Tate Williams

A Database for Disaster

Tate Williams July 21, 2014

Originally published at Inside Philanthropy, July 21, 2014.

The Rockefeller Foundation is one of the most active funders working in the field of “resilience,” the capacity of communities to survive and adapt amid rapid change. One ongoing project it just renewed support for is an online exchange of ideas to solve emerging threats.

The foundation just extended funding for Portland-based Ecotrust to build a network of institutions working on resilience, and its Resilience Exchange, a database of solutions that will allow groups to swap tactics freely. Rockefeller just gave a renewal grant to the project for $400,000.

The idea is that, given the rapidly changing planet and novel crises cropping up on all sides—climate change-caused and otherwise—communities need all the help they can get, and shouldn’t be working in a vacuum. The finished product of the Resilience Exchange will act as a storefront that partners can browse and lift the best tools out there—hence the App Store analogy.

For example, one nonprofit looking to restore eroded floodplains could look up another’s past experience in a different location and replicate what worked for them. Likewise for groups establishing sustainable fisheries, or cities responding to heat waves and storms.

But they hope more original reuse of methods will happen once the ball gets rolling, breaking down programs into individual components that can be adapted piecemeal. An example they give is adapting a system for tracking fishing activity to be used by healthcare workers tracking disease.

Rockefeller gave initial funding starting back in 2012, again a two-year grant for $400,000, and while Ecotrust is managing the project now, the idea is to make it an independent entity. Of the charter members, Rockefeller is the only primarily grantmaking institution, with nine other nonprofits including Oxfam, MercyCorp and Blue Solutions on board.

The project is currently in a pilot stage with a prototype of the platform developed, a beta launch planned for the end of 2014, and a public launch planned for 2015.

Rockefeller is one of a handful of funders diving into the concept of resilience, or adaptation, particularly as it relates to climate change. It’s kind of a buzzword that covers a lot of typical environmental work, but the approach is about building communities and regions that are prepared for a wide range of shock and stress to their systems, and can emerge strong.

It’s in part a way of presenting environmentalism through a different lens, without the frame of trying to return to an earlier time. It acknowledges rapid change, and wants to make communities better for it, often focusing on cities.

Learn more about the Resilience Exchange in a presentation from last month here, and read more about the major funders in this area in a roundup we wrote earlier this year:

Resilience is Hot Among Climate Funders. Here’s Who Is Out Front Prepping for Doom

Image is “Katrina-port-sulphur-la-2005” by Commander Mark Moran, of the NOAA Aviation Weather Center, and Lt. Phil Eastman and Lt. Dave Demers, of the NOAA Aircraft Operations Center. – NOAA website at [1]. Licensed under Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.

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