Investing in Resilience: A Destination with Many Routes

Global Resilience Partnership’s 38 challenge winners are cutting multiple paths towards a resilient future, as our recent Investing in Resilience forum on 5 November 2019 showcased in London.

Global Resilience Partnership’s 38 challenge winners are cutting multiple paths towards a resilient future, as our recent Investing in Resilience forum on 5 November showcased in London. 

From using mobile platforms in Indonesia to mitigating natural disasters, to helping livestock keepers in the Horn of Africa access loans, resilience is a destination with many routes. But the unifying factor highlighted by the challenge winners, who presented resilience-building solutions to dozens of donors and investors, was improved outcomes for the most vulnerable people.

“We are seeking transformative solutions in which we work together to foster innovative ways of stewarding our ecosystems and innovative ways of creating livelihoods,” said Nathanial Matthews, Director of Programs at Global Resilience Partnership (GRP).

Taking a systemic, iterative and innovative approach to resilience-building that learns quickly from failure and drives forward equitable and inclusive development is key to this transformation, he added.

If we are to get back on track towards the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals and remain true to our pledge to leave no-one behind, we will need to find new ways to build resilience in vulnerable and fragile areas most affected by the intersecting challenges of more frequent extreme weather events, food insecurity and geo-political instability.

“We’re at the beginning of a period of very rapid change,” said Jesper Hornberg, Lead on Innovation and Scaling at GRP. “That’s going to put a lot of pressure on us to keep with it. We need to work together, and listen to the people who understand the problem, both from the science community as well as the people we want to be more prepared for these changes.

GRP, with support from USAID, Zurich Foundation, Sida and DFID, has funded and mentored projects in three challenge windows themed around resilience, water and innovation.

At the event, challenge winners presented to donors and investors a range of solutions in key intervention areas including Nature-based Solutions, low-cost infrastructure, technology for agriculture & climate change, inclusive finance and empowering marginalised groups, as highlighted in the GRP Resilience Insights report. All received prior support from GRP in presenting and pitching their work.

And with such a complex variety of evolving global challenges, there was lively debate on how best to scale up solutions.

For some, the answer lay in developing initiatives that would be commercially viable, making them attractive to investors and eventually, self-sustaining.

Hugh Scott, director of the Africa Enterprise Challenge Fund, said: “Yes, it is about people, it is about innovation, it is about disruptive innovation. But it’s also commercial. That’s scale.”

Mr Scott pointed out that many successful initiatives adopted an agency business model.

Adam Bornstein, of the Danish Red Cross, also indicated a move from traditional aid models when presenting a rainwater harvesting initiative in Ethiopia: “We don’t want to be the face of grant-giving for projects we can actually get outside capital for.”

For others, though, success came through hybrid models, harnessing social enterprises to address complex issues.

“What commercialisation actually does is take up a minute aspect of that resilience-building,” said Bijal Brahmbhatt, director and founder of Mahila Housing Trust, which empowers women in poor, urban areas across India, Nepal and Bangladesh to improve the resilience of their families and communities.

“It’s a complex problem so it has to have a multi-faceted solution. As we grew, we understood that not-for-profit only will not work, so we grew ourselves into a hybrid organisation. What was important with scaling was a layer of women leadership that could communicate with government and private sector.”

The winners presented a highly adaptable approach to building resilience with the same innovators offering new interventions as well as retrofitting old designs.

MetaMeta, for example, works to improve existing roads for greater flood resilience in Bangladesh as well as working with construction teams on designing smarter new roads.

Quintin Gray, of the Global Scale SMART Sustainable Safe Water project, highlighted the need to share information with Indian villagers to help them better access toilets and water sources as well as improving water safety.

“As people working in the sustainable development field, we can be caught in that fear of failure,” said Deon Nel, CEO of GRP. “It’s about changing that fear of failure into the opportunity for hope.”

A portfolio summary of the winners present at the investor forum in London on Tuesday, November 5 can be found here.

Featured image by Producers Direct