The Resilient Community Impact Funds (RCIFunds) has begun rolling out funding for resilience building in communities across the United States. Four U.S. cities – Atlanta, Berkeley, Los Angeles and New Orleans – will receive matching grants of US $50,000 each, from the Resilience Innovation Sub-Fund seeded by Bank of America. Projects selected will strengthen community resilience, close racial equity gaps and support small businesses in resilience preparedness.
For cities in the U.S. and around the globe, catalyzing resilience finance specifically at the community level has been a well-known challenge. To respond to increasing demands for such funding from cities, the Resilient Cities Network (R-Cities), established the RCIFunds. The funds are unique in measuring its return on investment through resilience value, provided by increases in equitable service access, social cohesion, greenhouse gas (GHG) reductions, as well as holistic safety and security in communities, neighborhoods and buildings. The catalytic funding also provides the means to initiate match funding at the local level.
“Through our commitment to the RCIFunds”, says Lauren Sorkin, Executive Director, Resilient Cities Network, “we have created a mechanism that will enable cities to undertake important work that will strengthen the resilience of vulnerable communities and enhance social cohesion and racial equity. This is truly aligned with Resilient Cities Network’s mission.”
“Cities are more densely populated and interconnected than ever, which exposes social, economic and climate vulnerabilities,” says Rich Brown, Environmental Program Director at Bank of America. “The Resilient Community Impact Funds are providing funding to support projects that demonstrate the cost effectiveness of resilience investments. Over time, these projects will allow cities to prevent and reduce the impact of shocks and stresses on the city’s residents, economy, infrastructure and environment.”
RCIFunds aims to achieve its goal of raising US$10 million by 2024 to support more city projects in the U.S. and around the world.
“We are excited to be making our first grants for city projects, rolling out our model, catalyzing local funding match and building resilience from the ground up,” noted Stewart Sarkozy-Banoczy, Global Director, Policy and Investments and RCIFunds Director. “We are looking forward to the impact from the projects and to scale the work of the RCIFunds platform across the globe.”
Atlanta: Racial Equity through Neighborhood Transformation
The city of Atlanta has a bold goal. It wants to be the best city in the country to raise a child. To achieve this, Mayor Andre Dickens launched a place-based transformation initiative with the central goal of eliminating persistent racial equity gaps. One important step toward this goal is to identify capital and operating investments – at sufficient scale and tailored to each neighborhood.
The grant will go towards the development of the Thriving Neighborhood Index, an initiative coming out of the Georgia Institute of Technology’s Center for Urban Research.
The Index will be used by stakeholders across the city to measure their contribution to the overall holistic resilience of the place. In addition to typical social impact metrics, the index will include measurements of residents’ lived experiences and neighborhood essence. The project aims to change the way neighborhood decisions are made and create a system that prioritizes resident-centered, place-based improvements.
Berkeley: Berkeley Pilot Climate Equity Fund – Harvest Thermal & NCLT
The Berkeley City Council established a Pilot Climate Equity Fund (PCEF) in 2021 to provide climate change and resilience benefits to low-income residents.
The RCIFunds awarded grant will be used to install highly efficient heat pumps in a community-controlled property, owned by Northern California Land Trust (NCLT). The building contains 8 units inhabited by elderly African Americans, who previously faced displacement from rising rents.
With the goal of co-ownership, the property is currently under renovation to become all-electric, providing GHG emission reductions and cost saving measures for residents.
Located in an area with the highest percentage of low-income residents and increasing gentrification, the upgrades to this property address the intersectional issues of health, safety, and green retrofitting for the most vulnerable residents.
Additional funding will come from the City of Berkeley and Harvest Thermal, the local company that has developed a system that combines an all-electric control unit with thermal storage. The system will provide heat to both home and water systems, completely emission free. Harvest Thermal will partially match the grant in discounted equipment for the 8-unit NCLT building. The city is also providing PCEF funding towards this project.
Los Angeles: South LA Café Resilience Hub
South LA Café in Los Angeles, CA
The South LA Café is a local minority owned small business that serves under resourced families and individuals. It also provides training for entrepreneurs and small businesses. In 2022, the South LA Café provided 196,000 meals to members of the community.
South LA Café will use the RCIFunds grant to expand its reach through a trusted community center to conduct community asset mapping and build out programs for pre and post emergency management.
In addition to providing resources, the Café will also support the local community through ‘The Café Academy’ as a holistic and transformative green economy workforce training program.
New Orleans: The Lafitte Greenway Flow
Lafitte Greenway in New Orleans, LA
The Lafitte Greenway is a 2.6-mile-long linear park and multi-use trail in the heart of New Orleans, featuring recreational facilities, fitness and cultural programming, and open green space. The Greenway opened in 2015 after years of community-driven support to turn a formerly abandoned railroad corridor into a public green space.
The Lafitte Greenway Flow is a community development project that aims to redevelop a historic canal in the park to mitigate neighbourhood flooding and create cultural amenity space improvements.
The grant, matched by the Greater New Orleans Foundation, will be used to develop a hydraulics and hydrology study to quantify the benefits of the project. The city will use this study to inform the community co-design process of the overall project.
This project utilises the co-benefits of green infrastructure to mitigate the effects of flooding while improving the quality of and accessibility to green spaces for vulnerable low-income communities. The community co-design process will build capacity and equity of local businesses and residents in the redevelopment of a historic urban space.
Resilience is built in from the beginning
An important factor in selecting those projects was the RCIFunds’ Resilient Funding and Financing Assessment (RFFA) tool. It was specifically created for the selection process and applies a comprehensive resilience matrix to each application and ensures that resilience is an integrated element from the very beginning of each project. The tool also reassures donors to the RCIFunds that funding is reaching projects that strengthen community resilience.
RCIFunds is set up to be flexible and can support a wide range of projects spanning from program-linked work to thematic work, with or without geographic restrictions. It is grant-based and available for member cities of the Resilient Cities Network.
About the Resilient Cities Network
Resilient Cities Network is the world’s leading urban resilience network. It brings together global knowledge, practice, partnerships, and funding to empower its members to build safe and equitable cities for all. Its unique city-led approach ensures cities drive the agenda to benefit the communities they serve. At work in nearly 100 cities worldwide, the Resilient Cities Network supports on-the-ground projects and solutions to build climate resilient, circular and inclusive cities while also facilitating connections and information-sharing between communities and local leaders.
Bank of America
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