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Resilience Shift Debate – the value of resilience – what is it worth and why?

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“If resilience had any real economic and societal value, then decision makers would be implementing it already”

At the Resilience Shift, our aim is a safer and better world through resilient infrastructure. This debate and audience Q&A, at the Global Knowledge Exchange event on 22 August 2018, posed this challenging question in a lively and opinionated discussion.

The views and opinions raised as part of this classic debating format do not represent the panel’s own views or those of any associated organisations.

Chaired by Dr Mark Fletcher, Global Water Leader, Arup, the panel included (pictured from left to right):

  • Trevor Bishop, Director of Strategy and Planning, OFWAT
  • Juliet Mian, Technical Director, Resilience Shift
  • Fred Boltz, CEO Resolute Development Solutions, and Chair, City Water Resilience Framework
  • Dr Mark Fletcher, Global Water Leader, Arup
  • Ruth Boumphrey, Director of Research, Lloyd’s Register Foundation
  • Cayley Green, Senior Resilience Analyst, City of Cape Town
  • Diego Juan Rodriguez, Senior Water Resources Management Specialist, World Bank

The full debate:

The audience Q&A

Categories: Events

Water, water everywhere – and more events to come

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Cayley Green presenting on Cape Town’s water resilience challenges

Water resilience has been a key focus for us over August. We brought cities and stakeholders together at a three-day event – the Global Knowledge Exchange – hosted at Lloyd’s Register Foundation in London.

Water resilience is a connecting factor for cities as diverse as Miami, Mexico City, Amman, Hull and Cape Town. Following our fieldwork with them earlier this year, we heard from city representatives about the challenges they face. Together we continue to shape our resilient water governance work as well as our input to the Rockefeller Foundation-funded City Water Resilience Framework, co-hosts of the event.

At SIWI World Water Week, our events included a SIWI sofa panel discussing the Governance for Resilient Urban Water Systems project and the City Water Resilience Framework. A structured one-day programme of events supported a global focus on how to build a resilient future through water, with a number of high level dialogue sessions.

We also asked leading water resilience scientists and practitioners to present their current work in our showcase on water systems resilience design for urban systems, basins and transboundary water sources.

Water also became a personal issue for those in our team taking part in EarthEx. This online interactive exercise aimed to provide organisations and individuals with a forum to discuss, develop and test organisational plans to improve resilience to Black Sky Hazards. As an individual taking part in the exercise, the importance of water for our short- and long-term survival was brought home through your choices of priority items to keep your family safe during such an event.

We know that water is only one of the industry sectors we need to work with to achieve a shift towards resilience within and between critical infrastructure systems.  The initial deadline closed for expressions of interest to develop industry-specific resilience primers. Thank you to all those who applied for this round.

Our work exploring the role that policy and regulation has to play is also moving forward, with plans in place to undertake several small scoping studies in this area, exploring recent developments in Australia as a starting point.

We discovered some more useful publications, including: ‘Resilience of Critical Infrastructures: Review and analysis of Current Approaches’ which considers the current issues surrounding the development of resilience metrics; ‘Safety and Reliability – Safe Societies in a changing world’ which represents the proceedings of the 2018 European Safety and Reliability Conference, and has a subsection around the topic of Resilience Engineering; ‘A value-based approach to infrastructure resilience’ that is a development from a paper previously submitted by two of our Grantees from MMI Engineering during the Resilience Shift’s first year, and who are currently working with us on our tools and approaches project.

This autumn, among other events, we’ll be at the 100 Resilient Cities CoLab Building a Water Resilient City in Cape Town, and at the World Bank Understanding Risk Balkans Conference in Belgrade, also the Institution of Civil Engineering (ICE)’s Global Engineering Congress in London. Get in touch if you’ll be attending.

You can continue to apply to us with specific expressions of interest and also submit your ideas generally. However there will be other specific calls throughout our programme. To avoid missing them, sign up to our blog round up to receive news of further opportunities for funding resilience projects.

Categories: News

Showcasing the latest advances in thinking and practice

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The Resilience Shift hosted a special showcase of advances in thinking and practice.

The session, Project Showcase on Water Resilience Design and Execution: the State of the Art, featured advances in resilience and complex systems theory, hydrosystems engineering, urban systems planning, and water governance and human dimensions of water management.

We asked leading water resilience scientists and practitioners to present their current work on water systems resilience design for urban systems, basins, and transboundary water sources.

The moderated, interactive session featured advances in planning and decision support tools, resilience diagnosis and design approaches, and applied work in representative cities and basins of Africa, the Middle East, Europe, and the Americas.

We also previewed scientific research forming a special issue of the journal Water Security:Water is the Master Variable: Solving for Resilience in the Modern Era“.  This will be published this autumn.

Partners in the showcase include Arup, the Global Water Partnership, Resolute Development Solutions, SIWI, the University of Massachusetts-Amherst, the World Bank, and the World Economic Forum.

The photo illustrating this article is by the artist Edward Burtynsky. Examples of his photographic work of water landscapes recently featured in a curated exhibition at Arup.


16:00-16:10 Water Resilience Design and Execution: the State of the Art
Dr. Fred Boltz, Resolute Development Solutions and the Resilience Shift

16:10-16:22 City-Source Interdependencies and Water Resilience: Mexico City and the Valley of Mexico
Sarah Freeman, University of Massachusetts, Amherst

16:22-16:34 Urban Systems Planning through a Water Lens: the City Water Resilience Framework
Alexa Bruce, ARUP

16:34-16:46 City Water Resilience in Practice
Dr. Gisela Kaiser, City of Cape Town, South Africa

16:46-16:58 Designing for Resilience in Transboundary Waters
Anjali Lohani, Global Water Partnership

16:58-17:10 Decision Support Tools and Technologies for Urban Water Resilience
Glen Low, Earth Genome and World Economic Forum 4IR Urban Water Initiative

17:10-17:30 Interactive Discussion with the Audience: Practicing the State of the Art


Update: Fred Boltz speaking at the event today.

Categories: Events

WWWeek focus – Building a resilient future through water

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At World Water Week, the Resilience Shift is supporting a global focus on how to build a resilient future through water, through a number of high level dialogue sessions. Sessions are hosted by the Resilience Shift in partnership with SIWI and the Rockefeller Foundation.

In 2018, global agendas will focus on water and ecosystems at large. The UN-HLPF will address progress for SDG6 (water, sanitation) and other goals (energy, cities, sustainable consumption and production, ecosystems). The HLPF will present its concluding report and CBD COP14, Ramsar COP13 and UNFCCC COP24 will cover key water issues. UN members eagerly seek the engagement of non-state actors’ multi-stakeholder groups to support the implementation of these global agendas.

World Water Week has become an agenda setter for annual stocktaking on water-related development goals. It is a pivotal moment when synergies between the global agendas can be identified and acted upon to foster coherent and efficient implementation by convening high-level government representatives, UN and multilateral institutions, civil society, academia, and the private sector.

For three years, SIWI has organized a two-part high-level session to exchange knowledge, enhance partnership and action and take stock on water-related progress of the 2030 Agenda and the Paris Climate Agreement. This year’s edition is co-sponsored by The Rockefeller Foundation and The Resilience Shift. It will highlight advances in water, science, practice, policy with a view on water resilience as a paradigm for fulfilling our common agenda for sustainable development.


Session 1: SDG-Paris Agreement: Building a resilient future through water (part 1)


09:00     Welcome – Mr. Torgny Holmgren, Executive Director, Stockholm International Water Institute

09:10      Key note message from COP presidency – H.E Tomasz Chruszczow, Special Envoy for Climate Change, The Ministry of Environment, Poland – tbc

09:20 Key note message – Ms. Audrey Azoulay, Director-General of UNESCO

09:30     Key note message – H.E Henk WJ Ovink, Special Envoy for International Water Affairs, Kingdom of The Netherlands, and Sherpa to the High-Level Panel on Water

9:40     Feedbacks from Global Agendas – Panel discussion moderated by Ms. Maggie White, Senior Manager, International Policy, SIWI

  • Pamela Tshwete, Deputy Minister of Water and Sanitation, South Africa
  • Martha Rojas-Urrego, Secretary General of the Ramsar Wetlands Convention
  • Luqmon Isomatov, Head of Department, Minister of Foreign Affairs, The Republic of Tajikistan
  • Andrea Erickson, Managing Director, Global Water Team, The Nature Conservancy
  • Cate Lamb, Director of Water Security, CDP

10:25    Concluding statement

10:30    End of Part 1


Session 2: SDG-Paris Agreement: Building a resilient future through water (part 2)


11.00     Introduction – Mr. Torgny Holmgren, Executive Director, SIWI welcomes and presents Dr. Fred Boltz, CEO, Resolute Development Solutions and Ambassador, The Resilience Shift

11:10     Once upon a time tomorrow: from Architecture to Photography, a different lens on our society and ecosystem symbiosis – M. Chris Morin-Eitner, Photographer

11:20     Key note speaker – From the Global Agenda to Cities’ action – Ms. Lauren Sorkin, Asia Pacific Regional Director, 100 Resilient Cities

11:30     Supporting the implementation of the Global agendas at a city level – Panel Discussion and Q&A – Moderated by Dr. Mark Fletcher, Global Water Director, ARUP

  • Mayor Katarina Luhr,Vice Mayor of Stockholm City
  • Jean-Didier Berthault, Vice President of Greater Paris sanitation Authority (SIAAP) and Greater Paris Metropolitan Councillor
  • Dr Gisela Kaiser, Executive Director of Water and Sanitation, City of Cape Town, South Africa
  • Eduardo Vazquez Herrera, Executive Director, Agua Capital, Mexico CitySC
  • Jennifer Sara, Director, Global water Practice, World Bank Group
  • Alexa Bruce, Project Manager, City Water Resilience Framework, Arup

12:25     Conclusion – Mr. Torgny Holmgren, Executive Director, Stockholm International Water Institute

12:30 Close of the Session


Session 3: Follow up on High Level Panel: Building a resilient future through water

Water is key to the success of all the Sustainable Development Goals, SDGs, and therefore essential for delivering on the 2030 Agenda that aims to transform our world into the future we want. It is also a key enabling factor for delivering on the other global agendas (Paris Climate Agreement, Sendai Disaster Risk Reduction, New Urban Agenda).

To achieve this, a new way of managing water is needed, to make societies more resilient, sustainable and inclusive. Multi-stakeholder representatives of the water and development community presented an open letter to UN member state representations, UN agencies and other leading global organizations in the run up to the High Level Political Forum.

This initiative, lead and coordinated by SIWI and key partners, aims to build a strong momentum back to back with the HLPF and World Water Week, leading towards a final document for the UN General Assembly that calls for action and illustrates means of how it can be achieved.

This SIWI Sofa will present the key initiatives announced during the High Level Dialogue session on ‘Building a Resilient Future Through Water’ that will contribute to this momentum.

Open letter and Policy brief on ‘Building a resilient future through water’

Water is key to the success of all the Sustainable Development Goals, SDGs, and therefore essential for delivering on the 2030 Agenda that aims to transform our world into the future we want. To achieve this, a new way of managing water is needed, to make societies more resilient, sustainable and inclusive. This open letter calls for action and takes a closer look at how this can be achieved.

Categories: Events

Resilience Shift hosts SIWI sofa at World Water Week. Watch video

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We are delighted to have hosted a SIWI sofa event on Tuesday 28 August to discuss the City Water Resilience Framework and Governance for Resilient Urban Water Systems project as part of World Water Week.

Our SIWI Sofa session aims to showcase the work that we have been doing on urban water resilience including an introduction to the City Water Resilience Framework. We would like to capture the challenges our partner cities face, the value of the framework for the cities as well as sharing our successful fieldwork missions and the project next steps.

The partnership of the Resilience Shift, Arup and SIWI is developing a global framework, the City Water Resilience Framework, to help cities across the world to improve the resilience of their urban water system. The project is supported by Rockefeller Foundation, World Bank, 100 Resilient Cities, and University of Massachusetts Amherst. The Framework includes the develop of associated tools for understanding water governance and undertaking a resilience assessment. The framework is being co-developed with eight cities from around the world, including Cape Town, Mexico City, Greater Miami and the Beaches, Hull, Amman, Greater Manchester, Rotterdam and Thessaloniki.

Our panel:

  • Louise Ellis is a civil engineer at Arup and one of the team developing the City Water Resilience Framework.
  • Dr Gisela Kaiser is the Executive Director of Informal Settlements, Water and Waste at the City of Cape Town, which is one of the partner cities.
  • Fred Boltz is CEO at Resolute Development Solutions, formerly Rockefeller Foundation, and Chair of the Steering Committee for the City Water Resilience Framework
  • Eduardo Vazquez Herrera is the Executive Director of Agua Capital, a water fund in Mexico City.


The sofa session explored the key drivers, outcomes and objectives for the City Water Resilience Framework project, the challenges the cities have faced in diagnosing and building urban water resilience? The panel also discussed the question of value – both for cities, and for financial institutions and how the project has been co-developed with the city and other partners. Finally they considered the next steps for the project and their hopes for the future.

You can watch the session below – starting at 07:10 approximately.


Categories: Events

Inspiring young professionals with a focus on city water resilience

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Sunday brought the opening day of World Water Week which kicks off with Young Professionals Day. This aims to inspire young people and provide a platform for their voices to be heard. In the spirit of the 2018 World Water Week, the day was focused on the theme of water, ecosystems and human development.

The second session of the day was on the resilience of water systems in cities. In this session, we focused on transforming the global commitments of the Sustainable Development Goals into local action in the face of the shocks and stresses facing our water system.

Using Hull, Cape Town, Miami and Amman as case studies, 100 young professionals identified the main shocks and stresses facing these four cities, which SDGs these are impacting, and resolutions that could be implemented at a municipal and individual scale.  Initiatives including governance improvements, technological solutions, nature-based solutions and public empowerment were proposed as contributory solutions to the keys issues of drought, flooding, ecosystem degradation, financial resilience of utilities and WASH challenges in informal settlements.

We concluded the day with a spirited debate on “This house believes that ecosystem conservation is fundamentally at odds with human development” chaired by Mark Fletcher, Global Water Leader at Arup. One team argued for the motion, the other argued how human development and responsible stewardship of natural resources go hand in hand.

Diego Rodriguez, Senior Economist at the World Bank, argued that “today, we have much less poverty than 10, 20, 30 years ago; and that is anchored in a very particular type of growth model that uses natural resources.”

Similarly, Marina Demaria Venancio (Young Professional and PhD student at the Federal University of Santa Catarina, Brazil) presented a more technology-focused future that reduced our dependence on natural systems.

Amanda Janoo (Young Professional and Alternative Economic Policy Adviser at the UN) concluded her team’s argument by outlining the role of choice in human development, stating “there is no limit to ow much people want to consume, or how rich they want to be”.

Fred Boltz (Water Ambassador at The Resilience Shift) argued that “Humans are an endemic part of the natural ecosystems that sustain our planet Earth…Humans have prospered throughout history by benefitting from nature. The growth model uses natural resources to fuel human wellbeing and development. Why would we destroy them when they provide such wealth?”

Sunil Abeyasekera, (Young Professionals for Agricultural Development) presented a balanced position: “It’s not a choice between one of the other – they co-exist. Youth around the world are yearning for these opportunities to conserve ecosystems. By investing in our human development, together we can begin to flourish.”

Following the debate, we continued our discussions at the Young Professionals drinks!

Categories: Events

Global Knowledge Exchange – three successful days in pictures

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Three days have passed in a whirl of activity with our collaborators from across the globe contributing their experience and expertise.  We'll be sharing more from our work in the weeks to come, with conclusions from the cities water resilience work to be published, and next steps to come for the City Water Resilience Framework and our Resilience Shift work on water resilience governance.

We'll be at World Water Week from 26-30 August sharing more of the outcomes from the Global Knowledge Exchange and look forward to meeting more of our collaborators there. Thank you to all of our participants and please continue to follow our blog and twitter feed for more updates on our work.

Categories: Events

Preparing for resilience to black sky hazards

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EarthEx is an online interactive exercise sponsored by the Electric Infrastructure Security Council (EIS) aiming to provide organisations with a forum to discuss, develop and test organisational plans to improve resilience to Black Sky Hazards.

The Resilience Shift participated in the exercise this year both as an organisation, and in the individual and families game. Xavier Aldea Borruel took part on behalf of the Resilience Shift and explains how it worked.

The exercise is structured in a similar way to an online game. Players are presented with a black sky event in which a cyber attack has caused some systems to stop working properly. As the exercise develops, the severity of the impacts increase, seriously affecting basic lifeline support systems and risking not only the continuity of the business but also the safety of society.

In the professional / organisational version, the exercise allows the user to play using different ‘lanes’ or sectors. The black sky event always remains the same, but the specific challenges vary depending on the sector that we’ve selected to play. The exercise presents situational videos in which the information about the event is presented and updated through the exercise. In our case, we’ve played the exercise as the private sector, but here are 33 different lanes to choose from, so anyone can adapt the exercise to their specific sector.

Once the players have completed their situational awareness, the exercise is designed to promote facilitated discussions within each organisation that participates in it, by posing a series of questions. This includes thinking about the best course of action in a specific situation, listing priority actions, challenging existing procedures and, in sum, to think about necessary decisions that are needed to successfully survive a black sky event. In the end, the exercise also provides some space for reflection on what would need to change in order to more effectively deal with a situation like this one.

My take home message from participating in this exercise is the clarity in which interdependencies play a key role in cascading failures in an event like this one. A bit like the butterfly effect, a small disruption can lead to catastrophic consequences. Improving the preparedness by improving cross-sectorial communications and applying systems thinking to critical infrastructure could be the way forwards to mitigate the impact of this kind of events.

In addition, the ‘butterfly’ in this years’ exercise was a cyber attack – once again highlighting the need for a balance between fragility and resilience when we rely on technology and smart systems everywhere. It is important to understand these challenges and ensure that all sectors are prepared to deal with the kind of threats that can arise from these situations.

Overall it’s been a fun exercise, played by hundreds of organisations worldwide and thousands of individuals, which I’m sure will help to understand the way forwards for initiatives aiming to improve resilience.

Helen Civil played the individuals and families version and found it very entertaining but also thought provoking. She explains more.

How would you keep your family safe during a ‘black sky’ event? I took part in the exercise as an individual and it was very entertaining. The interface was well designed and set up to help you think about what might happen if large scale outages took place. Also what you might need and how you might respond – thinking about the best way to help yourself and others.

At the end of the exercise you can download an emergency preparation checklist of things to have at home – so expect a worldwide rush on batteries, water purification tables, can openers, battery operated radios and flashlights.

As I have a family with two adults and four small children, let alone the wider extended family, the exercise really made me think about how I might need to respond. How could I feed and water my four hungry boys, let alone myself and their father, how would I keep them safe?

We might have a laugh at survivalists but it makes common sense to have some basic items at home to be prepared in case of a power cut, a water outage or ultimately if a black sky hazard should happen.

You can still take part in the exercise at Earth Ex and play the game with all those “working together to secure our world”.

Categories: Events

Putting a human dimension on resilience

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Human dimension of resilience - fresh waterAlexa Bruce presented recently at the Water Security Conference about the human dimension of designing and managing for resilience and how to encourage adoption. 

We’ll be bringing together our collaborators including SIWI (Stockholm International Water Institute), CWRF (Cities Water Resilience Framework) and WeAreTelescopic to discuss findings and review next steps at the Global Knowledge Exchange event hosted jointly by the Resilience Shift and CWRF.

You can bring a horse to water… but establishing the science and technology necessary to design and manage for resilience won’t necessarily lead humans to design and manage for resilience in practice.

Human history seems to suggest the contrary. Humans will manipulate the variables guiding freshwater, human systems and global change and we only start to think about and manage for resilience in relation to stresses, shocks and great uncertainties.

Water Security is emerging as a primary sustainability challenge across the globe in the 21st century.

At the 1st International Water Security Conference in Toronto, Canada, we drew on our analyses and experience in five global cities – Amman, Mexico City, Cape Town, Miami and Hull – to characterize governance conditions that will allow us to conclude on what practices and principles may enable or impede human transitions to resilience.

The presentation slides can be viewed here and we discuss the themes covered in more detail below.


Encouraging adoption of a resilience-based approach

Adopting resilience-based approaches requires more than simply ensuring that resilience qualities – inclusive, robust, adaptive, and transformative – are built into the planning and design of our water systems (or other such networks). Ultimately, it is us as humans who will decide how our time and resources are allocated.

Decision makers and decision-making processes need to reflect those qualities we seek of our physical solutions so that they are receptive to and prioritise projects that build the resilience of our water systems.

Regime change requires a tremendous amount of political will and is rarely a feasible option. Even in the case where political will is obtained, given the array of externalities that influence how the system functions, it is difficult to be certain that a new structure of governance will perform any better than its predecessor.

We propose that we should seek to strengthen existing governance structures by ensuring that the entire decision-making cycle, and the priorities of those making decisions, are representative of a diverse set of perspectives. These must encompass the health and wellbeing of citizens, economic and societal considerations, securing sustainable provision of infrastructure and ecosystem services and strengthening of governance and policy.

This approach provides the opportunity to traverse different structures of governance and cultures – from autocratic rule to federalist democracy – to ensure that the people operating within the system can adopt the qualities of resilience. That they can recognise, adapt and learn in the face of shocks and stresses and shift to a different system of function when required.

Our work has examined the case of five global cities – Amman, Mexico City, Cape Town, Miami and Hull – to develop a framework that can provide any city with the tools necessary to support decision makers towards a goal of improved urban water resilience. This framework must encompass from system definition, to resilience assessment, to identifying action and ultimately implementation.

Next steps

We’ll be bringing together our collaborators including SIWI (Stockholm International Water Institute), CWRF (Cities Water Resilience Framework) and WeAreTelescopic to discuss findings and review next steps at the Global Knowledge Exchange event hosted jointly by the Resilience Shift and CWRF.

If you’re interested in our water sector work, we are hosting a number of events at SIWI World Water Week so get in touch or comment below, and don’t forget to follow our blog/twitter feed for updates.

Watch out for a special edition of the Water Security Journal to be published in September 2018 with commissioned papers on water resilience and a foreword by Nancy Kete, outgoing Executive Director of the Resilience Shift.

Categories: Events Uncategorized

Pushing forward from strong foundations – a change in leadership

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Over the past two years Nancy Kete as our first Executive Director has fundamentally shaped the Resilience Shift setting the direction of how we work, what we work on and most importantly – why. At this point where the emphasis of the programme shifts from strategy to operations, Nancy has made the decision to step down from her role as Executive Director at the end of August. She leaves the programme with strong foundations and a clear strategy, and will continue to add value to our work in an advisory role while we go about delivering in alignment with the direction that she has set.

We are enormously grateful for Nancy’s pioneering work with the Resilience Shift and the positive impact this has had in building our reputation and network. The programme is now firmly established, and our initial projects are starting to influence and deliver outcomes that will result in measurable impacts for key stakeholders and target audiences. Her value-driven approach is gathering momentum within the projects we are supporting and will continue to underpin our work going forward taking us closer to a future where:

  • Professionals will make decisions all along the value chain/project life cycle that account for how critical infrastructure contributes to the resilience of the larger social-technical-ecological system
  • Infrastructure will be planned, designed, delivered and operated to serve communities (provide, protect, connect) under both ordinary and extraordinary circumstances


We are proud of all the Resilience Shift has achieved so far under Nancy’s leadership, and thank her for her contribution. Our aspirations for the Resilience Shift extend well beyond the initial 5 years funded by the Lloyds Register Foundation.

Over the coming months we will be seeking a new Executive Director with whom we will work to ensure the long term sustainability of the programme and its role in driving the critical infrastructure resilience agenda over the next 10+ years.

Juliet Mian will continue to lead the programme delivery as Technical Director, with Will Goode as Programme Manager.

Jo da Silva will take on the role of Acting Executive Director, while we identify and appoint a new Executive Director.


Michael Bruno – Chair, Resilience Shift Board.

Categories: News

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