Cities, Climate Change, Environment

This is the first in a series of posts on AECOM’s work with cities participating in the 100 Resilient Cities program, pioneered by the Rockefeller Foundation. The program supports 100 cities globally in tackling issues of globalization, urbanization and climate change by developing a resilience strategy under the leadership of a chief resilience officer. AECOM has assisted eight cities that have already published their resilience strategies and is currently working with another 22. Stay tuned for more reports from our team!

The resilience strategy formulated by the City of Oakland, California focuses, among other things, on how the City government interacts with its diverse communities, including those of color. Facing a history of community distrust in government, Oakland Chief Resilience Officer Kiran Jain (above) initiated a process with community activists and leaders and city staff to better align objectives in a constructive, participatory way. With a housing affordability crisis in full swing, the City wants to help these communities stay rooted in Oakland.

Chief Resilience Officer is an impressive yet amorphous title and one held by less than 100 people globally (a number that is thankfully rising). Given that city resilience covers everything from housing affordability and racial equity (social resilience), to income inequality and industry collapse (economic resilience), to droughts and sea level rise (environmental resilience), it can be hard to figure out what the ideal background for a CRO is. Personally, I think Kiran has it. She blends an understanding of Oakland city government (she worked for seven years in the attorney’s office) with creativity and desire for change (she was a founding team member of San Francisco public finance start-up Neighborly). Mayor Libby Schaaf recognized this unique combination and asked her to come back to Oakland to bring Resilient Oakland to the finish line.


Being resilient is about changing the way you do business, the way you think about the world, connecting dots, and leaping out of silos. Kiran embraced that. She was bursting with ideas, and it was a riot to go to her office for our weekly working session. We covered the walls with flip charts and post-its of ideas, figured out the connections and points of intervention, and narrowed down to what could actually be successful. It was exciting to hear the ideas she had uncovered from colleagues during the week that she thought could be elevated by the 100RC program. She convened a number of meetings with staff from across the city, those focused on economic development, housing, green infrastructure, workforce development, community participation, sea level rise, rent control, and more. She asked staff what their vision was for a resilient Oakland and how they could best help achieve it.


Resilient Oakland brings together existing ideas, enhances some, reinvigorates others, and starts afresh with new ones. The strategy was launched in October 2016. This year, Kiran will work with her colleagues and the community to put all the ideas into action.

Read Resilient Oakland here.

Originally published Jan 4, 2017

Author: Claire Bonham-Carter