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More Detail on What Happened to 100 Resilient Cities

The Rockefeller Foundation has cited costs and a new strategic direction to explain why it abruptly cut off the program this year. While the work may live on in some form, the move underscores the risks of relying on private funding.
July 2, 2019, 5am PDT | Philip Rojc | @PhilipRojc
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Flood Damaged Suburb

"Established in 2013 by the Rockefeller Foundation in the wake of Hurricane Katrina and Superstorm Sandy, 100 Resilient Cities was born out of the idea that local governments needed help planning for disasters and combating persistent social maladies," Laura Bliss writes. With Rockefeller writing the checks, it grew into a groundbreaking effort to embed resilience into the conceptual vocabulary of local governments.

But this spring, the foundation decided to wind the program down. "For local governments, the whiplash may be a reminder of the risks of relying of private dollars to create public policies," Bliss writes. 

Some elements of Rockefeller's resilience work may survive. The Rockefeller Foundation is helping bankroll the Adrienne Arsht-Rockefeller Foundation Resilience Center, for example, and it has "confirmed that it may keep some elements of the 100 Resilient Cities program alive."

As for why Rockefeller pulled the plug, the rationale partly has to do with cost: "while academic research supports the theory of building urban resilience through institutional change, it was challenging to measure short-term results directed by the program." Rockefeller's president Raj Shah also wants to steer the foundation in a different direction, prioritizing measurable outcomes in areas like global health.

100 Resilient Cities' president, Michael Berkowitz, has "told staff that he and a group of soon-to-be-former 100RC officers were preparing to start a new nonprofit with the mission of helping cities implement resilience projects." A new venture would work on a project-by-project basis, Bliss writes, rather than activating a network of cities. And it will draw on multiple funding sources. A formal announcement is expected this July.

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Published on Wednesday, June 12, 2019 in CityLab
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