Sometimes Destruction Leads to Good Things

President of the Rockefeller Foundation, Judith Rodin, writes this piece published on, looking at how Christchurch, New Zealand, took advantage of destruction.

In February 2011, a 6.3 magnitude aftershock of a September 2010 earthwauke rattled through Christchurch – killing almost 200 people, injuring another 10,000, leading to the demolishing of more than 70 percent of the city’s central business district buildings (deemed unsafe to stay standing).

So how do you begin to come back from that?

Christchurch’s mayor, Lianne Dalziel, signed an application for the city to become part of the Rockefeller Foundation’s 100 Resilient Cities network.

An excerpt from Judith Rodin’s piece:

“‘When I saw The Rockefeller Foundation’s call for expressions of interest to [join the 100 Resilient Cities] initiative, I knew that this was what I wanted for the city,’ she said at the city’s first 100 Resilient Cities workshop in March 2014. For Dalziel, becoming a resilient city is all about ‘participatory democracy’ and ‘collective governance.’ ‘Reclaiming the word resilience in its broadest sense will enable us collectively to reclaim the power that rightly resides within our neighbourhoods and communities,’ she said.

One way Dalziel intends to support community development is by letting communities redefine themselves, even setting their own boundaries, an important political distinction. Indeed, this would be almost unthinkable in the United States, where voting districts are elaborately drawn to keep like-minded constituencies together, at least on paper. ‘Communities need to be allowed to make sense of their own identities if people are going to want to vote and influence how their cities are run,’ Dalziel said.

The mayor talks about co-creating a new Christchurch through grassroots community building and efforts to strengthen social cohesion. These factors will also facilitate the awareness, acceptance, and mitigation of community-specific risks (such as development in liquefaction zones, where soil has been weakened due to stress, or where there is a high density of buildings that are vulnerable to earthshake); she also wants to use top-down governance to identify and achieve outcomes that are grounded in the collective good and shared identity. There are things communities can do for themselves that government cannot, but there are also things governments can do that communities cannot.

Thus, Dalziel emphasizes the importance of creating partnerships and networks that bring stakeholders, decision makers, and experts – with both local and generalized knowledge – together to take prioritized, resilience-based action. ‘Resilience is not a destination,’ she said at the 100 Resilient Cities workshop. ‘It is a means by which we can determine our destination as well as providing us with the means of getting there.’

Christchurch is already on a path of transformation, and it can be seen most clearly in initiatives that are, surprisingly – resiliently – taking advantage of the destruction that the earthquake caused.

A couple examples:

  • Gap Filler – an organization dedicated to developing vacant lots in creative, innovative ways, such as with a miniature golf course and an outdoor performance venue.
  • Rekindle – a furniture company that creates chairs, tables and more from wood salvaged from rubble.


For more information, see the original article here: