can learn from this work.

The Essential Ingredients

One of the core principles in the Strategy Development Process is to avoid reinventing the wheel, building on the existing activities, processes and projects that are already underway. A city’s Chief Resilience Officer can analyze existing efforts and determine ways to integrate the city’s activities into a unified agenda that supports resilience-building. Building on existing work also brings together many different public and private stakeholders across the city, which can lend valuable political support and technical expertise to the city’s resilience work.

100RC and our partners collaborate with each city to support its ability to customize aspects of the strategy development process to the city’s unique challenges and ways of governing. It is not a linear process, but rather an iterative one. The city will continually collect new information, synthesize and evaluate it, ask questions to help identify topics of focus, and bring in new partners and stakeholders from across the city.

City leaders, community leaders, and partners attend the city of Atlanta’s recent agenda-setting workshop, an opportunity to evaluate the city’s challenges and begin to set resilience-building priorities.

Each city’s strategy process culminates with the release of a Resilience Strategy, a concrete action plan that outlines projects and initiatives specifically tailored to the city’s strengths and vulnerabilities. This Strategy gives the city a strong foundation to build resilience and triggers action: spurring coordination, integration, prioritization, and resilience thinking; connecting the city to private sector solution providers that will help them address their challenges, and signaling to the market what additional tools need to be created; and establishing an ongoing global practice of resilience.

How Does It Work?

The development of the City Resilience Strategy is made up of two phases, which are led by the CRO and 100RC with significant stakeholder engagement and input, support from Platform Partners, and peer learning with other cities in the 100RC Network.

In the first phase of the strategy development process, the city’s focus is to gather data, engage the community and stakeholders, understand how the city is already functioning, and create a preliminary work plan outlining where the city will focus and why.

In the second phase of the strategy development process, the city turns these diagnostics and assessments into actionable initiatives and projects. Exploring and analyzing each focus area, the city can evaluate its opportunities, and initiate workshops and closer study of areas such as financing or risk modeling.

The final step is to implement the city’s Resilience Strategy. The strategy serves as a guide, articulating the city’s priorities and the specific initiatives to reach them in both the near and long-term. Rather than a static road map, the resilience strategy is a living document to be continuously fine-tuned as priorities are addressed and initiatives are implemented.

What Comes Next?

As the first cities to release Resilience Strategies commemorate one year of implementation, cities such as Mexico City, Oakland, and Paris are beginning the next phase of their resilience journeys. 100RC now works with 100 cities around the world. More than half of the cities in our network have hired CROs and dozens have held their agenda-setting workshops, beginning the process of setting critical resilience priorities for their cities. Nearly a dozen cities have committed to funding offices dedicated to resilience, ensuring that this crucial work is carried forward long-term.

Our work is far from over and the resilience strategy process is a critical first step. We are thrilled to see how cities around the world move toward a more resilient future.