This Resilience-Minded News Service Encourages Grassroots Solutions

Rockefeller’s new platform, Zilient, wants to expose leaders to solutions that will help cities and countries bounce back from disasters.

This Resilience-Minded News Service Encourages Grassroots Solutions
[Illustration: tashechka/iStock]

Because natural and man-made disasters have the power to decimate how traditional society was designed to function, the Rockefeller Foundation considers building resilience, defined as “the capacity of individual, communities and systems to survive, adapt and grow in the face of stress and shocks, and even transform when conditions require it,” as one the most important skillsets for future generations.


In fact, the group believes so much in that concept that it funded an inspirational movie about it. As Co.Exist has reported, Rockefeller regularly funds its own city-based programs and competitions (and, yes, even more competitions) to effectively demonstrate on a large scale how this can work. (They also recently launched a new competition specifically for the Bay Area.)

Now the organization is trying a new tactic to spur a more grassroots kind of involvement. In February, the group launched Zilient, a news platform with its own networking component. “Zilient as it stands today is an online publishing and knowledge sharing platform that focuses on delivering a range of personalized content an well as connections, events, and networking opportunities to help global resilience practitioners to do their jobs better,” says senior digital media manager Gabriel Jacobs.

In other words, not only can people from all resilience-related disciplines go there for news, they can also share contact information, and post about upcoming events like related conferences or competitions. The goal is to attract a faithful audience of NGO and government leaders, along with different business, and research and academic interests all in one place so they might connect and collaborate. “[It’s an] online solution to break down some of the silos and connect people across regions and focus areas,” Jacobs says.

In classic Rockefeller strategy, this idea itself was carefully calculated before it launched. The group surveyed over 1,200 industry players to determine their wants and needs. “There was a lot of interest in really combining skill sets and accomplishing as a network what a single individual or organization can’t do alone,” Jacobs adds. “That’s the overall goal of this platform to build a global resilience network that helps advance the work of those in this field.”

The site is broken into eight different channels: cities, climate, economy, ecosystems, crises, inclusion, health and infrastructure. Its content will be a mix of curated news, contributed content from industry insiders, and original reporting a team of independent reporters at the Thomson Reuters Foundation. Platform members can also join a directory that’s searchable by their expertise, title, or focus. That, along with the events page, should enable visitors to “proactively reach out and connect together,” says Jacobs. “While we’re lead by content initially, we really look at this as a platform for engagement.”

The hope is that Zilient eventually becomes its own brainstorming hub, a place to not just catch up on the news but collectively think about the future, which might lead to even more ideas. While there’s no exact timeframe, the group wants to eventually add what Jacobs called “closed workspaces”—some sort of online outlet that encourages discussion—and more user generated content so everyone has a way to share their voice.


The only question that remains is whether online interactions will lead to real-life progress. “Up to this point, it’s been pretty clear that resilience very often relies on networks,” Jacobs says. “So that is exactly what we are trying to create with Zilient.

About the author

Ben Paynter is a senior writer at Fast Company covering social impact, the future of philanthropy, and innovative food companies. His work has appeared in Wired, Bloomberg Businessweek, and the New York Times, among other places.