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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.

Mayor Peduto Appoints Resilience Officer As Part Of 100 Resilient Cities Designation

Mayor Bill Peduto has appointed Grant Ervin as the city’s Chief Resilience Officer, a position funded through a Rockefeller Foundation grant.

His first task: developing a plan to enable the city to survive, adapt and grow no matter the challenge it will face.

Ervin has served as the city’s Sustainability Manager since 2014. He will now transition into working with stakeholders across the city to determine the key threats facing the city, then work to draft a resilience strategy with the help of the other 99 Chief Resilience Officers in the world.

In November, Pittsburgh was named one of the 100 Cities of Resilience. The organization by the same title was pioneered by the Rockefeller Foundation to help cities, “become more resilient to the shocks (i.e. hurricanes, fires, floods) and stresses (chronic water shortages, homelessness, unemployment) they are increasingly facing in the 21st century.” So far, 67 cities have been selected.

The resilience initiative kicked off Friday with a day-long workshop bringing hundreds of community leaders, foundation leaders, non-profits, NGOs and corporation leaders to the David L. Lawrence Convention Center to start the planning process.

Peduto noted the city had to be resilient after the collapse of the steel industry.

“But we don’t know what the challenges of tomorrow will be. We can start to prepare for them, but what it does require is that as we develop and as we grow that part of that planning process involves resiliency and sustainability at the core of that decision-making process,” he said.

Bryna Lipper, Vice President for Relationships with 100 Resilient Cities, said part of the grant will help with technical support for the resilience strategy, a process that will take six to nine months to diagnose the state of resilience in the city and a vision for the future.

“A result of that City Resilient Strategy will be specific and actionable initiatives that the city can undertake immediately and in the long term,” she said.

Those initiatives might include major capital investments policy change, she said.

Lipper said four core services will be offered to the 100 selected cities: the appointment of a Resilience Officer; formation of the resilience strategy; access to global partners in academia, commercial sector and NGOs who will work pro-bono; and access to the network of 100 different resilience officers.   

Lipper said one of the resilience strategies includes working with computer software companies such as Palantir and Microsoft to analyze city data in order to make educated decisions.  

“We’re very excited to couple and assist the city with helping to organize its vision around resilience and help the market solutions organize to provide the nexus between cities and the marketplace,” she said.