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Urban Institute and The Rockefeller Foundation Release Evaluation of Rebuild by Design Phase One

NEW YORK—Today, the Urban Institute and The Rockefeller Foundation released an evaluation of the first phase of Rebuild by Design. The evaluation explores how the Rebuild by Design competition, an initiative of President Obama’s Hurricane Sandy Rebuilding Task Force, was designed, carried out, and could be replicated in other contexts.

Rebuild by Design launched in 2013 as an ambitious, unprecedented public-philanthropic partnership to identify opportunities to build physical, ecological, and economic resilience across the region. The winning proposals, announced earlier this year, represent a shift from disaster relief and recovery, which traditionally focuses on restoring communities to a pre-crisis state. Instead, these proposals reflect an approach to building resilience—championed by The Rockefeller Foundation—that engages designers, scientific experts, and the affected communities themselves to tackle together a set of issues in ways that recognize and anticipate the uncertainty of a future that is not like the past. The Rockefeller Foundation was the lead financial supporter of the competition.

“Rebuild by Design offered the Sandy region an opportunity to develop and invest in innovative and resilient ideas that translate into the difference between communities that will emerge stronger from a storm like Sandy and communities that may never fully recover,” said Judith Rodin, president of The Rockefeller Foundation. “The lessons we have learned from Rebuild by Design will have tremendous value for other places aspiring to become more resilient in an increasingly complex and volatile world.”

The evaluation revealed that even though the Rebuild by Design competition was limited to the Sandy recovery area, it has the potential to transform the way disaster recovery efforts are designed, funded, and implemented across the United States. The evaluation focuses solely on Phase I of Rebuild by Design, but it demonstrates that collectively communities and decision makers can respond to crises in creative ways and work as a region to become more resilient with adequate resources and knowledge.

In particular, the evaluation found that Rebuild by Design’s design competition is an innovative strategy for meeting resilience goals. Rebuild by Design gives hope that large national problems such as coastal flooding, and other climate and weather events—those that have particularly devastating impacts on the poor or vulnerable—can be successfully addressed by taking a resilience perspective that combines multidisciplinary knowledge, design thinking, and federal oversight.

“Superstorm Sandy was a vivid and stark reminder of how vulnerable we are to events we can’t always prevent even if we can predict them however imprecisely,” said Nancy Kete, managing director at The Rockefeller Foundation. “By starting from a regional perspective and focusing on the future Rebuild by Design worked to build resilience not only where the Sandy impact was most immediate—but it also developed broader understanding of the future vulnerabilities and the interdependencies of our region.”

Following an investment from The Rockefeller Foundation of $3 million to support Phase 1, the six winning Rebuild by Design projects were recently awarded nearly $1 billion of disaster recovery funding, and Phase II will focus on the implementation of these projects to build more resilient communities in New York and New Jersey.

About Urban Institute

The nonprofit Urban Institute is dedicated to elevating the debate on social and economic policy. For nearly five decades, Urban Institute scholars have conducted research and delivered evidence-based solutions that improve lives, strengthen communities, and increase the effectiveness of public policy. Their objective research helps expand opportunities for all, reduce hardship among the most vulnerable, and strengthen the fiscal health of government across a rapidly urbanizing world.

About The Rockefeller Foundation
For more than 100 years, The Rockefeller Foundation’s mission has been to promote the well-being of humanity throughout the world. Today, The Rockefeller Foundation pursues this mission through dual goals: advancing inclusive economies that expand opportunities for more broadly shared prosperity, and building resilience by helping people, communities and institutions prepare for, withstand, and emerge stronger from acute shocks and chronic stresses. To achieve these goals, The Rockefeller Foundation works at the intersection of four focus areas—advance health, revalue ecosystems, secure livelihoods, and transform cities—to address the root causes of emerging challenges and create systemic change. Together with partners and grantees, The Rockefeller Foundation strives to catalyze and scale transformative innovations, create unlikely partnerships that span sectors, and take risks others cannot—or will not. For more information, please visit