How City Resilience Tackles Complex Urban Issues

For those of us who have been fortunate enough to live in safe cities, that have been relatively immune to natural disasters, environmental shock, or economic collapse, then we perhaps can’t appreciate the tremendous suffering that some of our fellow North Americans – and others around the world – have had to face. For many cities, the cyclical nature of shock and stress is very real. It can be pretty tough to bounce back from, especially when resources are depleted and residents feel low morale.

Yet, it speaks of human character and strength when we hear of success stories of cities that were able restore themselves once again after facing adversity. These are the resilient cities of our planet and we can learn a lot from them. That’s why the Rockefeller Foundation pioneered the 100 Resilient Cities program, in an effort to support these challenged urban centers and bring awareness to their struggles and, more importantly, their solutions.

Empowering City Resilience

The 100 Resilient Cities program is a funding and resource platform which provides a select one hundred global cities with the tools to better equip themselves to handle ongoing shock and stress. In essence:

City resilience is 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.


A city’s ability to remain strong in the face of adversity is its most important asset. When populations can continue to work together through economic, social, and environmental challenges, they often come out stronger and more unified in the end. But they can’t do it alone, which is why 100 Resilient Cities is an important leadership and support organization for re-establishing a city’s foundation and implementing sustainable frameworks.


Pittsburgh was recently chosen as one of the 100 Resilient Cities.

4 Elements of City Resilience

The 100 Resilient Cities program provides a framework for addressing and strengthening four key areas of a city’s functions leading to sustainable city resilience:

1. Health & Wellbeing

For all residents the ability to survive is the number one priority. A resilient city is one that ensures that basic living requirements are met, particularly during times of crisis. These include food, water, shelter, sanitation, and electricity.

After these basic needs follows the assurance of economic opportunity such as employment, skills training, business investment, and the continuing of innovation and development. The availability of public health services to ensure physical and mental health of all residents is also essential in the overall wellbeing of a resilient city.

2. Economy & Society

A city’s ability to engage its diverse communities and promote solidarity among cultures and networks leads to an overall collective feeling of inclusion and tolerance. Additionally, safety and justice are important elements in ensuring the stability of a community when it comes to protecting society.

A solid community socially will then be better off attracting opportunities economically. The availability of local and outside business investment will provide residents with further stability and growth.

3. Leadership & Strategy

Strong leadership and management between the community and the local government are paramount at all times but never more than during a crisis. Communication, inclusion, and fostering partnerships are all essential skills required by city leadership. The ability to create a vision for the city and then set a plan into motion to meet that vision is what will ultimately help a city achieve resilience.

4. Infrastructure & Environment

During times of a crisis a city requires stable infrastructure to continue the flow of goods and services. This not only includes roads and highways, but sea walls and levees as well. Well-designed communication and transportation networks are essential in ensuring the functionality of a city. Contingency plans that consider risk management and ecosystems are crucial to have in place in case of emergencies.


Dallas was recently chosen as one of the 100 Resilient Cities.

City Resilience Leadership

Perhaps the most unique – and pinnacle – element of the Resilient Cities program offering is the leadership tool that’s provided. Enter the Chief Resilience Officer: an executive position employed by the city to drive inter-governmental and community communication to gather information, set resilience goals, and build and implement a resilience strategy.

The funding provided by 100 Resilient Cities is intended to hire and employ the CRO for two years. The overarching goal of the CRO position is that scalable and replicable resilience strategies and systems will be created which can be shared throughout the 100 Resilient Cities Network and beyond. This type of collaborative mindset is what will ensure we are able to have long-lasting resources and solutions that can help more cities around the world achieve resiliency.

The next round of leaders in city resilience was announced this week. Learn more about these 35 Resilient Cities here.

Feature Image: Montreal, Quebec was chosen as a Resilient City in the latest round of city selection.

About The Author

Emily Rodgers
Emily is Editor and Co-Founder of PowerHouse Growers. Having found a passion for sustainability, she seeks to be on the cutting edge of ecological urban design. Emily's mission is to help others see the value in social and environmental responsibility so they may live happier, healthier, and more productive lives. By delivering relevant, useful, and educational news and articles that inspire action, Emily believes that all individuals, businesses, and city officials can do their part to collaboratively create sustainable communities.