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Aerial view of Sao Paulo. Credit: iStock.

Facing up to the future: the City Resilience Index

The City Resilience Index is helping cities understand and measure their capacity to endure, adapt and transform.


People are drawn to cities as centres of economic activity, opportunity and innovation. Today, a city’s ability to be competitive, whilst supporting the wellbeing of its citizens, can be compromised by risks from climate change to infrastructure deficit, and unplanned growth to pandemics. As one of the UN's Sustainable Development Goals, city resilience is now accepted as a critical urban agenda. But how can we make resilience tangible and practical for cities? How can resilience be applied by cities to build sound strategies and prioritise investments?

Pioneering approaches and new competencies are required in order to adopt resilience as a positive urban development agenda. Over the past three years, with the support of The Rockefeller Foundation, Arup has developed the City Resilience Index – a new way to understand and champion resilience in cities.

“The CRI was created over three years and in consultation with a range of cities globally. It is designed with rigor, and in a way that cities everywhere will benefit from using it as a planning and decision-making tool, that can help them realize a resilience dividend from investments in their growth and the well-being of their citizens.”

Judith Rodin, President of The Rockefeller Foundation

A worldwide research effort

The City Resilience Index is based on three years of research contributions, case studies and pilot schemes conducted in diverse cities across the world. Click below for more detail:

City Resilience Index: insights from cities across the world. Credit: Arup.
City Resilience Index: insights from cities across the world. Credit: Arup.

A worldwide research effort

As the map above makes clear, the City Resilience Index draws on insights from cities across the world. Arup has worked with its own experts and conducted primary research in cities that face very different local challenges. We then conducted pilot schemes in a similarly diverse range of locations to ensure the City Resilience Index is relevant, robust and globally applicable.

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“The City Resilience Index is an excellent tool that highlights areas of improvement, identifies weaknesses and concentrates minds towards finding innovative ways to mitigate against risk. The international and flexible nature of the index enables a wider understanding beyond that of the usual local or national approach.”

Joe Anderson, Mayor of Liverpool

Evolving with threats

Every city is different. Without an understanding of interdependencies and vulnerabilities, sudden shocks and chronic stresses have the potential to lead to cascading failure. Upheavals that threaten the functioning of a city can be unexpected – like freak weather – or slow-moving and systemic – like economic decline. And sometimes one can suddenly reveal the other.

The effect of long term stresses can take many forms. Cities where a lack of economic opportunity has allowed crime to gain a foothold; a city where falling budgets have compromised flood defences and created a lack of trust in local policing; a city where health risks lead to a mass exodus of its labour force and loss of competitiveness.

Our research shows that the factors that contribute to city resilience are the same worldwide, although their relative importance in each city may vary. This forms the basis of the City Resilience Index.

“It has given direction to the discussion and helped to get us to where we are with understanding resilience in Glasgow quicker than we otherwise would have.”

Alastair Brown, Head of Sustainability and the Environment, and Chief Resilience Officer, Glasgow

A global approach

Our clients, projects and multinational presence bring us into contact with the multitude of challenges that cities face. City resilience is recognised as one of the key drivers of urban development within our cities work. We are deeply committed to developing a strategic and pragmatic response to the agenda of city resilience. This is why Arup, supported by The Rockefeller Foundation, has created the City Resilience Index. It is based on three years of research and analysis into what actually constitutes resilience, based on evidence from 28 diverse cities spread across the world.  

The City Resilience Index is the first comprehensive tool that helps cities to understand and measure their resilience in a systematic, globally applicable way. It’s our belief that the CRI will help city stakeholders to stay future-focused, gaining much-needed clarity on relevant actions as they prioritise investments to become more resilient places.

“This ongoing research will help a city improve its parameters like infrastructure, economy, livelihood and employment, security, law and order. This programme will be included under our city’s development plan.”

Tikender Panwar, Deputy Mayor of Shimla

Resilience goals

Our research tells us that universally there are 12 goals that each and every city should strive towards in order to achieve resilience. These are what matters most when a city faces chronic problems or sudden catastrophe.

100 Resilient Cities

The 100 Resilient Cities – pioneered by The Rockefeller Foundation, has adopted the City Resilience Framework to guide the development of City Resilience Strategies across the world. Arup is also working with 100RC as a strategy partner. Find out more.

“The City Resilience Index represents an important advancement in assessing resilience, providing a new opportunity for cities, through an analysis of real data, to better assess what their resilience capabilities are.”

Michael Berkowitz, President of 100 Resilient Cities, Pioneered by The Rockefeller Foundation