Just a few short years ago, the Rockefeller Foundation announced a massive undertaking—make 100 cities around the world more resilient to acute shocks such as natural disasters and terrorist attacks as well as chronic stresses like high unemployment, localized violence, and natural resource shortages. Rockefeller announced its 100 Resilient Cities or 100RC, challenge when it turned 100 in 2013, committing an initial $100 million to the initiative. Rock dove right into it by announcing its inaugural 32 cities that year.
Over the past few years, the foundation has added more and more cities to its resilience roster, eventually ending at 100 this year with the addition of the next, and final 37 member cities spread across five continents. Incidentally, over that time, Rockefeller also increased its financial backing from $100 million to $164 million.
Rockefeller’s resilience efforts, especially in the face of climate change, are pretty much part-and-parcel to the foundation’s brand. While its 100RC challenge does have a big climate change aspect, that’s not all it’s focused on.
It’s estimated that between 65 and 75 percent of the global population will live in cities by 2050. As the population density increases, so too does the stress on infrastructure and local economies. If those begin to break down, all sorts of bad things can happen. Rockefeller is trying to mitigate those threats through this challenge and it’s approaching resilience building from all angles, taking on the most pervasive challenges faced in different places—for example, educational infrastructure in South America and chronic water shortages in Africa. Rockefeller has also picked up some heavy hitting partners alogn the way to help them create a path for other matters that threaten a city’s security. For instance, last year the foundation partnered with Microsoft and its CityNext Initiative that is helping cities around the world prioritize security threats, increase cybersecurity education, and develop cybersecurity practices.
In his article The First 100 Cities, Michael Berkowitz, president of 100RC, wrote, “100 is just the beginning. There’s a great deal of work ahead to bring this movement to 1,000, then 10,000 cities.” Could this mean additional 100RC challenges in the future? Perhaps. But it’s likely that Berkowitz is speaking to the interconnectivity of member cities.
Each of the member cities are connected through a peer-to-peer network. According to a press release this interconnectivity is helping lead to “groundbreaking cross-city partnerships and solutions.” For example, in the fall of 2015, 100RC hosted a Network Exchange which brought together leading water experts from around the world. The exchange helped foster innovative solutions to the diverse water supply management problems faced by cities in both developing and developed countries.
The Rockefeller Foundation’s 100RC challenge is a really big feather in the foundation’s resilience building cap. But it’s not the only one.
About a year after the launch of 100RC, the foundation announced a $100 million commitment to the Global Resilience Partnership, at the first-ever U.S. Africa Leaders Summit. Joined by U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and the Swedish International Development Cooperation (SIDA), the new partnership aimed to “…lay out a bold new vision for building resilience to chronic stresses and increasing shocks in communities across Africa and Asia.”
In true Rockefeller form, it launched the partnership with a nearly $19 million grant to KPMG East Africa to help the mobilize operations. The overall goal of the partnership is to help vulnerable regions of the world better prepare for both man-made and natural chronic stresses including, but not limited to, extreme poverty, food insecurity, natural disasters, and climate shocks.
Other funders are paying increased attention to building global resilience to acute shocks and chronic stresses. The Gates Foundation for example, awards grants for rapid and slow-onset emergencies—including those related to conflict. But it's Rockefeller that really invented—and now owns—this grantmaking space, which is likely to only grow more critical in an increasingly crowded and stressed out future.