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Identity & Community
Building Innovation is a collection of stories by 90.5 fm WESA reporters about the Pittsburgh region focusing on efficient government operation, infrastructure and transportation, innovative practices, energy and environment and neighborhoods and community.

Pittsburgh Receives Environmental Resiliency Grant

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Brian Donovan
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Flickr

Pittsburgh has been selected as one of 10 cities to pilot the country’s first Resilience AmeriCorps initiative.

The Obama administration announced the action on July 9. Each Resilience AmeriCorps city will receive $25,000 to help build neighborhood resilience plans and initiatives at the community level in the form of a micro grant program. Each city will also receive dedicated AmeriCorps Volunteers in Service to America members.

Mayor Bill Peduto joined Cities of Service, the Corporation for National and Community Service, which administers AmeriCorps, and the Rockefeller Foundation on Thursday to announce the program.

“We’ll be looking to connect with all of the city’s neighborhoods in terms of better understanding their needs,” said Grant Ervin, Pittsburgh's chief resilience officer.

Resilience efforts study common city threats such as climate changes and economic challenges while seeking ways to help cities survive, adapt and grow, Peduto said. Pittsburgh was chosen as part of a competitive grant process.

“We essentially laid out a game plan for us to improve communications with neighborhoods as well as provide technical assistance with community organizations (to build) neighborhood resilience initiatives,” Ervin said.

Pittsburgh will receive two Service to America fellows charged with expanding the city's “bandwidth” and creating better connections with neighborhoods to meet their long-term needs, Ervin said.

These fellows will work with the program coordinator and data analyst to build different media outreach activities using the city’s cable channel, website and social media, and also will work directly with neighborhood organizations, educating about resilience at the community level, and then looking for direct projects that can be facilitated along with community volunteers and leaders.

Ervin said Pittsburgh’s initiative is currently in the goal-setting phase -- a six- to nine-month planning period -- which will involve focus groups “from the corporate, from the philanthropic, from neighborhood organizations, to colleges and universities to create system of engagement around resilience building activities,” Ervin said.

The Department of Energy, Environmental Protection Agency and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration all signed on to extend their expertise to the initiative, strengthening local program leaders’ understanding of climate-related risks.

The new collaboration complements Pittsburgh’s joining of the Rockefeller Foundation's 100 Resilient Cities network in December.

City officials kicked off the partnership in June with 175 community leaders for the first phase of planning. Expected initiatives include optimizing capital, lessoning the city’s carbon footprint, improving infrastructure networks and creating greater social opportunities, Ervin said.

The other nine cities are Anchorage, Ala., Boulder, Colo., Chicago, Ill., El Paso, Texas, Minot, N.D., New Orleans, La., Norfolk, Va., Phoenix, Ariz., and Tulsa, Okla. Each were selected due to local vulnerability to climate-related risk, demonstrated commitment to improve environmental resilience and city government's capacity to host and implement Resilient AmeriCorps in their cities.