Incorporating Resilience Activities at the Community Development Level

“Urban resilience is the capacity of a community to anticipate, plan for, and mitigate the risks—and seize the opportunities—associated with environmental and social change.” – The Kresge Foundation

You may have noticed that we’ve been talking a lot about resilience from a variety of perspectives and scales. First, we talked about defining resilience and how it relates to community health. Second, we explored resilience from a national perspective, gaining insight into how cities across the country are developing strategies to increase their resilience. Next, we explored how GTECH’s work such as our Ambassador programming helps communities increase their resilience.

In this blog, we’ll highlight work that we did in late 2015 in partnership with Neighborhood Allies and the Pittsburgh Office of Sustainability to understand how Pittsburgh’s 100 Resilient Cities work can be incorporated into existing community development activities. Our goal was to help identify mechanisms that will maximize the social inclusion, equity and participation of Pittsburgh’s most vulnerable communities in this overall resilience effort. This work represents some of the policy research we’ve had the opportunity to undertake in recent years.

Through a multi-faceted approach, including national best practice benchmarking, primary interviews, expert testimonials and local focus groups, we identified a variety of tangible recommendations for incorporating the City’s broader resilience work into local community development activities.

Through this process, we identified 11 Actionable Recommendations. Some of these include:


  • Develop Communication Toolkit for Resilience Communications and an associated Customized Communication Resource for Community Applications: Consistent, relevant and straightforward language will enable effective outreach, engagement and partnership for all ancillary activities.


  • Establish Standardized Participatory Data and Needs Assessment Process: Primary climate based needs are modeled per community as it pertains to flood management and air quality. Yet a consistent process to identify local social and environmental threats needs to be established and represents an opportunity for engaging residents in such a data collection process.


  • Establish a Neighborhood Empowerment Network of Equipped and Informed Individuals: This recommendation would be based on the concept that networks of motivated residents are key to embedding resilience concepts directly into neighborhoods. These ambassadors would be responsible for implementing tangible actions that would directly result in an increase in awareness around resiliency and tools required for improving community health and conversations around resiliency.


Due to the extraordinary number of good things taking place at the grassroots and community levels locally, as well as the seemingly endless ways to define resilience, we spent a lot of dedicated time ensuring that our recommendations could 1) synthesize with ongoing good things, 2) provide a conduit for inclusion and equity and 3) help address both local chronic stressors (e.g. affordable housing) and shocks (e.g. flooding). There is still much work to do to ensure that all Pittsburghers are part of the resilience conversation and efforts. We are excited about this opportunity to help shape the development of the social inclusion and equity framework for the City’s resilience efforts.

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