The Community Resilience Initiative (CRI) is a new University of Maryland outreach program designed to accelerate financial investment in cities to make them more environmentally resilient, socially equitable, and economically vibrant. CRI’s focus is to incentivize local, regional, and state-level investment targeting integrated community resilience needs. By linking vulnerable communities with the critical expertise they need to develop economic, social and environmental systems to flourish in today’s changing climate, CRI will help build capacity in local governments and communities. This initiative acts as an incubator of effective and impactful community financing and resilience interventions and leverages the University’s deep research capacity and educational resources to help communities across the country, the result of which will be:
- Investment in climate-change resilience—including carbon mitigation—at scale;
- Self-sufficient, resilient, and economically vibrant communities;
- Direct investment in urban communities; and,
- Informed and engaged leadership through substantive University connections.
CRI CORE PROJECTS AND PROGRAMS
CRI is designed to empower communities to identify resilience investment opportunities with the potential to accelerate local economic development and prepare communities for the future. To that end, CRI catalyzes change within vulnerable communities through five main interventions:
Direct technical assistance: CRI works directly with communities to identify their unique resilience needs, goals and priorities; develop investment-ready resilience projects; and leverage each community’s unique assets to align projects with financing opportunities. As part of engagement, CRI develops and applies a number of decision support tools and capacity assessment processes designed specifically to identify potential weaknesses and opportunities for advancing resilience policies and investment efforts over time. CRI’s direct technical assistance also links local officials and leaders with multi-disciplinary teams of experts as a way of addressing key resilience and financing issues and guiding communities in their efforts to create the conditions necessary for resilience investment at scale.
- Maryland Local Resilience Stress Test Project. Through a partnership with the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, EFC is creating a resource that will enable local decision makers in Maryland to assess the strengths and weaknesses of existing resilience implementation and financing processes. This in turn will create the foundation for establishing the conditions that are necessary for incentivizing investment in resilience projects and programs. Though the tool will be designed for any Maryland community, its application will be unique to each community where it is used.
Research and innovation: CRI creates academic research and policy analysis opportunities related to climate change resilience, public policy, economic development and technological innovation. CRI links the action-based strategy of direct technical assistance with the research and academics of the University, bringing communities the most advanced and up-to-date research and data analysis available. This applied policy approach in turn generates new research ideas and discoveries that can be translated to and modeled in real world contexts and facilitate the development of innovative practices, programs, projects, and processes that show promise for accelerating investment in resilience.
- Expanding Water Quality and Resiliency Financing Through Advanced Information Management: Through the support of the Chesapeake Bay Program Office, EFC established a comprehensive water quality and resiliency financing directory, capturing the inputs and corresponding outputs of projects across the region. This work has initially focused on capturing information related to projects funded directly by EPA and the Chesapeake Bay Program including those implemented by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundations, the EFC, Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay, the Chesapeake Bay Trust, the Chesapeake Stormwater Network, the state jurisdictions, and other organizations.
Establishing innovative institutions: CRI partners with local and state leaders to develop and implement institutions and institutional processes that proactively prepare communities for uncertain futures. Specifically, CRI helps establish innovative and flexible institutions that can effectively leverage private engagement and investment in advancing local resilience initiatives and programs.
- Virginia Eastern Shore Economic Resilience Project. The goal of this project is to facilitate investment within Virginia Eastern Shore communities in support of integrated climate change resilience. Our approach is to assess the anticipated impact of climate change on the region’s economic development goals and to identify opportunities to leverage public and private investment that will make the region’s economy more resilient into the future. A primary component of an effect resilience financing system is innovative and effective public and private institutions.
Innovations in project financing: CRI facilitates access to a pipeline of public and private capital and provides guidance on how a community can approach potential funders and secure financing. Though the projects needed to achieve climate resilience are as diverse as the communities themselves, one common element will be the integrated, holistic approach to investment. Rather than simply viewing climate change adaptation as a cost, CRI helps communities see climate resilience as an opportunity for investment in the local economy.
- Oyster Restoration Public Private Partnership: The objective in this proposed project is to develop and implement an Oyster Cooperative and an associated Oyster Revolving Investment Fund. To that end, the Environmental Finance Center will lead the project team in the development of the Oyster P3 business plan. The plan will analyze and assess business development structures such as: institutional development; market and revenue generation; program expansion schedules and timelines; institutional governance; and, industry development including marketing and branding. In addition, it will provide an initial assessment of the potential structure and capitalization strategy of the Oyster Revolving Investment Fund.
Resilience leadership and experiential learning: The complexity and scale of achieving long-term resilience will require a number of enabling conditions, each providing an essential part of the implementation and financing system. One of the most important of these conditions is leadership and engaged, informed decision-making. EFC’s resilience leadership program focus on providing opportunities for new leaders entering the public policy and business industries, as well providing established leaders with an opportunity to expand their skill sets and understanding of innovative policy and financing interventions.
- Student Leadership Program: CRI provides leadership and experiential learning opportunities for students. Undergraduate and graduate students conduct applied scholarship on core resilience-related topics, including risk assessment and comprehensive mitigation planning; local climate policy development; citizen engagement and dispute resolution; and resilience infrastructure funding and finance. Students have the opportunity to apply their academic knowledge as they serve side-by-side with CRI team leaders. Ultimately, CRI’s partner communities benefit from the energy and creativity of the next generation of policy and business leaders while the students develop real-world, resume-building experience in addressing these issues at the local level.
- Resilient Leadership Program: Expanding on the leadership opportunities provided to students, EFC is building on its more than 25 years of providing direct technical assistance and financing capacity to public and private leaders. The Center’s Resilient Leadership Program addresses one the most important local financing enabling conditions: decision making and leadership informed by direct interaction and engagement of other community leaders across the region and the country. Through CRI, we directly connect and convene community leaders to address a variety of resilience issues such as innovative public-sector financing, natural resource restoration and protection, and workforce development and economic growth.
CRI is a different kind of initiative, designed to achieve business-like success while maximizing economic, social and environmental impacts. The nature and scope of our work will naturally evolve over time and adapt to the needs of the communities where we work, but a set of four foundational elements will remain constant:
- Collaboration: CRI is designed to leverage the resources of our public and private partners, including collaborators within the University of Maryland. This interdisciplinary partnership is essential for identifying resilience investment and economic development approaches that work.
- Leadership: CRI aims to develop leaders who will positively impact public policy and community development. This involves building the capacity of local and regional leaders to make difficult decisions associated with resilience financing. In addition, CRI engages and trains students at the University of Maryland to help build a new generation of leaders with the knowledge and experience needed to advance the resilience effort.
- Scholarship: The University of Maryland is a regional and national leader in advancing research and CRI leverages the University’s rich resources as we engage in communities and seek to bring about rapid change. In addition, to expand our capacity and reach, CRI also seeks to partner with research institutions in the regions where we work.
- Action: CRI is designed in the spirit of the University of Maryland’s land grant mission of bringing information, resources and knowledge to communities. To that end, CRI builds on the core competencies of the University: educating new student leaders in the form of experiential learning; researching and analyzing policy innovations and community interventions; and perhaps most importantly, applying leadership and innovation directly in communities.
The Community Resilience Initiative is a joint venture of the Environmental Finance Center (EFC) at the School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation, and the Center for Global Sustainability (CGS) at the School of Public Policy.
CRI is managed and directed by EFC, an organization with over 25 years of experience providing technical assistance and financing policy capacity to communities throughout the Mid-Atlantic region. CGS is the academic and research lead for CRI, with its experience informing policy discussions at all governance levels on climate, energy, development, and sustainability.
For more information on CRI and EFC’s resilience programs and projects, please contact Brandy Espinola at 301-314-9491 or firstname.lastname@example.org.