What It Takes to Be a Chief Resilience Officer

Fewer than 50 people in the whole world hold the title of Chief Resilience Officer, and they are at the forefront of innovation in helping cities grow stronger, smarter, tougher, more integrated, and better for all their inhabitants. In the next few years, dozens of cities, territories, countries, and companies will be hiring their own CROs for the first time.

So, what does it take to be an effective CRO?

100 Resilient Cities innovated this position with very clear ideas about what a CRO must do. But with dozens of CROs and years of experience behind us, we have learned a lot more about what it takes to be a CRO and do resilience work in a city.

There are a number of traits essential to a CRO. However, we’ve identified one commonality that unifies them all; they must be enterprising change-agents—someone who can rally resources, support, and buy-in for innovative work while working in an environment where resources are scarce, where they may be starting with almost nothing.

Additionally, a CRO must be able to:

  • Build a coalition of diverse stakeholders and inspire them to work toward a common goal, while navigating the city’s complex landscape;
  • Maximize collaboration between these participants and drive progress to meet deadlines;
  • Maintain perspective and emphasis on resilience thinking within city government despite internal pressures and competing agendas; and
  • Bring past experience in urban development and design, city governance, community organizations, consulting management, and/or sustainability planning to bear.CRO Christine Morris works on developing the city’s Preliminary Resilience Strategy.

However, the variety of challenges and contexts cities face means each one needs a different CRO. Looking across our existing CROs, those with a Disaster-Risk Reduction (DRR) background bring the ability to see vulnerabilities; our sustainability peers are experts at leveraging and using resources better; and those from community development bring participation and local organization skills. They all collaborate in our Network, pooling their expertise and sharing advice.

Here are a few examples of the range of expertise our CROs bring to their position:

  • Christine Morris (Norfolk, Virginia, USA) has several decades of experience in community organizing, advocacy and policy work on education and housing issues, and local philanthropy.
  • Dr. Arnoldo Matus Kramer (Mexico City, Mexico) is an expert in climate change policy, with long experience as a consultant and with adaptation work in the financial sector.
  • Cezar Busatto (Porto Alegre, Brazil) has a background in local governance; he helped advance participatory budgeting and collaborative governance in Brazil as part of the city’s secretariat and finances department, and an elected representative of the state parliament.

With dozens of CROs leading their city’s resilience efforts, we are getting a much clearer idea of what a person needs to succeed as Chief Resilience Officer. Several more cities will initiate their CRO search over the next year, creating a unique moment in the evolution of the global urban resilience movement.