Honolulu’s Chief Resilience Officer

Resilient cities 1


Recently, we sat down with Katya Sienkiewicz to learn about an innovative recent award by the Rockefeller foundation to the City of Honolulu.

We all gathered at the East-West center. Attendees from our city and state governments, community groups, NGOs and members of Honolulu’s sustainability consulting coterie were in attendance.


61-katyasienkiewiczKatya, revealed that Honolulu will soon have a Chief Resilience Officer (CRO). Thanks to a Rockefeller Foundation award in the 100 Resilient Cities challenge, and the dedicated Justin Gruenstein of Mayor Caldwell’s office, who coordinated the proposal and application process. Maxine Burkett and others contributed to bring Charter Amendment that established an Office of Climate Change to the vote of the people. And, it passed!

The Sierra Club Oahu group is supporting and actively participating in the creation of the Office of Climate Change.

In subsequent posts, I will explore the office further and answer, What is a resilience strategy? Other important elements of this new, important and potentially game-changing city office will become apparent as humans and resources are discovered and deployed.

Interested in island climate change? Here is the official State of Hawaii statement on Adapting to Climate Change, and the State climate adaptation portal. 

Now that the position is near-filled, this post asks and answers the question, “What does a CRO look like?”

In short, the Chief Resilience Officer (CRO) for the city of Honolulu, Hawaii facilitates, develops and oversees the city Resilience Strategy (RS).

From a recent report submitted to the Mayor’s office,

“The CRO will inspire, influence, and catalyze activities at the intersection of critical city issues, such as access to housing and jobs, community safety, reliable public infrastructure and the city’s ability to recover quickly from adversity.”

In other words, change business-as-usual-politics, by developing a set of strategies and plans for moving beyond our political paralysis adapting to climate change.

In our current political economics framework, cities don’t normally just proactively change the way they do business, or produce visionary plans for moving beyond the current governance paradigm, so it is notable, the office will be funded by the Rockefeller Foundation for the first two years.

So, how would we know a CRO if we saw one? How will we know if we have a good candidate on the Mayor’s team?

The CRO is an innovative position in city government that ideally reports directly to the city’s chief executive, and acts as the city’s point person and coordinates all of the city’s resilience efforts. The CRO is competent at the following activities,

  1. Communicating Efficiency: Works across government departments to facilitate cross-silo communications, reducing waste and duplicative work; and promotes resilience principles between projects agencies are planning.
  2. Collaboration: Brings together a diverse array of stakeholders to learn about the city’s challenges and help build support for resilience initiatives. Stakeholders include government officials, private sector, non-profits, and civil society must be included.
  3. Leadership: Leads the resilience strategy, a six-to-nine-month process during which the CRO engages in a stakeholder survey, identifies city’s resilience challenges, maps that to its capabilities and plans, and performs a gap analysis. At the end of this process, the CRO will have a series of resilience-building initiatives to put into action, accompanied by 100RC and platform partners.
  4. Process Facilitator: During this effort, the CRO acts as the “resilience point person,” ensuring that the city applies a resilience lens so that resources are leveraged holistically and projects are planned and executed for synergy. Using this approach, the city may achieve multiple resilience goals with one project by addressing multiple challenges with one intervention. For example, a flood barrier serves as a bike path, while also promoting health, citizenship and interconnected communities.

4corecompetenciescroThe ideal CRO, will be able to understand social, environmental and cultural issues, will have a strong creative bent, an ability to manage multiple projects, and an intense attention to detail and process. 4 key disciplines required to be in CRO’s wheelhouse consist of health sciences, natural sciences and engineering, social science, and business management. These four core competencies circumscribe the minimum knowledge, skills and competencies of the CRO.

What else does the CRO do? What is a resilience strategy? How will the office of climate change move Honolulu and our island peoples towards sustainability/resilience? For that matter, what is sustainability and resilience?

Questions? Answers? More posts by the author.
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