A version of this post originally appeared on 100 Resilient Cities.
Around the world, our first 32 cities are kicking off their 100 Resilient Cities Challenge engagements with workshops, and we’ve had great conversations about the cities’ urban challenges and resilience opportunities. There’s a lot more information to come from each of these cities, but eight overarching takeaways from some of our first workshops have stood out so far:
1. People from all walks of life are interested in resilience building. Byblos residents from all sectors and demographics attended their city’s resilience workshop. Attendees ranged from Lebanese Army and Air Force generals and members of the prime minister’s office to the city harbormaster, heads of universities, and local entrepreneurs. Even an elderly nun joined in the conversation!
2. Resilient cities turn tragedy into opportunity. Three years out, post-earthquake Christchurch still presents a block-by-block picture of the challenge of rebuilding a city. But the city’s residents, from the mayor to young activists, have seized this opportunity, and are demonstrating in real time the case for rebounding better and evolving stronger.
3. People’s preconceived definition of resilience varies widely. At the Glasgow workshop, most people came into the event thinking about resilience primarily from a psychological resilience or a disaster resilience vantage point. But true resilience—the ability to withstand shocks and stresses and bounce back stronger—encompasses a wider variety of areas, from environmental resilience to social resilience.
4. Many consider social resilience to be as important as physical resilience. Prone to floods, wildfires, and drought, Boulder is no stranger to the risks that nature poses. But workshop participants expressed concern about the resilience of the city’s residents, particularly the elderly, or those without access to affordable housing.
5. Community leaders have already started thinking beyond major shocks. Melbourne’s mayor shared his concerns about the stress of population growth and everything that radiates from it, from natural resources to civic cohesion. In Medellín, civic leaders have focused much of their resilience efforts on reducing violence. We’ve heard these social resilience concerns voiced in all of our city workshops.
6. Cross-city collaboration is key. The deputy city manager of nearby El Paso joined in on Mexico City’s resilience workshop—emphasizing the need and opportunity to collaborate among the 100 Resilient Cities network, and to learn from those who face similar challanges.
7. A city’s resilience work is never done. Rotterdam has done a lot of work to build its resilience over the past few years, creating a climate action plan and implementing it via the public and private sectors. But residents didn’t rest on their laurels; they used the resilience workshop to identify areas to improve resilience further, specifically around immigration and the city’s port. Similarly, Vejle faces less severe physical threats—facing only occasional flooding—and so focused their workshop on economic resilience and social resilience.
8. Many resilience measures are not capital intensive. Rome has many physical challenges—heat waves, floods, ancient infrastructure. Addressing these challenges will not doubt require significant resources, but almost all participants in our workshop mentioned an important resilience building step that could cost virtually nothings: improving communications between various silos of city government, and across sectors of society, including the private sector, NGOs, and civic society. Workshop participants said that this could vastly cut down on duplication of efforts, build a more integrated society, and help the city respond in the event of a serious shock.