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National Disaster Resilience Competition

Bringing resilience tools and expertise to communities across the United States

The National Disaster Resilience Competition and The Rockefeller Foundation helped build the capacity of all jurisdictions who participated to institutionalize resilience into their governing structures, policies, and budgets, and to develop and implement projects that build the resilience of their most vulnerable communities. The 13 winning jurisdictions, including three that are members of the 100 Resilient Cities Network (New York City, New Orleans, and Norfolk), continue to drive toward the implementation of innovative and forward-looking projects that address the most pressing challenges in the their communities.


Between 2011 and 2013, the federal government spent $136 billion on disaster relief in the United States—an average of nearly $400 per household per year. During that time, President Obama declared major disasters in 67 communities in the United States across 48 states, plus Puerto Rico and Washington, D.C.

With extreme weather showing no signs of slowing, and rising waters increasing flooding risks around the country, it’s time to change the paradigm of disaster response and recovery to one of planning, preparation, and returns.

Our Strategy

In partnership between The Rockefeller Foundation and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), Rebuild by Design used private-philanthropic dollars to bring the world’s greatest designers and thinkers to bear at a smaller scale in the Sandy-affected areas of New York, Connecticut, and New Jersey. The $1 billion awarded by HUD in 2014 to the winning jurisdictions is now transforming neighborhoods and cities across these three states.

The National Disaster Resilience Competition, announced by President Barack Obama in 2014, built upon this model to bring resilience building policy and practice to states and communities affected by disaster since 2011. Eligible jurisdictions competed for more than $1 billion in HUD recovery block grants, and winners were announced in January 2016.

Project partners have included the Department of Housing and Urban Development, HR&A Advisors, Global Strategies Group, Columbia University Teachers College, Furman Center for Real Estate and Urban Policy, Enterprise Community Partners, Council on Foundations, Center for Disaster Philanthropy, Georgetown Climate Center, GNO, Inc., and Sun Valley Institute.

Taken together, Rebuild by Design and the National Disaster Resilience Competition represent only $11 million in grantmaking—but leverages more than $2 billion for vulnerable communities. It also represents a new kind of public-philanthropic partnership, one that animates the resources and authority of the United State federal government with the flexibility, creativity, and innovation that philanthropic dollars can unleash.

Resilience Academies

To help build the permanent capacity of the 67 jurisdictions eligible for NDRC funding, The Rockefeller Foundation teamed with 350 experts from across the public and private sectors to host nine Resilience Academies around the United States. More than 50 eligible jurisdictions participated in the academies, strengthening not only their NDRC proposals, but ensuring they would have the necessary skills and understanding to achieve resilience dividends, whether or not they were among the winners.

The curriculum from the resilience academies has been adapted to help build resilience capacity and knowledge more broadly and for more global audiences.

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