Research Report Institutionalizing Urban Resilience
A Midterm Monitoring and Evaluation Report of 100 Resilient Cities
Carlos Martín, Sara McTarnaghan
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100 Resilient Cities (100RC) identified the need to transform public institutions, functions, and operations in city government as its primary strategy to affect how cities mitigate shocks and reduce chronic stressors, particularly for its poorest and most vulnerable citizens. The program promotes such practices as inclusive planning, comprehensive analyses of external shocks and internal stressors, consensus building, and cross-sector collaboration to effect systemic change in these cities. 100RC selected and has worked with three cohorts of 30 to 35 cities since 2013.

This midterm evaluation report provides the most recent findings of four studies assessing 100RC’s objectives. Three studies relate to four core “pathways” along the program’s theory of change to strengthen urban resilience: increasing resilience in cities, expanding the marketplace of resilience services and partners, and cultivating a community of resilience professionals and champions. The report also addresses features of the overall 100RC model and its organizational structure.

Resilient Cities

100RC’s primary goal is increasing the resilience capacity of its member cities first by transforming local government institutions and operations and through initiatives with measurable physical, social, and environmental outcomes. Here are some key take-aways on institutional transformations based on a sample of 22 of the 100 member cities:

  • 100RC intervention. The resources, services, and guidance that 100RC provides as well as the expectations and milestones to which cities commit has largely remained consistent across cities and true to the model. The intensity of 100RC’s intervention has modulated depending on each city’s progress toward meeting deliverables. Cities have had varied capacity to up-take the programming offerings and have moved more quickly or slowly through program as a result. Cities’ perceptions of the 100RC intervention has largely been positive, with a few expressing the need for greater flexibility and local tweaks to the model.
  • Institutionalization. The evaluation team is monitoring 12 constructs (or aggregate variables) regarding city planning and operations as a measure of resilience institutionalization across the cities. Midterm findings suggest 100RC is contributing positively across half these areas in at least half the sample cities. The six areas of positive change include the explication of resilience in city planning, the internal consistency across cities’ plans, the establishment of a chief resilience office or similar cross-sectoral coordinator, a reduction in the strength of government silos, commitments from city leaders and state or national entities for resilience efforts, and changes to budgetary review procedures or leveraged funds for resilience-building efforts. The status of other institutionalization areas remains largely unchanged. Exploring the types of cities experiencing these changes is also telling. Medium-sized cities in middle- to high-income contexts that have stable leadership commitments appear to have enough capacity and familiarity with global urban trends but are not so bureaucratic as to make institutional transformation impossible.
  • Solutions and initiatives. Just over half the sample has published Resilience Strategies, one of the main outputs of the 100RC process. All cities report helpful guidance from 100RC in ensuring that their Strategy initiatives are developed by consensus, have some degree of feasibility, and are expected to deliver multiple resilience benefits for residents. Cities that published their strategies as recently as the past six months have already begun identifying and implementing their priority initiatives. Tracking the completion and outcomes of these initiatives will be a focus of future evaluation efforts.


An additional pathway toward building cities’ resilience is 100RC’s cultivation of external partners, such as private-sector entities, to be thought leaders and strategic resources for solutions or initiatives. While many partnerships have been established, the objective of transforming the partners’ operations and missions has largely not been achieved. The expected returns to these partners have been more reputational and less financial, organizational, or operational. Cities’ experiences with partners continue to be mixed, though a few cities that have reached the implementation stage note positive relations with some of the formally identified 100RC partners.

The evaluation team is also monitoring changes in solicitation, procurement, and contracting procedures, as they are often barriers to up-take of partner services. Cities’ procedures and bureaucracies in these areas have remained largely unchanged during 100RC engagement, and the availability of new potential partners has not appeared to alter them.


Another goal is to foster individual advocates for urban resilience and the support of a community of champions of the practice through which the advocates can learn, share experiences, and replicate strategies.

There has been significant progress along this path. There was no global urban resilience network before 100RC. Now, chief resilience officers (CROs) consistently report their 100RC networks of peers as being instrumental in understanding the fundamental shocks and stressors their cities face, in identifying the knowledge resources to promote solutions, and in learning how to navigate the internal politics of city government while attempting to transform city institutions. The CRO network has softened in the past year, however, reflecting efforts by 100RC leadership to expand the knowledge networks to other city officials rather than focus on individual CRO appointments. The expansion of CROs’ professional networks within their cities, their regions, or their nations is evidence of the growing cadre of city professionals’ exposure to resilience concepts.

The 100RC Model

The evaluation team has tracked changes in the scholarship and practice labeled “resilience” and 100RC’s role in it. Invariably, 100RC is noted as an example of urban resilience interventions in the scholarly and practitioner literature. Its signature products—the chief resilience officers and cities’ Resilience Strategies—have been replicated beyond its member cities.

100RC is an innovation in multiple regards, not the least of which are its scale of interventions and depth of engagement. 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.

Alternatives to the Rockefeller Foundation’s charge do not exist. Most comparable programs have focused on projects or services, while 100RC’s theory of change foregrounds the transformation of institutions and systems in cities in addition to project implementation. For this reason, the final verdict on 100RC is still forthcoming.

Advisory Note and Next Steps

The outcome evaluation is scheduled to be complete over three more years, when final changes in city institutional transformation and preliminary project implementation should be discernible. A final report will be produced in March 2022.

Research Areas Global issues Nonprofits and philanthropy Neighborhoods, cities, and metros Climate change, disasters, and community resilience
Tags Infrastructure International municipal and intergovernmental finance International public administration and local government International civil society and democratic institutions International development and governance Planning for climate change Climate impacts and community resilience
Policy Centers Metropolitan Housing and Communities Policy Center