One Boston Day: How Cities & Companies Can Create a Blueprint for Urban Resilience

By: Lindsey Snow, Account Executive

Urban resilience is so much more than disaster preparedness—a truly resilient approach is one that is proactive not just reactive. That’s why today more and more companies and organizations are putting resiliency at the forefront of their responsibility efforts.

Today serves as an opportunity to remind us how vital resiliency is in today’s climate.

April 15, marks the third annual One Boston Day. A day instituted by Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh, to celebrate the resiliency and strength of the City of Boston in response to the marathon bombings on April 15, 2013 and to commemorate the lives of the victims and to honor the incredibly brave survivors through spreading kindness, hope and generosity.

This day, One Boston Day, enables us to reflect on what it truly means to be resilient in the face of tragedy and adversity—not only the shocks of disasters and severe weather, but the many multifaceted stresses that weaken the foundation of a city, such as access to health care and education, unemployment, economic disparity, affordable housing, poverty, resource scarcity, racism and intolerance, crumbling infrastructure, lack of mobility and public transportation, waste management and endemic violence – the list goes on.

These stresses and many more will only continue to rise to prominence with the growing trends of urbanization, globalization, climate change and socio-political unrest.  

By now, more people are familiar with the UN statistic that not only does more than half of the world’s population currently live in urban areas and that by 2050, two-thirds of all people will make cities their home – but that over that same period, the global population is projected to grow by 2.5 billion, further increasing urban density.

There is a vital need today to create a movement to ensure that our populations, cities and communities are strong and resilient.

A driving force behind this urban resilience movement is 100 Resilient Cities (100RC), a platform and initiative pioneered by the Rockefeller Foundation that is dedicated to helping cities around the world become more resilient to the physical, social and economic challenges in today’s society.

Cities in the 100RC network are provided with the necessary resources to develop a roadmap to resilience along four main pathways:

  1. Financial and logistical guidance for establishing an innovative new position in city government known as a Chief Resilience Officer
  2. Expert support for development of a robust Resilience Strategy
  3. Access to solutions, service providers, and partners from the private, public and NGO sectors
  4. Membership of a global network of member cities who can learn from and help each other

The City of Boston is one of 100RC’s hundred members, joined by other cities across the globe including Barcelona, Cape Town, Chicago, Jakarta, London, Los Angeles, Mexico City, Milan, New York City, Paris, San Juan, Sydney, Toronto and more.

In 2015, Mayor Walsh appointed Atyia Martin, Boston’s first chief resilience officer as part of the City’s strategic plan as a 100RC member. Walsh appointed Martin specifically to address how income inequality, lack of affordable housing, poverty and racism all factor into disaster recovery.

Walsh, Atyia and the City of Boston are already putting this strategic vision into action through the creation of “The Blueprint: A Preview of the Principles and Framework for Boston’s Resilience Strategy,” which lists four foundation points: recognizing how contemporary and historical racism have shaped the city; creating a collaborative, inclusive government that includes citizens in decision-making; opening up equitable economic opportunities; and increasing transportation connectivity for low-income communities.

Thanks to the support and guidance of 100RC, Boston and many other cities are on their way to becoming more resilient due largely in part to partners from the private, public, academic, and non-profit sectors, some of which include:

  • Siemens & Arup: Siemens has a longstanding commitment to intelligent infrastructure and building resilient cities. They teamed up with Arup and the Regional Plan Association (RPA), an urban research and advocacy organization, to develop the Toolkit for Resilient Cities, which explores how the resilience of critical urban infrastructure systems can be enhanced to prepare cities more effectively for major weather-related hazards. Arup also developed its City Resilience Index, a tool that aims to help cities highlight areas of improvement, identify weaknesses and find innovative ways to mitigate risk.
  • Microsoft: Microsoft CityNext provides best practices and resources for cities to develop and improve their cybersecurity strategies, by conducting workshops led by their cybersecurity experts, and developing a cyber-resilience roadmap for a city.
  • Cisco: A leader in the digital transformation of cities, Cisco’s Smart+Connected Communities (S+CC) initiative provides advanced IP-based solutions that use the information and communications technology network as a utility for integrated city management and economic development, as well as a better quality of life for citizens. Cisco also leads workshops in which member cities can explore potential solutions and business models to enable city transformation.
  • Save the Children: Save the Children works with 100RC member cities to build tailored approaches to develop early childhood education services, address child poverty and ensure children’s rights.
  • MIT Climate CoLab: MIT Climate CoLab provides cities with an online crowdsourcing platform where citizens and experts work together to create, analyze, and select detailed proposals to address what to do about climate change and urban challenges.

Now more than ever, in today’s current climate there is a need to come together and unite to solve some pretty daunting global challenges. This day, One Boston Day, is an important opportunity to reflect on what it truly means to be resilient—in the face of tragedy and adversity and in building the foundation of our everyday lives. With the guidance and support of 100RC and organizations and companies like these, more and more cities can work together and better equip themselves to handle the toughest urban challenges, creating a clearer path to urban resilience.