Resilient Cities Network, Avina Foundation and IDB-Lab launched the Regional Initiative of Resilient Cities aimed to promote innovative solutions to strengthen urban resilience in Latin America with the participation of the private sector implementing the resilience plans.

The Impact Challenges were conceived as a part of the Initiative to encourage technological and social innovation and to promote new business models as tools to overcome social, environmental, and economic challenges, while promoting multi-stakeholder collaboration to achieve innovative solutions that contribute to the circular economy model and gender equality.

The topics of the Impact Challenges are result of analysis of the tensions and impacts in the participating cities.  The strategy to involve the private sector in promoting innovative solutions was developed based on this identification.

The selected initiatives are supported with mentoring and accompaniment from the participating institutions to strengthen their operation and structure. Then, each initiative is followed up to find out its contribution to resilience and its replication potential.

Based on the analysis of impacts and tensions, gender equity and the circular economy were identified as the two emerging themes to address through the Challenges in an innovative way.

Resilience is a city agenda, concerning not only the government but other stakeholders in the territory. It is a fundamental to coordinate efforts. The participation of the private sector, as one of the priority sectors of the city, was essential for the Initiative to generate synergies and enhance the transformative impact of the implemented initiatives.

The participating private sector companies offered top-level mentoring to the selected initiatives to strength their operating schemes and business models, as well as contribute to their sustainability and their positive impacts for the city. Thanks to these mentorships, the selected initiatives were able to establish strategic alliances, business partners and potential clients. With the participation of government entities, it is guaranteed that the selected initiatives address priorities of the city and find public policies support.

Participating cities

Why promote the participation of the private sector to strengthen the resilience of cities?

Because resilience is a city agenda, not an exclusive government concern. Promoting urban resilience is a responsibility of every stakeholder in the territory. Business play an essential role to create the conditions for resilience by joining actively to co-build the strategy and its implementation, together with the local government and mobilized civil society. It requires strengthening the articulation between the public and private sectors in harmony with the community.

Because there are many companies that are already working on it. Once they raise awareness on the urban resilience approach, many companies realize that, whether from their corporate social responsibility (CSR) or sustainability approaches, they are already allocating resources for urban resilience. They must be valued and promoted!

Because if the approach to the problem has not yet solved it, the solution can contribute significantly to the company’s business model. And from this alliance we can also count on financial resources to find that solution.

Because the resilience approach is much more than action against environmental disasters. This is a reductionism that complicates awareness of the possibilities of operating a company. Creating resilience also means reducing the vulnerabilities of the population, improving the capacities of the most vulnerable populations, promoting innovation processes, and harmonizing with the community.

Because a company committed to creating urban resilience, with a long term vision, positively shields its reputation, its social license to operate, increasing the scope of a CSR approach.

The initiative has made it possible to establish strategic alliances with the public and private sectors, civil society and academia to promote the sustainability of the implemented actions:

Lessons learned

Politically, we must promote and expand opportunities for the private sector to participate in defining strategies and public policies related to resilience. In general, private companies are not aligned with the resilience strategies of cities, the regulatory frameworks for the operation of companies are insufficient. Usually, the private sector does not participate in the design of public policy.

Regarding the environment, we must promote incentives, programs, public policies and increase corporate responsibility to improve production processes. In general, the companies have a low performance in eco-efficiency and do not have adequate diagnoses that allow them to generate improvement plans. There are no cleaner production agreements between companies. It is possible to work between the private and public sectors, and the community, on generating regulations in common agreement.

Economically , there is limited interest from investors in financing activities that guarantee the incorporation of creative innovations that contribute to urban resilience . It is necessary to develop innovative business models that allow them to access financing and guarantee the incorporation of creative solutions. The health emergency of COVID-19 has generated a significant impact on economic activities, while at the same time accelerated the need to develop innovations with a triple impact: environmental, social and economic.

In the social sector, there is no harmonization between civil society and the private sector. There is a weak social cohesion and low citizen participation in the design of policies and decision-making processes. Civil society is not well prepared to respond to emergencies and to be resilient. The informal sector of the economy has been mainly affected by the COVID -19 emergency.