How will we develop sustainable cities and resilient communities in a world of climate change?

October 16, 2015  |  8:30–10:00 a.m. | CMU/Campus Club, West Wing

Forum Summary (pdf): Notes capturing key elements of discussion

Agenda (pdf)

Overview (pdf)

Questions for Discussion (pdf)

View/print summaries of faculty ideas clustered under the broad forum themes (pdf)

Submit a Comment for the GC Research Strategies Team

Overview of all 5 GC Research Forums


This question has several parts and requires multidisciplinary expertise. As we review the Grand Challenges ideas submitted by University of Minnesota faculty, we are impressed with the range of fields and subject matter disciplines represented: law, architecture, the landscape and environment, engineering, agronomy and plant genetics, and a host of other subjects and disciplines.

The submitted ideas offered Minnesota as a model for catalyzing growth through low-carbon energy systems, sustaining our physical infrastructures in the face of time and other natural hazards, leading agricultural development in a hotter world, building eco-communities, and being in harmonious relationship with the Mississippi River and its multiple histories. We also learned about groups and organizations that are already formed for stakeholder management—resources now are available within the University—to provide both a theoretical and pragmatic understanding of this Grand Challenge—if we work together.

Review of the Grand Challenge ideas raised the question of resiliency and sustainability in a changing world. What is a resilient community and from whose perspective? Resilience, as defined by the Rockefeller Foundation and cited in one submitted idea, is “the capacity of individuals, communities, and systems to survive, adapt, and grow in the face of stress and shocks, and even transform when conditions require it.” The concept of sustainability, defined broadly by the World Commission on Environment and Development (United Nations Brundtland report), is “development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” A resilient community, then, is one that can resonate with ever evolving problems and issues and still flourish—all within the limits of resources of social, economic, and environmental capital.

To be resilient and sustainable, our ecological footprint needs to be relational and include people and processes as well as consideration of environmental impact, both locally and globally. When considering limited resources, a resilient community embraces change, but with a world view. With climate change for example, do we view the phenomenon as evolutionary or disruptive, local or global in its impact? If as stated in another submission, 70 percent of the world population will be living in cities by 2050, we need to remember that cities interface with suburban and rural communities. Innovative ideas are called for that are relational and take into account both local and global perspectives.

Innovative ideas and solutions regarding future products and services require creative responses that are affordable, implementable, and sustainable. The tightly focused submissions for big ideas in this Grand Challenge would benefit from being linked with the multidisciplinary expertise at this University. Stakeholders’ perspectives will be critical as we proceed with implementation of this Grand Challenge—designers, operators, end users, governmental agencies, local and regional policy makers, regulators, faith-based groups, activists, and organizations focused on particular subjects, as well as non-governmental organizations.

Grand Challenges involve bold solutions and multidisciplinary linkages. With our combination of sites and expertise: our location along the Mississippi River corridor as a major land-grant institution with schools of public health, design, law, and public policy, complemented by strong sciences and liberal arts, we, at the University of Minnesota, working together, are positioned to solve this Grand Challenge.

Summary by members of the Provost’s Grand Challenges Research Strategies Team, October 2015