The North America Region (NAM) held its’ inaugural regional convening over 3 afternoons at the end of May, which brought together Chief Resilience Officers from 24 of the region’s 28 cities across the United States and Canada. Originally intended as an in-person event in Washington, D.C., planning quickly pivoted to an online event when the global Covid-19 pandemic reached the region. The CROs themselves designed the program and identified three overarching themes to be explored: Health, Climate Change, and Equity.
In spite of their mounting responsibilities in response to the pandemic, NAM CROs recognized the value in continuing to share and learn from one another and showed up in full force to discuss emerging challenges, response activities, and recovery efforts — while not losing sight of the importance of long-term resilience planning. The tragic death of George Floyd in Minneapolis occurred on May 25th, 2020, four days before we convened. In the coming days, as the powerful response to systemic racial injustice unfolded across our two nations, CROs gathered to share their feelings and to propose solutions to uplift resilience in their cities — which includes, as they are so acutely aware, uplifting projects that promote equity.
During the Health and Equity session on Day 1, we heard from CROs Lori Nelson in Boston, Sidney Ribaux in Montreal, and Genesis Gavino in Dallas, about actions their cities have undertaken (including resilience strategy actions) to ensure that vulnerable populations receive the care and services that they deserve during the pandemic response and recovery. On Day 2 the discussion centered on economic recovery after the pandemic. CROs Brian Strong (San Francisco) and Jane Gilbert (City of Miami) shared practical short-term and long-term actions to ensure that an economic recovery plan is a resilient economic recovery plan. CROs were also provided an opportunity to attend a “Finance 101” session that set the foundation for an interactive session on Day 3 with partner and ally organizations from philanthropy, CDFI, banking, and impact investment sectors. CRO Grant Erwin (Philadelphia) shared the actions he has led in his city to raise funding to implement projects identified in the “One Pittsburgh” resilience strategy, and CROs Chris Arthurs (Calgary), Doug Beaver (Norfolk) and Krystal Reyes (Tulsa) provided examples of ready to go projects in their strategies that would benefit from additional funding.
The convening also brought an opportunity to discuss the value of resilience and how CROs can provide value by advocating, identifying opportunities, and embedding resilience in cities. We finished by reflecting on our collective achievements as the newly formed Global Resilient Cities Network and laid out goals for NAM. As we move forward as a co-led network of resilience practitioners our aim is to lift up resilience in cities to ensure that we are prepared to not only survive but thrive, in the face of future unknown and undoubtedly, inevitable, cascading shocks and stresses.