Volume XV | Issue 1 | Spring 2015
The Resilience Dividend is available for free to residents of Oregon and Siskiyou County, Calif., through Select Books.

Catastrophic challenges

Author makes a case for why being able to bounce back is an urgent social and economic issue

“…I have also become convinced that the resilience dividend is real and achievable, and provides great opportunities to improve lives and livelihoods in the good times as well.”

 – Judith Rodin
The Resilience Dividend

What do the towns of Medellin, Colombia, and Tulsa, Okla., have in common? More than you might think. 

A few years back, each town was facing its own kind of crisis. Medellin was widely considered to be the drug and murder capital of South America. Tulsa was dealing with a longstanding flooding problem. Today, they have something else in common — success. Each proved successful in rebounding from adverse conditions and in rebuilding so it never happens again.

the ability to bounce back more quickly and effectively

Building resilience—the ability to bounce back more quickly and effectively—is an urgent social and economic issue. Judith Rodin is the president of the Rockefeller Foundation, a New York nonprofit with a mission to promote the well being of humanity throughout the world. 

Rodin’s new book, The Resilience Dividend: Being Strong is a World Where Things Go Wrong, offers readers a wide range of examples that illustrate how people, organizations, businesses, communities, and cities have developed resilience in the face of otherwise catastrophic challenges.

“Our interconnected world is susceptible to sudden and dramatic shocks and stresses,” Rodin says. “[It could be] a cyber-attack, a new strain of virus, a structural failure, a violent storm, a civil disturbance, an economic blow.”

The status quo, where we tackle these problems after they occur, is not sustainable, Rodin says. Sustainability only comes when organizations move from a reactive to a proactive stance. “Investing in resilience can achieve multiple wins—the resilience dividend, as we call it,” Rodin says, “that not only prepares a city to bounce back after disaster, but can impact its economic development, community cohesion, and ecosystems management every day.”

In Medellin, leaders focused on a single vulnerability that, if addressed, would help the city enable its citizens to pursue new livelihoods as businesses came in. The vulnerability was identified as the extreme isolation of Medellin’s poorest neighborhoods. “Disconnected communities can’t pool resources and have a hard time coming together in groups and are thus more vulnerable to being threatened, bullied, terrorized, and taken over by gangs,” Rodin explains. 

Medellin’s solution was to design and build an extensive public transportation system, including an escalator system in the San Javier barrio that turned a trip into the city from a 30-minute hike into a five-minute glide.

Tulsa flood

In Tulsa, a storm served as the catalyst for change. Although flooding was depressingly common in the city, the flood of 1984 was especially damaging, dumping 15 inches of rainfall in the city over a couple of hours. Failing infrastructure led to widespread flooding, which in turn resulted in 14 deaths, the destruction of 7,000 buildings, and a $400 million relief and rebuilding tab.

Community leaders from all sectors came together and crafted a grassroots plan for lasting change. Over the next two decades, they completed a variety of flood mitigation measures, from establishing parks in floodplains to developing comprehensive building and drainage regulations.

“…Tulsans have built their resilience and are now realizing the dividend,” Rodin says. “They enjoy the lowest flood insurance rates in the United States, which frees up resources for other endeavors, and national recognition as a community capable of successfully building resilience, which makes Tulsa an even more attractive place to work and live.”  

The Resilience Divide is available for free to residents of Oregon and Siskiyou County, Calif., through Select Books. 

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