American philanthropist Adrienne Arsht and Rockefeller Foundation President Rajiv Shah at the launch of the Adrienne Arsht–Rockefeller Foundation Resilience Center. Photo by: Kan

WASHINGTON — After its recent surprising decision not to continue funding the 100 Resilient Cities initiative, The Rockefeller Foundation joined the Atlantic Council Monday to launch a new center meant to create a permanent home for resilience-focused programs.

The Adrienne Arsht-Rockefeller Foundation Resilience Center is the product of a $30 million grant from Rockefeller and a $25 million gift from philanthropist Adrienne Arsht. The center’s first director is Kathy McLeod, formerly senior vice president for global environmental and social risk at Bank of America. The center aims to “enhance the resilience of 1 billion people by 2030” — in partnership with organizations likely to include major insurance companies, consulting firms, municipal governments, and NGOs.

“A lot of the work of the 100 Resilient Cities was about planning for and building resilient strategies. We are 100 percent implementation,” McLeod said at the launch event on Monday.

100 Resilient Cities workers seek future beyond Rockefeller

More than 50 workers from the 100 Resilient Cities initiative wrote to Rockefeller’s Rajiv Shah to plead for more money to keep the network alive.

The Rockefeller Foundation’s decision to phase out its investment in 100RC, the signature initiative under former president Judith Rodin, caught many by surprise, including many of its participating cities.

Through the initiative, Rockefeller funded chief resilience officers, who worked to create resilience plans for their respective cities. Coincidentally, at the same time as the Atlantic Council’s launch event on Monday — and less than 2 miles away — the city of Washington, D.C., launched its first resilience strategy under the auspices of 100RC.

Earlier this month, 55 of those chief resilience officers signed a letter to Rockefeller Foundation President Rajiv Shah, asking for additional time and funding to sustain their work until new funding could be secured.

“We’ve had … a very, very proud investment history in resilience of almost half a billion dollars, of which 100 Resilient Cities as a program has been one of many programs,” Shah said Monday.

“I think this platform will allow the resilience work to be more implementation-focused, broader, and allow us to reach many more people with the concepts that underpin not just 100RC, but really the decade-long history we’ve had of investing in many, many different forms and in many, many different parts of the world,” he said.

Shah, a physician, former administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development, and former Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation director, has spoken about refocusing The Rockefeller Foundation on a list of issues that does not specifically include “resilience.”

“In order to refocus the foundation on the fundamentals of human well-being, and programs that are designed to achieve results for vulnerable children and families around the world, we have restructured ourselves around the core topics of health, food, power, jobs, and cities,” he told Devex last year.

About the author

  • Michael Igoe

    Michael Igoe is a Senior Reporter with Devex, based in Washington, D.C. He covers U.S. foreign aid, global health, climate change, and development finance. Prior to joining Devex, Michael researched water management and climate change adaptation in post-Soviet Central Asia, where he also wrote for EurasiaNet. Michael earned his bachelor's degree from Bowdoin College, where he majored in Russian, and his master’s degree from the University of Montana, where he studied international conservation and development.