Chief Resilience Officers and Strategic Spending

Thursday, December 3, 2015

In an effort to better prepare for catastrophes, whether natural or man-made, the City of Norfolk, Virginia, chose to add a chief resilience officer (CRO) to its staff. The goal of the position is to create a single resource within the organization to prepare the community for cataclysmic events like earthquakes and hurricanes, as well as addressing ongoing challenges like rising sea levels, drought, or poverty. It’s an idea that’s been adopted by a few other cities, including San Francisco, California.

Many cities want to incorporate the work of conservation and community advocacy groups in a meaningful way; the challenge often comes in determining where such policies and initiatives fit into the daily administration of local government. A CRO (or someone in a similar position) provides cities with a way to address this challenge. Since Norfolk added its CRO in 2013, the city has begun weaving the priorities of conservation groups like Norfolk-based Wetlands Watch into transportation projects and zoning ordinances. One example of this synergy is the city’s new flood barriers, which double as bike paths, allowing the city to invest in flood mitigation infrastructure while addressing recreational needs. Land-use policies that consider rising sea levels and wetland conservation can be incorporated into zoning ordinances.

A CRO can provide a new level of interdisciplinary thinking and improved inner-organizational communication. This individual is tasked with thinking beyond a single department or even a single administration, allowing him or her to take a long-term approach to the community’s sustained viability. This perspective also makes the CRO the ideal person to help the community determine the right steps for a quick recovery after catastrophes.

Norfolk’s goal for the initiatives that result from this new position is to improve the community’s ability to adapt and grow in the aftermath of catastrophic events. Learn more about Norfolk’s resilience initiative.

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