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What a Chief Resilience Officer Does

At 100 Resilient Cities, we believe that one critical step cities can take to facilitate their resilience building is to hire a Chief Resilience Officer (CRO). The CRO is an innovative position in government that ideally reports directly to the city’s chief executive, and acts as the city’s point person for resilience building. But what exactly does that mean? As we continue to work with cities to hire their CROs, we thought it would be good to go into a little more detail.

First, let’s start by taking a quick look at two of the major problems we’re trying to solve:

  • First, cities are complex systems made of an array of smaller, distinct actors like government agencies, local businesses, and offices of international organizations; and they often don’t communicate or interact with one another as much as they should;
  • Second, the solutions cities develop are often not treated as scalable knowledge. Cities regularly solve problems that already have been addressed by other cities, when instead they could be modifying solutions and lessons learned in other cities, tailoring them to be more cost-efficient and effective.

The Chief Resilience Officer is the centerpiece of 100RC’s vision for helping cities deal with both of these challenges, while empowering them to develop improved urban resilience. To be effective in this instrumental role, a CRO:

  1. Works across government departments to help a city improve internal communications, and to address its own complexities. By facilitating communication that reaches across sometimes-significant internal divisions, the CRO promotes new collaboration; makes sure that offices aren’t wasting resources doing duplicative work; and promotes synergy between the various projects and the plans that agencies are drafting.
  2. Brings together a wide array of stakeholders to learn about the city’s challenges and help build support for individual initiatives, and for resilience building in general. These stakeholders include government officials, and it is critical that representatives from the private sector, non-profits, and civil society are also included.
  3. Leads the resilience strategy, a six-to-nine-month process during which the CRO brings in a wide variety of stakeholders, to help identify the city’s resilience challenges, its capabilities and plans to address them, and then to identify the gaps between these two. At the end of this process, the CRO will have a series of resilience-building initiatives that he or she will then work to put in to action, with assistance from 100RC and our platform partners.
  4. At the same time, the CRO acts as the “resilience point person,” ensuring that the city applies a resilience lens so that resources are leveraged holistically and projects planned for synergy. This lets the city get the most “bang for its buck” on its projects, potentially achieving multiple resilience goals with one project. This could include, for example, a flood barrier also serves as a bike path, promoting healthy citizens and cohesive communities.

Effective CROs perform all these functions, helping their cities manage their own complexities to make resilience efforts more impactful, and collaborating externally to identify and integrate lessons other cities have learned, so solutions scale globally.

The CRO is instrumental to how 100 Resilient Cities is helping cities address the challenges of complexity and scalability, and thus how they will contribute to the evolution of a long-lasting global community of practice around urban resilience. This is why 100RC provides financial support to fund the position of the CRO for two years. As we look forward to selecting our next 33 cities, (link to challenge) we are eager to see what the next cohort of CROs brings to the network and to the local and global practice of urban resilience.

Now that you know a bit about what a CRO does, take a moment to meet a couple of the amazing CROs our cities have in place.

  • Byblos, Lebanon: Tony Sfeir
  • Christchurch, New Zealand: Mike Gillooly
  • Medllin, Colombia: Santiago Uribe Rocha
  • San Francisco: Patrick Otellini

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