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Community Resiliency: the Critical Elements

by | Dec 16, 2014 | Government Entities

iStock_000002512181Medium_200_267Resiliency, according to the Rockefeller Foundation’s 100 Resilient Cities project, is “the capacity of individuals, communities, institutions, businesses and systems within a city to survive, adapt and grow, no matter what kinds of chronic stresses and acute shocks they experience.”

As that definition suggests, there are many components to building resilient communities. A recent conference hosted by the Alliance for Innovation, for example, explored a modified version of the “3 Es” of resiliency, environment, economy and the emotional well-being of public leaders, as the keys to building resilient communities.

Environment: While rapid urbanization has paved the way for strong economic growth and poverty reduction in many regions, the related stresses (increased demand for municipal services such as energy, water and housing) place tremendous burdens on local governments.

Such high-profile natural disasters as the 2011 Japanese tsunami, hurricanes Katrina and Sandy and the recent frigid temperatures and snow in the Midwest and East dictate the need to understand that our current infrastructures may be vulnerable to dramatically changing weather and climate patterns.

Economy: The ability of communities to achieve economic resiliency has become more challenging as we emerge from the Great Recession and the global economy becomes more tightly intertwined, observed former Pinellas County, Fla., County Administrator Bob LaSala.

Emotional well-being: Leaders of resilient community develop a work-life style for themselves that helps them avoid cynicism, which can metastasize into negativity and pessimism and spread deep into the organization, noted Charlotte City Manager Ron Carlee. Resilient managers know that what happens on the job is not personal, and they understand that personal resiliency requires strong personal beliefs.

While developing each of these aspects is crucial to ensuring a community’s ability to rebound, the 3 Es of sustainability underestimate one important component: institutional resiliency. To be resilient, communities must also cultivate a network of robust institutions — including local governments, nonprofits, the business and civic sectors, and faith-based and charitable organizations — to support them.

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