Entrepreneurship and Innovation for Resilience: Key Points from Local Governments

Written by Itzel Hernandez
Saturday, 21 August 2021
Buenos Aires


Author: Luis Bonilla Ortiz-Arrieta, Senior Consultant, Partnership Strategy – Resilient Cities Network

Translated by: Alexandria Cedergren and Luis Bonilla Ortiz-Arrieta

Cities are complex ecosystems, and advancing resilience implicates local and regional governments as well as other stakeholders interacting in the urban space.  Those in the private sector – responsible for a large part of the investments in cities – and, of course, the communities representing citizen interactions in the urban space play a crucial role in building resilience.

The Regional Initiative for Resilient Cities aims to improve urban resilience in Latin America and the Caribbean by onboarding the private sector in developing and implementing resilience plans in cities in the region.  The first edition was rolled out in Mexico City, Quito, Asuncion, Buenos Aires, Cordoba, and Montevideo. It focused on identifying and boosting entrepreneurship initiatives to contribute to urban resilience through innovative business models. This article captures insights from the webinar “The Experiences of the cities in the Regional Initiative of Resilient Cities”, which welcomed participation from Daniela Ribeiro from the Municipal Government of Salvador, Brazil; Soledad Mantero from the Intendency of Montevideo, Uruguay; David Groisman from the Autonomous City of Buenos Aires, Argentina; and Luciano Crisafulli from the Municipality of Cordoba, Argentina.

RESILIENCE is the capacity of individuals, communities, institutions, companies, systems, and cities to survive, adapt and grow no matter what chronic vulnerabilities and acute impacts they experience. The Regional Initiative for Resilient Cities strengthens the resilience QUALITIES of urban systems by promoting an ecosystem of innovative businesses models focused on solving social, economic, and/or environmental issues.

Figure 1: The qualities of a resilient system related to the Regional Initiative for Resilient Cities

On the one hand, the Initiative promotes REFLEXIVITY since the challenges to solve are based on the profound analysis of city problems. As an essential component of the Initiative, innovation is RESOURCEFUL AND FLEXIBLE since it designs novel and dynamic alternatives to optimize urban resources (social, economic, environmental, etc.). Finally, the business models strengthen INCLUSIVENESS AND INTEGRATION, considering the different players related to the challenges and creating community around the solutions.

Fostering the urban impact of these qualities requires the strategic involvement of the city governments. Key points emerge from the Regional Initiative for Resilient Cities to strengthen the role of these governments to bolster innovative ventures associated with the most compelling challenges for the construction of resilience.

A.      Constructing a Systematic Perspective of the Challenges

Building resilience requires understanding cities from a holistic perspective to identify the multiple relationships between chronic vulnerabilities and the potential impacts of a series of acute shocks.  While directly associated with these numerous issues, the city governments can lay the systemic basis of the innovation challenges.

B.      Articulating stakeholders in the city

 Multisectoral and inter-institutional relationships with a territorial approach are inherent to city governments and central in the urban ecosystem. Working as a nodal point helps the city government identify the critical communities and institutions and construct a multi-actor framework capable of convening and articulating distinct protagonists and pushing innovative solutions in the city.

C.      Enabling the institutional mechanisms to boost entrepreneurship and innovation

City governments have an extensive portfolio of institutional actions that accelerate ventures and innovative solutions to solve diverse urban problems. Some of these are:

  • Adapting the standards that promote business models made to resolve prioritized challenges in the city resilience strategies.
  • Participation mechanisms that ‘open the door’ for many players in the urban ecosystem participating in each cycle of the innovation process.
  • Institutionalizing innovation like a component of city management to promote creativity and entrepreneurship through laws, organizational structure, programs, innovation centers, etc.
  • Financing through investment funds can incentivize innovative solutions and enhances their economic, social, and environmental impacts.

D.      Maximize the resilience dividend of solutions

By adding the resilience focus into the innovation process, the city governments can guarantee that the business models are simultaneously designed to take on many challenges. So, apart from the solutions directly related to the business models, these can generate a series of co-benefits capable of impacting other relevant areas in urban systems. In addition, initiatives designed based on a future vision, using a risk management approach, and considering inclusive and integrated methodologies, can contribute to building a systemic approach. Those kinds of perspectives are focused on going beyond particular cases in order to scale learnings, tools, mechanisms, and resources to re-focus the functionality of the city in its complex.

The key points above emerge from the experience of the city governments involved in the first edition of the program. These are part of the Community of Practice for the Regional Initiative for Resilient Cities and look to contribute to other cities interested in encouraging the ecosystem of innovation and entrepreneurship and strengthen their relationship with urban resilience.

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