A Year of Impact and Growth at Resilient Cities Catalyst

Resilient Cities Catalyst
6 min readJan 29, 2021


Dear Friends,

As we mark one year of impact at Resilient Cities Catalyst (RCC), we reflect on a year of global uncertainty, multiple resilience challenges, and generational struggle. 2020 embodied the call to action those in the resilience movement have sounded for years: that we must proactively prepare for the inevitable cascading shocks and stresses of the 21st Century.

Inequality around the globe and within communities is compounding year after year, and the multi-layered COVID-19 crises have ratcheted up the daily stakes for families everywhere, highlighting the systemic vulnerabilities within our interconnected systems. This work has never been more critical.

  • 2020 marked the first time in decades when global poverty rates increased, with an additional 88 to 115 million people forecasted to have entered extreme poverty, a figure only likely to increase in the year ahead.
  • 50 years after the first Earth Day, we struggle to stand up and face the no-longer existential threat of climate change at the scale required. The U.S. alone saw a record 22 weather-related disasters of at least $1 billion dollars in damage, reminding us that the dire future impacts of climate change are no longer just for the future. Globally, climate-related disasters remain on a dangerous trend line.
  • As COVID-19 raged and disproportionately impacted minority and economically disadvantaged communities, 2020 was also the year America and much of the world confronted structural racism. The world watched in horror at the killing of George Floyd along with other high-profile police incidents in the U.S., igniting a series of protests decrying structural racism and beckoning social justice reform. With over 10,000 demonstrations nationwide, America became the epicenter of the movement, followed by the dismantling of statues, institutions, and emblems synonymous with its racist history.

One year ago we launched Resilient Cities Catalyst to build the bridge to a more resilient future. Like the rest of the world, we have been dismayed and saddened by the ongoing human and economic challenges inflicted because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Over the last year, we leveraged our extensive resilience expertise and fine-tuned the tools we’ve had the privilege of co-developing through decades of experience with cities and governments of all shapes and sizes around the globe. Facing the full range of existential challenges — from climate change to widening economic inequality to COVID response and recovery — we know the future is uncertain. But we know even more today about what makes the difference when things don’t go according to plan.

Across all of our 26 global engagements, we’ve seen the power of partnerships between philanthropy, the private sector, neighborhoods, and government to catalyze meaningful change in the face of the daunting challenges of 2020. This foundational year yielded many achievements and reinforced our excitement about the impact possible by working at the neighborhood, city, regional, and state levels. Putting our heads together with municipalities, community-based organizations, and private funders, we initiated the co-design and delivery of more than a dozen new resilience tools and solutions, including The New York City Recovery Framework and the 38th Street District Economic Assessment in Minneapolis, Minnesota. At the neighborhood scale, we’ve partnered with New York City’s Garment District Alliance to catalyze business development in the district and foster a cross-organizational, collaborative approach to resilience recovery.

As all organizations in 2020 were forced to pivot and exercise creativity amidst a global pandemic, we too innovated in how we deliver our programs and services. Through a suite of new approaches, we’ve brought together the perspectives of over 1,200 diverse practitioners and community members to our portfolio of work, securing vital cross-sectoral input from a wide array of actors to inform and forge new solutions. Additionally, we have organized, replicated, scaled, and incentivized 17 multi-benefit high-quality resilience projects across diverse geographic areas. This includes a portfolio of innovative, scalable projects with partners throughout California, including the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation, Climate Resolve, the San Diego Regional Climate Collaborative, and others, that has laid the groundwork for a statewide public, private, philanthropic partnership.

As we look ahead to 2021, RCC will continue to tackle a diverse range of resilience challenges, and we are excited to announce three new programs:

  • Project Preparation: Addressing the significant preparation gap between city resilience needs and capacities and bankable infrastructure projects through the provision of project design and pre-feasibility study assistance.
  • Resilient Neighborhoods: Transforming how communities and local governments address vulnerable people, places, and systems by breaking down silos to enable cross-sectoral program design and delivery and institutionalizing this ecosystem of partners
  • Regional Resilience Partnerships: Developing a comprehensive multi-sector approach at the regional scale, transcending municipal and institutional silos

We are also pleased to announce the addition of two new RCC Board Members, whose deep experience will be invaluable to our mission and to the emergence of our three new programs:

  • Dr. Helene D. Gayle: Dr. Gayle has been president and CEO of The Chicago Community Trust, one of the nation’s oldest and largest community foundations, since 2017. For almost a decade, she was president and CEO of CARE, a leading international humanitarian organization, and spent 20 years with the Centers for Disease Control, working primarily on HIV/AIDS.
  • Lt. General (Ret.) Thomas P. Bostick: As Chief of Engineers and Commanding General of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Gen. Bostick helped lead the nation’s response in the wake of Superstorm Sandy in 2012. He served as Director of Personnel for the U.S. Army, responsible for the human resource requirements for over 1 million soldiers and 330,000 civilians. Gen. Bostick also served as the Commanding General, U.S. Army Recruiting Command; and Assistant Division Commander of Maneuver, then Assistant Division Commander of Support for the 1st Cavalry Division. He deployed with the division in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom before commanding the Gulf Region Division of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers where he was responsible for an $18B construction program. During the attacks on 9/11, he served as the senior watch officer in the National Military Command Center as the nation responded to the crisis.

As we look forward to a year that will be contingent on building back our communities and economies, we remain hopeful in the new federal Administration’s pledge to “Build Back Better”. In 2021, RCC will prioritize recovery by leaning on municipal and state leadership to address climate change and increase infrastructure investments, all while centering around the pillars of resilience.

In December 2020, RCC Founding Principal, Michael Berkowitz, and Board President, Dr. Judith Rodin, offered thoughts in an op-ed to US News about the opportunity for resilience in the Biden Administration (below).

We know we can’t make this change alone. We are grateful to all of our partners around the globe with whom we’ve had the privilege of working over the past year. And we are actively seeking additional partners and funders who can help drive this critical work forward. Let us continue to act boldly in the face of deep uncertainty by determining, designing, and implementing the priority actions that will support vibrant and healthy communities in ordinary times, and safeguard the things we most value in extraordinary times.

With best wishes,
The Resilient Cities Catalyst Team



Resilient Cities Catalyst

Catalytic change to help cities solve their most pressing challenges.