Urban resilience approaches aim to address today’s problems while embedding a long-term vision that anticipates future risk scenarios, driven by climate change or other increasing risks.

Building Blocks to Strengthen Urban Resilience

Based on global experience and best practice, USAID has developed the following “building blocks” that can be applied to integrated programming across sectors, as well as to sector-specific programming, to increase the resilience of urban systems:

  • Inclusive Planning – Deploy inclusive, evidence-based planning that accounts for future risk
  • Governance – Strengthen urban governance
  • Finance – Unlock financial capital and budget for resilience
  • Social Capital –  Build and strengthen networks of relationships and bonds social capital within and across communities
  • Natural Systems – Restore and protect the natural systems that can contribute to resilience

Urban Resilience Building Blocks Graphic

These approaches to build resilience must be localized to respond to specific needs and conditions.  Strengthening urban resilience will look different depending on the potential shocks and stresses of each city, which all have different exposure to risk based on their geography, social and economic systems, and other factors.

Actions and program interventions should be inclusive of the actors (people and institutions) and address the factors (infrastructure, finances, policies and environmental conditions) that drive resilience of urban systems. Therefore, building blocks used to strengthen resilience must be localized to respond to specific needs and conditions

Drawing on global experience, the table below provides an overview of each building block and illustrative examples of what these approaches might look like in practice. The forthcoming USAID Urban Resilience Framework provides a more in-depth discussion of these approaches,  program examples, and a summary of the evidence base for each.

Urban Resilience Building Blocks: Illustrative Actions 




Inclusive Planning

Formulate evidence-based plans and actions, in consultation with relevant communities, that consider past and future shocks and stressors

Build city capacity for data collection, interpretation, and use in planning

Engage communities in data collection processes

Support locally led resilience planning process that incorporates context and local

Promote learning through monitoring of resilience activities


Align diverse actors, policies, and strategies for coordinated action to strengthen urban governance

Map local government entities to mandates, authority, and funding to identify key focus area partners and cross-sector synergies 

Support land-use planning, and development and enforcement of zoning regulations to address anticipated shocks and stressors.

Align subnational and national resilience strategies and policies.

Improve public participation, inclusion of marginalized and underrepresented groups, and enable demand-response links between the public and local governments.


Unlock financial capital and budget to ensure resources to initiate and sustain contextually appropriate actions to promote resilience

Build municipal capacity to financially structure resilience projects, including blended finance solutions

Facilitate cities’ access to international finance

Support cities in integrating resilience into capital plans and budgets

Explore new financing instruments to support city action on resilience

Increase own-source revenue generation to support resilience measures

Social Capital

Build social capital and strengthen existing social bonds by deepening social systems that facilitate collective action in response to shocks and stressors

Build the capacity of civil society organizations, including those serving youth, women, and marginalized populations, to be aware of, and respond directly to, community needs

Redesign public spaces to encourage interactions that build community among residents  

Emphasize and leverage local expertise and networks in design and implementation of projects

Natural Capital

Restore and protect natural capital, and use natural assets to withstand shocks and address vulnerabilities

Assist cities to integrate nature-based solutions in urban planning and resilience strategies 

Facilitate city access to funds needed to implement nature-based solutions, including blended finance

Promote nature-based solutions by translating location-specific evidence into actionable insights for policymakers

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A variety of units have technical expertise related to urban resilience,  including the Environment, Energy and Infrastructure Center; the Democracy, Rights and Governance Center; the Resilience and Food Security Bureau; and regional bureaus like Asia Bureau. USAID’s internal Urban Resilience Working Group includes a variety of experts who are available to provide support at either the conceptual/design phase, or during implementation. DDI/EEI Green Cities Division serves as a focal point.
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