Resilience is a word that you may be hearing more of lately. While it has its roots in environmentalism, the Rockefeller Foundation’s 100 Resilient Cities initiative defines resilience, in particular for cities, as…
“The capacity of cities to function, so that the people living and working in cities – particularly the poor and vulnerable – survive and thrive no matter what stresses or shocks they encounter.”
After attending the 100 Resilient Cities Urban Resilience Summit, among the 100 cities across the globe who are developing resilience strategies, one theme is clear: while they are confident in their ability to help their cities respond to natural shocks (such as floods) and stresses (such as antiquated infrastructure), they are less confident in how to create a resilient community and economic development system. With complex stresses such as economic inequality plaguing so many cities and the threat of shocks such as automation-driven industry collapse, the task of creating a resilient community and economic development system is not an easy one.
It may help to start with a clearer picture of what a resilient community and economic development system looks like. According to 100 Resilient Cities, there are 12 goals that articulate what a resilient city looks like. Six of these relate to community and economic development:
- Minimal human vulnerability Indicated by the extent to which everyone’s basic needs are met.
For community and economic development practitioners, this means access to affordable housing, food, and resources, such as energy and water.
- Diverse livelihoods and employment Facilitated by access to finance, ability to accrue savings, skills training, business support, and social welfare.
More than just a job, this requires a holistic approach to individual wealth building.
- Collective identity and community support Observed as active community engagement, strong social networks, and social integration.
We can always be doing more to embed this goal into our various planning and outreach processes.
- Sustainable economy Observed as sound financial management, diverse revenue streams, the ability to attract business investment, adequate investment, and emergency funds.
This is the heart of economic development; but doing it through a resilience framework means that we are considering a city and its private sector’s ability to respond emergencies – natural, economic, and social.
- Effective leadership and management Involving government, business, and civil society, and indicated by trusted individuals; multi-stakeholder consultation; and evidence-based decision-making. The more we can build cross-sector collaboration, the stronger our leadership and the more resilient our cities are.
- Integrated development planning Indicated by the presence of a city vision; an integrated development strategy; and plans that are regularly reviewed and updated by cross-departmental working groups.
As more cities are looking to address community and economic development challenges, it becomes increasingly critical to ensure that land use and development planning processes are informed by and addressing those challenges.
While resilience professionals are trying to understand how to address community and economic development shocks and stresses through their work, we could benefit from doing our work in a way that also creates a more resilient community. We need to find a way to work together. At Fourth Economy, we think there are two important first steps.
First, we need to rethink the most basic analysis that informs our work. Instead of a SWOT, we propose a new framework that includes analysis of Shocks, Stresses, Assets and Capacity (S2AC). This process will prepare communities to identify the issues that matter most and build a resilience agenda for their communities that is based on their ability to take action.
Second, our worlds still speak different languages. To effectively engage the private sector and economic development professionals, we need to build the business case for resilience. For instance, in Pittsburgh, climate change and extreme weather is one of our primary potential shocks, and economic and racial inequity is one of our primary stresses. By making the case for addressing those shocks and stresses in terms of lost GDP, decreased tax base, and inability to attract investment, we can start to break down silos and build new partnerships.
This is uncharted territory and no one has the answers. But we’re excited to figure them out. Want to join us? Let’s talk.