RAND Partners with City of Pittsburgh on New Resilience Strategy

Strategy partners participate in a panel discussion: Moderator Katya Sienkiewicz, Bill Strickland, Ray Gastil, Anita Chandra, and George Fechter.

Local partners participate in a panel discussion: Moderator Katya Sienkiewicz, Bill Strickland, Ray Gastil, Anita Chandra, and George Fechter.

Photo by Jordan Fischbach/RAND Corporation

Pittsburgh has worked hard to shake the effects of massive population loss and economic decline after the collapse of the region's steel-based industrial sector. Over the past decade, the city has built on its strengths as a hub for education, technology, and medicine. But it continues to face challenges as a result of its industrial legacy and in the face of 21st-century pressures from globalization, urbanization, and climate change. The region also must contend with a fragmented system of governance that hinders efforts to develop cooperative strategies for progress. And enduring racial and socioeconomic disparities serve as a reminder that new opportunities are not equally shared among residents. Since 2015, RAND has played a key role in developing and implementing the first citywide strategy to address these complex challenges.

In March, the City of Pittsburgh released OnePGH: Pittsburgh's Resilience Strategy (PDF) with the goal of bringing together diverse communities and solutions to help guide long-term, sustainable development in the region. Working with Pittsburgh's Office of Sustainability and Resilience and 100 Resilient Cities, pioneered by Rockefeller Foundation to support city-level initiatives to improve resilience, Jordan Fischbach, Linnea Warren May, and Anita Chandra supported the development of a preliminary resilience assessment (PDF) and the strategy document. The project captured perceptions of Pittsburgh's resilience through a survey, interviews, focus groups, workshops, and community forums. The team combined this information with lessons from the literature to establish a resilience framework for the city and region, along with guidance for prioritizing goals, objectives, and actions.

Linnea Warren May at the press conference announcing the release of OnePGH: Pittsburgh's Resilience Strategy.

Linnea Warren May at the press conference announcing the release of OnePGH: Pittsburgh's Resilience Strategy.

Photo by Jordan Fischbach/RAND Corporation

The March 8 launch began with a morning press conference helmed by Mayor Bill Peduto and Grant Ervin, the city's Chief Resilience Officer, and a viewing of a video accompanying the strategy's release. Participants were then invited to tour a sampling of sites where resilience-building initiatives are under way in the areas of electric grid reliability and efficiency, stormwater management, and youth engagement and education. The day concluded with an evening event—attended by Fischbach and May, along with fellow Pittsburgh-based researchers Aimee Curtright and Shelly Culbertson—featuring a cross-sector panel discussion with Chandra and other local partners.

RAND will continue its partnership in the implementation phase, which involves monitoring and evaluating the strategy's implementation. Going forward, the team will develop an integrated data system to measure progress toward core objectives. The data will help guide communication about the strategy and inform program and investment decisions as the city works to improve the resilience and well-being of its communities.