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10 Features of a Resilient City – How Many Does Yours Have?

Resilient cities are able to withstand potential disasters, whether they are due to extreme weather, national or international economic meltdown, grid power blackouts or disruptions in food supply. They are (or would be if they were fully realised) like grown-up versions of transition towns

'Resilience' is generally taken to mean that services tend to be decentralised, networked and locally supplied, while the built environment and infrastructure is designed to deal with droughts, prolonged high or low temperatures, or flooding.


Kigali, Rwanda – is it a resilient city?

Some guidelines for making cities more resilient have been developed by the 100 Resilient Cities (100RC) programme managed by the Rockefeller Foundation.(The Foundation is managed as a sponsored project by Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors (RPA), an independent 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that provides governance and operational infrastructure to its sponsored projects. It is nothing to do with the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, that last week announced it would switch its investments from oil to clean energy).

By addressing both the shocks and the stresses, a resilient city becomes more able to respond to adverse events, and is overall better able to deliver basic functions in both good times and bad, to all populations.

Mexico City

Mexico City, part of the 100RC network.

It has attempted to compile a list of 10 features a resilient cities, and to this others have added more, removing and combining some. Here is the compiled list. Does your city possess many of them?

1. There is good support for cycling, with cycle lanes and a bike sharing scheme.

2. There is a good public transport system, with rapid transit buses, trains or metros.

3. The city has a high walkability score, with good street connectivity, well-maintained footpaths and pedestrian crossings, and nearby destinations.

4. There are many places to charge up an electric or hybrid vehicle, perhaps with workplaces with charging facilities.

5. Local building codes support the use of passive heating and cooling to minimise energy use in buildings.

6. Buildings use biomimicry and there are plenty of spaces for nature, with trees planted along the streets and sustainable urban drainage, or low impact development, that can easily absorb excess rainfall.

7. It's possible to obtain locally grown food, whether from community-supported agriculture, farm shops, indoor growing, community growing schemes or allotments.

8. There is a district heating system and plenty of locally-produced renewable energy.

9. The Internet is delivered through a mesh network that can only fail if every node in the network fails, making it much more robust.

10. There are well attended local neighborhood associations or civic groups with participatory budgeting that seeks input of the community and a receptive local authority.

Four basic criteria are defined for the cities in the Rockefeller Foundation network: constant learning, the ability to rebound quickly from disaster, limitations and potential failures, and flexibility.

The 32 cities already selected for the 100RC network – from Ashkelon, Israel, to Vejle, Denmark – are provided with the resources necessary to develop a roadmap to resilience along four main pathways:

  1. Financial and logistical guidance for establishing an innovative new position in city government, a Chief Resilience Officer, who will lead the city's resilience efforts;
  2. Expert support for development of a robust resilience strategy;
  3. Access to solutions, service providers, and partners from the private, public and NGO sectors who can help them develop and implement their resilience strategies; and
  4. Membership of a global network of member cities who can learn from and help each other.

Through these actions, 100RC aims not only to help individual cities become more resilient, but will facilitate the building of a global practice of resilience among governments, NGOs, the private sector, and individual citizens.

The next round of the 100 Resilient Cities Challenge is set to open in 2015. While waiting for the December 3 announcement and the 2015 Challenge, you can contact them to learn more about joining the resilient cities movement.