Rockefeller Foundation Appears Set to End 100 Resilient Cities Program

Rockefeller Foundation Appears Set to End 100 Resilient Cities Program

The Rockefeller Foundation intends to disband its 100 Resilient Cities initiative, according to people familiar with the foundation's plans, Bloomberg reports. 

Launched in 2013 as an independent entity, the largest privately funded climate-adaptation program in the United States provides funding for cities to hire a chief resilience officer to help them boost their resilience to the social, economic, and environmental shocks stemming from climate change. To date, the foundation has invested $164 million in the initiative, while total support (including assistance from private-sector partners) to the 100RC Network cities in the U.S. and abroad has exceeded $200 million. According to sources in the Bloomberg story who asked to remain anonymous, the foundation plans to close the 100RC offices and dismiss its staff of nearly a hundred people as early as this summer.

A December 2018 midterm monitoring and evaluation report commissioned by the foundation and conducted by the Urban Institute found that the initiative is largely working. According to the report, the initiative has enabled at least half the cities to institutionalize resilience efforts in their planning operations, while more than half have published Resilience Strategies, one of the main outputs of the 100RC process, with all cities reporting helpful guidance from 100RC in developing their strategy initiatives. A final evaluation report was planned for March 2022. 

The demise of 100RC may be tied to the change in leadership at the foundation, Bloomberg reports, although when Rajiv Shah succeeded Judith Rodin — who had spearheaded the initiative — as the foundation's president in 2017, he pledged to support it. People familiar with the situation told Bloomberg that Shah had indicated as recently as the end of 2018 that the foundation would provide additional funding. Then, on March 21, 100RC president Michael Berkowitz told employees that the organization's future suddenly had become uncertain. The organization is expected to remain operational until a summit planned for Rotterdam in July, but probably not much beyond that, people who were at the meeting told Bloomberg.

Neither the Rockefeller Foundation, 100 Resilient Cities, nor Rodin responded to Bloomberg's request for comment.

"100RC is an innovation in multiple regards, not the least of which are its scale of interventions and depth of engagement," the Urban Institute report's authors wrote in the abstract. "100RC's approach to integrating 'shocks' and 'stressors' and its focus on long-term institutional change in how cities plan, function, and provide services reflect the holistic transformation requested by both contemporary disaster scholars and climate advocates."

Christopher Flavelle. "Rockefeller's Climate Resilience Program Said to Be in Jeopardy." Bloomberg 03/29/2019.