The challenges communities, cities and organizations face as we barrel through the 21st century are as numerous as they are complex. An extra 2 billion people, volatile drought and flood cycles, technological revolutions, and looming uncertainty about the future will continue to turn up the heat, year after year.
And the challenges feel somehow different than before. The promise of globalization has created seen and unforeseen conflicts and pressures as sectors and peoples elbow through traditional boundaries and barriers. Mayors in cities across the globe are dealing with both local and global issues every single day, as migrants and investors pour in, and local shops compete with Alibaba.com.
It is not possible for any single actor or sector to face up to these dilemmas. Yet that is the dominant way we all work. We have built up silos within our communities and organizations that have locked in perspective and technical expertise. This has resulted in a whole set of global systems and processes that are at once interdependent, yet disconnected.
Consider the inability of the global financial sector to spot the risk of sub-prime mortgages in the summer of 2008, or the surprise on the face of the political elite the morning after Britain’s Brexit vote. We can’t always spot the burning forest for the trees.
Take the example of two sectors: humanitarian aid and international development. In 2015, nations in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) spent $ 13.6 billion on humanitarian aid, a rise of 11 percent from 2014. On the other hand, over the last 30 years, one-third of development spending - $ 3.8 trillion - went to recurrent costs.
Yet, these two sectors - deeply linked in terms of geography and interest - are managed by discrete divisions of government and their NGO partners. What if humanitarian response was done in direct coordination with long-term development goals? And what if long-term development fully considered the range of shocks and stresses to help get ahead of future risks and uncertainties?
At The Rockefeller Foundation, we have been experimenting with new ways of working to tackle these wicked problems. We know now from our 104-year history of partnership with actors around the globe, and our last ten years of investment in resilience practice, that there are ways to do this work by leveraging the many talents and perspectives of diverse actors and interdisciplinary expertise. Networks have proven to be such a powerful tool for us that we’ve published our findings in Engage, an interactive online guide to growing and leveraging networks.
Many of our resilience partners and collaborators will have travelled to New Orleans, LA this week to participate in RES/CON, an international convening of resilience practitioners. A registrant survey reveals the broad diversity of participants - and this is reflective of the many needs of communities and places around the world.
We’re especially excited that Tuesday, March 7 will feature a panel on The Value of Networks in Resilience Building, chaired by Zilient.org editor Megan Rowling from the Thomson Reuters Foundation. The panel will feature stories and experiences from around the world about how tapping different geographies, sectors and organizations can create more resilient communities.