Institutionalizing Urban Resilience: Coordination Strategies within 19 North American City Governments
City governments are increasingly interested in the concept of urban resilience. While theoretical debates continue to develop and critique the value of ‘urban resilience,’ a growing number of cities are organizing policies and projects around the concept. Building urban resilience is viewed as a key concern for cities facing, in particular, climatic threats –although other urban challenges and equity concerns are increasingly prioritized. Support from city leadership and large funding opportunities, such as the Rockefeller Foundation’s 100 Resilient Cities program, have encouraged some leading cities to create and manage city-wide resilience strategies. Yet pioneering cities have few guideposts to institutionalize resilience. This research evolved out of conversations with city officials in Portland, OR who were interested to learn how other cities were organizing resilience work. We explore how urban resilience is being structured and coordinated in 19 North American cities, focusing on emerging definitions, organizational structures, internal and external coordination efforts, and practitioners’ insights. We situate our findings on emerging governance approaches and lessons learned within the current urban resilience literature on governance by reviewing 40 academic papers and identifying 6 recurrent factors for effective governance. Additionally, we conducted 19 semi-structured interviews with North American resilience practitioners to describe emerging organization trends and share lessons from practice. Based off our interviews, we propose 5 key findings for structuring resilience work in cities effectively. These include: establishing a clear, contextual definition and scope, bringing communities into the process, championing the agreed-upon vision, balancing a centralized and dispersed approach, and recognizing tradeoffs in organizational placement. This research provides practitioners with insights to help facilitate resilience work within their cities and contributed to the scholarly debate on moving resilience theory toward implementation.