Reactive to Proactive: That's the Logic Behind a New Partnership on Global Resilience

The theme of the first ever U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit was “Investing in the Next Generation.” Among the biggest future investments announced at the Summit, was a $100 million effort that joins the Rockefeller Foundation and the U.S. Agency for International Development in a new "Global Resilience Partnership."

So what's the deal with this thing? 

For starters, of course, this is yet another step by Rockefeller to expand its work on resilience, an area that the foundation jumped into well before many other funders got hip to the concept. 

Specifically, the Global Resilience Partnership “…lays out a bold new visions for building resilience to chronic stresses and increasing shocks in communities across Africa and Asia.” These natural and manmade chronic stresses and shocks are extreme poverty, food insecurity, and natural disasters, or climate shocks. The partnership’s work will be conducted in Sahel, the Horn of Africa, South Asia and Southeast Asia.

Is the partnership wise to tackle so many big problems in such a wide swath of the developing world? In Sahel and the Horn of Africa, the Global Resilience Partnership will concentrate its efforts on the over 20 million people who face food insecurity due to droughts. The scene is the exact opposite in South and Southeast Asia, where, according to Rockefeller, over 400 million people are expected to be affected by flooding by the year 2025.

Drought, food insecurity, conflict and other shocks don’t just happen once in a while; they are recurrent, and the resulting losses are staggering. Since 1980, the number of recurrent disasters has tripled and the resulting costs have increased by 300 percent.

The overall goal of the Global Resilience Partnership is to better prepare for chronic stresses—that is, to take a more proactive approach rather than continuing to be mainly reactive. As Rockefeller Foundation President Judith Rodin has said: “We can’t always prevent shocks and stresses, but we can better prepare for them.”

One of the overarching principles of the partnership is to help make vulnerable populations better prepared to handle stresses when they do occur. Like the Rockefeller Foundation, USAID has been giving lots of thought to this matter. Last year, the agency published its first-ever resilience policy and program guidance, Building Resilience to Recurrent Crisis, which lays out a framework for promoting long-term resilience and recovery solutions in communities most susceptible to chronic stresses and shocks.

According to USAID, it will focus its work in areas of the world that are experiencing ongoing crisis such as extreme poverty, and recurrent exposure to shocks, such as floods and droughts. And among other partners, it will work with NGOs and foundations.

The Rockefeller Foundation is an obvious partner for USAID, and the history of collaboration between these entities goes back to the agency's earliest days and work on the Green Revolution. More recently, USAID and Rockefeller have partnered up, along with the Omidyar Network, to advance impact investing. 

Getting more specific, the foundation is kicking off this new partnership with the Global Resilience Design Challenge. This effort will focus on promoting collaborations between multiple organizations with the goal of discovering innovative solutions to some of the most pronounced resilience challenges in the three focus areas. According to the foundation, “These teams will collectively research and diagnose problems, and develop locally-driven, high-impact solutions that can build resilience at scale.”

Rockefeller’s work will also engage in other work to help support innovative resilience practices as part of the Partnership.