Thursday, Mayor Ed Murray appointed Jessica Finn Coven as Chief Resilience Officer (CRO), a new position created to lead citywide resilience building efforts to help Seattle prepare for, withstand, and bounce back from “shocks” – catastrophic events like heat waves and floods – and “stresses” – longer term pressures like climate change, income inequality, and impacts from Seattle’s unprecedented growth. Finn Coven currently serves as director of Seattle’s Office of Sustainability & Environment and will remain in that role while taking on these additional responsibilities. Seattle was selected to be a founding member of the 100 Resilient Cities – Pioneered by The Rockefeller Foundation, which will provide a grant to support and fund the position.
“I am proud to announce Jessica Finn Coven as Chief Resilience Officer for the City of Seattle,” said Murray. “Jessica’s experience and expertise in the complex issues of climate change, affordable housing, and inequity will be leveraged in this new role as she helps drive the City’s strategy to increase resilience, grow equitably and reduce disproportionate impacts on communities of color.”
As CRO, Finn Coven will report directly to Mayor Murray and oversee the development and implementation of a comprehensive Resilience Strategy for Seattle.
Appointing a CRO is an essential element of Seattle’s resilience building partnership with 100 Resilient Cities – Pioneered by The Rockefeller Foundation. The 100 Resilient Cities (100RC) organization is part of a $164 million commitment by The Rockefeller Foundation to build urban resilience in 100 cities around the world. Seattle’s engagement with 100RC kicked off in October 2016 with a “Resilience Agenda-Setting Workshop,” and under Finn Coven’s leadership, the City is poised to take the next step in its resilience planning. 100RC will support the salary of the CRO as well as fully fund a Deputy CRO position to work with Finn Coven on the Resilience Strategy.
The CRO is an innovative feature of 100RC’s resilience building program, specifically designed to break down existing barriers at the local level, account for pre-existing resilience plans, and create partnerships, alliances and financing mechanisms that will improve resilience of all residents, with a focus on low-income and vulnerable populations.
“Jessica Finn Coven joins a network of peers from cities across the globe that will share best practices and surface innovative thinking,” said Michael Berkowitz, President of 100 Resilient Cities. “She will become a global leader in resilience, and will be an asset for Seattle and other cities around the world.”
Seattle’s resilience initiative will focus on a unique combination of seismic risks, climate change, and the social and economic inequities that are exacerbated by Seattle’s rapid growth. Seattle needs to ensure that as we grow, we are doing so in a way that creates healthy communities with access to green space for all, responds to climate change, and tackles the health and environmental disparities present in Seattle. Finn Coven will be charged with fostering a citywide dialogue on solutions, helping Seattle to unite and build the collective capacity for change.
Finn Coven will receive personnel and technical support provided by 100RC and utilize resilience building tools from private, public, academic, and NGO sector organizations that have partnered with 100RC. Seattle’s Resilience Strategy will be a holistic, action-oriented blueprint to build partnerships and alliances, financing mechanisms, and will pay particular attention to meeting the needs of low-income families, communities of color and other vulnerable populations.