Member Spotlight, July 2020
Member’s Name: Lauren N. Sorkin
Member’s Position/Title: Acting Executive Director
Organization: Global Resilient Cities Network (GRCN)
Organization Type: City Network
Tell us about your organization and its goals.
The Global Resilient Cities Network (GRCN) supports a thriving community of urban resilience practitioners in 98 cities and 40 countries. Collectively, members of the network represent 220 million city dwellers and 79 endorsed resilience strategies, containing over 4,000 concrete resilience initiatives aimed at building safer, healthier, more equitable, climate-smart, and prosperous cities. The initial stage of our work – the 100 Resilience Cities programme – was created in 2013 to celebrate The Rockefeller Foundation’s Centennial. In more than five years of deep engagement with city leaders, communities, and the private sector, we enabled transformational change in cities through supporting resilience plans and early implementation of projects.
In our new stage, four principles steer the Global Resilient Cities Network’s work:
- City- led: cities, represented by CROs, participate in the governance of the network.
- Impact-focused: we prioritize resilience-building projects that aim to improve the lives of city dwellers.
- Regionally-driven: activities are designed with more flexibility to cater to member cities’ needs.
- Partnership-based: to invest in scaling resilience solutions in cities and deliver impact on the ground.
Creating resilience strategies in dozens of cities showed us that using a resilience lens to plan a portfolio of actions strategically leads to better projects that can deliver benefits to multiple sectors, in particular vulnerable communities. However, we also discovered a critical key challenge: cities don’t have enough support to articulate and develop their most innovative ideas and turn them into bankable projects. We have observed, time after time, that this gap in the market is preventing both cities from delivering on their most urgent objectives and funders identifying a pipeline of transformational projects.
What activities/initiatives related to cities climate finance are you currently engaged in or planning?
With the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the 98 members of GRCN requested real-time information and expert advice to support their response and recovery planning efforts; to respond to this demand, we created Cities for a Resilient Recovery (C2R), a coalition of cities and resilience practitioners committed to taking leadership, to embedding resilience in recovery, and to supporting each other through the recovery planning process by sharing knowledge, providing subject matter expertise, and facilitating both individual and collective action.
Within our Network we are keen to further understand, aggregate, and articulate our Chief Resilience Officers’ priorities. To do so, we developed an inventory of resilience initiatives prioritized by the cities in our network. Over the initial six months of work, we collected data for over 300 projects across five regions which show key themes shaping the resilience agenda globally and suggest the type of support GRCN and our partners could provide to integrate climate resilience and accelerate implementation.
GRCN is also a core member of the Resilient Cities Action Track of the Global Commission on Adaptation, working closely with WRI, the Global Center on Adaptation, C40, UN-Habitat, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands, the Ministry of Infrastructure and Environment of the Netherlands and other key knowledge partners such as Deltares. The goal of the Action Track is to bring together key city networks and institutions in the urban adaptation space to leverage their overlapping geographies, complementary skills, city-national-global relationships & partnerships, datasets and knowledge to scale up and accelerate action on urban adaptation.
One of our main learnings from our constant communication with member cities is that practice sharing is one of the key needs of our members. Therefore, GRCN is also developing a series of thematic Communities of Practices to support knowledge exchange and co-creation among cities and other technical and knowledge partners. One of our first communities is on Waste Management in Crisis and Recovery and was created in partnership with The Ocean Conservancy and The Circulate Initiative. This initiative aims to provide cities from across the world with the knowledge and tools they require to address the immediate need for emergency action on waste management.
How can other Alliance members learn about your work and cooperate with you?
GRCN is an organization focused on building partnerships. As such, we welcome opportunities to partner with other organizations and build initiatives to integrate resilience in the practices of the public and private sectors and develop better projects.
We also launched the Cities for a Resilient Recovery website on May 7, 2020, which articulates our actions to respond to the ongoing COVID-19 crisis. Through this website, partners and cities can join our Communities of Practice, which provide practical knowledge on recovery planning and improving waste systems. We also host a weekly speaker series with the World Bank, where urban practitioners from around the world share their experience and lessons in facing COVID-19 from the front line.
How do you stay informed about city-level climate finance and related subjects?
Our Network is a live community where our CROs and staff participate and actively exchange credible data, ideas, and opportunities at local and regional level. Climate and climate finance – two critical stresses in our cities – are constantly present in our dialogue.
Cities are actively seeking ways to build climate resilience locally, from finding scalable solutions for stemming climate change to new ways to transition to a local low-carbon economy or finding innovative and effective ways to respond to climate change impacts, such as urban heat islands and flooding.
Our role in the Resilient Cities Action Track of the Global Commission on Adaptation, and our participation in the Expert Group on Investing in the SDGs in Cities co-led by The Brookings Institute and OECD, and the OECD Task Force on Climate Change Adaptation, enable us to engage in more conversations as cities continue to look to build back better from the COVID-19 crisis.
What does GRCN expect to gain from the Cities Climate Finance Leadership Alliance?
Chief Resilience Officers who participate in GRCN are local leaders in the implementation of infrastructure projects. By participating in the Alliance, GRCN will be better able to share with CROs the priorities and knowledge emerging from key actors dedicated to urban development, climate action, and financing. The knowledge gained by GRCN will also help our Network to shape better thematic programmes and accelerate the implementation of climate infrastructure globally.
What does GRCN expect to bring to the Alliance?
GRCN comprises of 98 member cities in 40 countries; as the Network supporting cities and their Chief Resilience Officers in future-proofing their communities and critical infrastructure, we have a deep understanding of the needs, priorities, and constraints in member cities. As such, the Network can contribute with real-time insights to help the partners understand the project demand emerging from cities globally and thus create better initiatives to close the investment gap for sub-national projects.
Global Resilient Cities Network’s Executive Director, Lauren Sorkin serves as an advisor and spokesperson on urban resilience, sustainable finance, climate risk, stakeholder engagement, and urbanization trends. Before joining GRCN, Lauren led the Asian Development Bank’s first ever climate change investment plan before moving to the ADB’s Vietnam Office to mainstream climate risks and opportunities in the country’s US$7 billion portfolio. Before joining the ADB, she led knowledge management efforts for two USAID programs: the Eco-Asia Clean Development and Climate Program in China, India, Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam; and the Initiative for Conservation in the Andean Amazon in Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador and Peru. She has published work on biofuels, climate change, infant mortality and HIV/AIDS. Lauren holds a Bachelor of Arts in International Relations from Tufts University and a Master of Science in Environment and Development from the London School of Economics.
Follow Lauren on Twitter.