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The Next Wave of Public-Private Partnerships Helping Communities Rebuild Better


From the unseasonable swing of deadly tornadoes in December, to the Flint water crisis to the snow storm threatening the east coast this weekend—communities of all sizes in the United States are at risk of increasing frequency of disasters and shocks. Without taking steps to prepare and plan, these places are essentially sitting ducks, waiting for when—not if—the next crisis will happen. Yet, traditionally, government funding has only come after the disaster has wiped out property and assets.

It’s an expensive way of doing business.

Today, The Rockefeller Foundation’s Chief Operations Officer, Peter Madonia, joined Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Julian Castro in Norfolk, Virginia  to announce the 13 winners of the National Disaster Resilience Competition, an effort to help communities and states rebuild better in the face of climate change and other shocks and stresses, and shift the way federal disaster recovery dollars are deployed.

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A Holistic Strategy


The State of Virginia was among them—receiving $120,000,000 to support the state’s efforts to grow the economy through water management and community revitalization projects. The state’s application was led by Christine Morris, Norfolk’s Chief Resilience Officer, and builds on the holistic resilience strategy the city developed over the last two years of work with 100 Resilient Cities (100RC), a network dedicated to helping cities around the world become more resilient.

Other winners from 100RC included the City of New Orleans and the City of New York, which will receive $176,000,000 toward building the “Dryline,” a coastal protection system that integrates retail and recreational space along Lower Manhattan. The Dryline was a project that came out of the Rebuild by Design process, the forbearer of NDRC. The Rockefeller Foundation provided funding for the Rebuild by Design competition.


Developed through the Rebuild By Design process, the “Dryline” aims to protect NYC’s waterfront. Photo credit: Bjarke Ingels Group/ Rebuild By Design

Collaborative Tools for Resilience


Beyond deploying federal recovery dollars in an innovative way, NDRC’s goal was to bring resilience thinking and technique to nearly every state and to 19 additional localities devastated by recent disasters. To help build the permanent capacity of these 67 jurisdictions, The Rockefeller Foundation teamed with 350 experts from across the public and private sectors to host nine Resilience Academies across the country.

Photo credit: U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development

More than 90 percent of eligible jurisdictions attended—and it was a true bipartisan representation. And for those who didn’t end up with one of the awards, they still have the tools to implement resilience thinking, and achieve resilience dividends, from greater community cohesion to more affordable housing, to better water management and other utility services.

And our collaboration continues as we look to bring this curriculum to other audiences. Just last week we trained the first cohort of Resilience AmeriCorps, many of whom will be on the ground in cities working to implement NDRC projects.

Put together, Rebuild by Design and NDRC represent the next wave of public-private partnership. Not only did our $11 million in funding leverage $2 billion in federal dollars to be spent more effectively—it also enabled the federal government to problem-solve more flexibly and creatively. All that for just $11 million in total. That’s what our COO calls “a bet as good as anyone could imagine.”

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