Creating an intelligence network to bolster urban resilience


The Rockefeller Foundation wanted to make a global impact increasing resilience to natural and man-made shocks and stresses.


Design a multi-year, global prize challenge to surface and gather the world’s leaders in urban resilience and centralize best practices, positioning the Foundation as a facilitator of change.

“Resilience ensures that a city can continue to operate at its highest function on its best and on its worst days.”

Dr. Judith Rodin

The Rockefeller Foundation

Cities are where people are living, not just now but increasingly, 50% of the world’s population currently lives in cities, increasing to 75% by 2050. Cities are the thriving hubs of our economies and culture but are fragile as hurricane Katrina and super storm Sandy have handily demonstrated in the US. The Rockefeller Foundation wanted to be sure global cities stay stable and sustainable to carry humanity forward. The Foundation needed to identify global cities working on resilience in a short amount of time and Context Partners specializes in gathering groups of highly-specialized leaders and their solutions through prize challenges.

The prize challenge identified resilience leaders and created a leadership network to address future challenges, positioning the Rockefeller Foundation as a facilitator of change. To find these leaders, Context Partners designed the challenge targeting cities first, rather than individuals as a validating step of collaboration within a city. If a city couldn’t come together to complete an application they were unlikely to make full use of the prize award including a grant for a chief resilience officer, technical assistance, or a network of resilience practitioners. Another critical design choice influencing the success of the challenge was to perform outreach in seven languages; lowering the barrier to entry for non-English speaking cities was coupled with high-touch support. Finally, the winner selection by high-profile judges, including President Bill Clinton and other notable global leaders, was a powerful incentive for entrants.

The promise of 100 Resilient Cities is, as said by president Michael Berkowitz, “to distribute common solutions to many of our cities and doing it more efficiently and at scale.” The role of the Chief Resilience Officer, an outcome out of the prize challenge and the spin off 100 Resilient Cities organization, profiled in Fast Company magazine, has catalyzed the intelligence network of 32 winning cities with 68 additional cities to be named through 2015.

With this project and others related to cities and communities of various sizes, Context Partners continues to show success blending thematic and sector knowledge through community centered design. This creates better networks and lasting social bonds for long-term resilience and sustainability.

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