Judith Rodin, President, The Rockefeller Foundation, shares her thoughts on resilient dynamism

Resilient Dynamism is an apt theme for this year’s World Economic Forum’s annual meeting, because each year we see more than ever that we cannot predict where or when the next major shock or disruption to our wellbeing will manifest.

Perhaps it will emerge from our global financial system, just as we saw when the U.S. housing bubble burst and the ensuing credit crisis in Reykjavik rippled across the world.  Perhaps it will be a result of our changing global climate, which caused the floods in Bangkok or the Super storm that continues to leave coastal communities devastated in the Northeastern United States.  Or it could transpire in something as simple as a handshake, which once sent a pandemic from Asia travelling far across the globe at the speed of a 747.

Threats and stresses to our 21st century world come in all shapes and sizes, just as they have since the beginning of human existence. But what distinguishes today’s threats from those of the past is the escalating rate at which they are occurring, without mind for geography or man-made borders. Today, vulnerability in one area leads to vulnerability in others. Issues once identified and analyzed individually – our environment, the economy, and social challenges – are now inextricably interlinked. While globalization and free trade have increased the efficiency of markets, they may well be reducing the resilience of economies, and indeed societies.

Despite all we know about resilience and the large body of research and literature that has been written on the subject – too few societies, organizations, and systems get resilience right. Much more remains to be done, share and learn to make resilience a ubiquitous reality. This is why The Rockefeller Foundation is pleased to be participating at this year’s Annual Meeting, and also why I’m excited about a new publication from The Rockefeller Foundation that explores these issues and more, titled Rebound: Building a More Resilient World.

In this publication, we’ve asked leaders from various disciplines – including WEF 2013 Annual Meeting Co-Chairs Muhtar A. Kent and Andrew N. Liveris – to share their lessons of what resilience means and what it requires of us. Through the lens of their own experiences, we can begin to explore some of the ways we can help prepare for, withstand and emerge stronger from the acute shocks and chronic stresses of the 21st century. There is no question that this is within our collective power.

Building resilience is not – and cannot be – the task of a single actor or a single sector. Rather, building resilience requires partners from every sector: governments with the right policies, plans and infrastructure investment; communities and civic institutions that are flexible, responsive and robust; organizations and individuals who have the core skills required to adapt and cope.

Building resilience is not a luxury  – it is a 21st century imperative

Author: Judith Rodin is President of The Rockefeller Foundation and is scheduled to participate at the World Economic Forum’s Annual Meeting 2013.

Image: A girl walks with her dog in London REUTERS/Luke Macgregor