National Disaster Resilience Competition

HR&A program managed a capacity building initiative in support of the National Disaster Resilience Competition, leading the design and delivery of a program that institutionalized the practice of resilience on an unprecedented national scale.

On behalf of the Rockefeller Foundation, HR&A managed the National Disaster Resilience Competition capacity building program, which fostered a broad network of experts committed to multidisciplinary approaches to solving problems facing communities in geographies across America. Our technical support to cities, states, and counties resulted in awards to create the nation’s first ever municipal Resilience District, new and improved coastal and green infrastructure networks, and many other projects delivering co-benefits to protect vulnerable populations nationwide.

During a time when limited public funding for infrastructure and community development meets new and growing risks due to climate change and other factors, The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the Rockefeller Foundation partnered to deploy private-philanthropic dollars to transform resilience building policy and practice. Building upon this model, which was developed for Rebuild by Design, President Obama launched the NDRC to allocate $1 billion in HUD funding to competition winners, marshalling innovations in strategic planning, design, engineering, and economic analysis. The competition enhanced resilience techniques at local, state, and regional scales by offering tailored resources while encouraging winners to leverage partnerships to amplify potential financial and social benefits activated by federal funds.


Over the course of two competition phases in 2014 and 2015, HR&A:


Delivered a Summit and eight regional Academies to guide 67 disaster-impacted communities through resilience strategy development.

Facilitated eligible jurisdictions’ access to direct technical assistance from federal regulations specialists and a “design bench” of over 150 federal agency representatives and 250 designers, engineers, scientists, academics, and other subject matter experts representing nearly 75 universities, professional firms, and nonprofits.

Program managed unprecedented federal efforts to inform local resilience insights.

Officials including President Judith Rodin from the Rockefeller Foundation, Director Shaun Donovan from the Office of Management and Budget, HUD Secretary Julian Castro, Judge Alice Hill of the National Security Council, and John Podesta of the White House, attended various convenings organized by HR&A to demonstrate their support of the initiative.


After reviewing 40 finalist submissions, in January 2016 HUD awarded between $15 and $176 million to each of the 13 winners: four cities (Minot, ND; New Orleans, LA; New York City; and Springfield, MA); one county (Shelby County, TN); and eight states (California, Connecticut, Iowa, Louisiana, New Jersey, New York, Tennessee, and Virginia). Funded projects include state watershed, coastal protection, community flood grant, and public housing resilience pilot programs; an integrated flood mitigation and water management approach; a first-ever municipal Resilience District; coastal and green infrastructure networks and green streets; a workforce training center; property restoration and flood retrofits; a new heat and power plant; and coastal wetland and rural river resilience efforts.


HR&A’s work generated robust outcomes toward the Rockefeller Foundation’s goals. At it’s conclusion the program built capacity to create more resilient communities over the long term by teaching key resilience concepts, encouraging multi-agency collaboration and team-building, and connecting the applicants to subject matter experts and government agency representatives. Additionally, the program broadened our national approach to creating resilient communities and provided support and tools to generate compelling, competitive NDRC proposals addressing green and grey stormwater infrastructure, housing, community and workforce development, and social resilience programs. HR&A is currently working with The Rockefeller Foundation to translate synthesis of Academy teachings into a curriculum.

NDRC Resilience Assessment