ISD Activates Disaster Recovery Program for Harvey, Irma, Maria

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Saving Lives, Improving Living Environments and Safeguarding Livelihoods for the Long-Term


Our Mission

The mission of the Institute for Sustainable Development (ISD) is to transform communities to promote sustainable growth, development, and wellbeing and withstand increasingly urgent risks due to weather, climate, geological, economic, health, and human-caused extreme events. ISD designs strategies that apply systems-thinking, innovative and smart solutions, robust business cases, and multi-sector partnerships to community design and resilience. ISD will contribute to solutions by implementing partnerships, developing persuasive business cases, conducting policy advocacy, and engaging with community stakeholders.

Our Work

ISD works for a state of affairs where communities are better designed; public, private, and civil society engagement and division of labor is done well, and the use and allocation of scarce resources to address systemic challenges is more efficient and effective.


Project #1: Researching solutions to answering the problem of how communities should prioritize their investments to promote resilience. What are the investments that have historically helped communities bounce back from disasters? What are the gaps that caused some communities to recover more slowly? Building the business case and prioritizing investments in critical, sustainable, and resilient infrastructure is vital in this era where unexpected extreme weather, climate, geological, and human events can happen in unpredictable ways. Smart, secure, sustainable, and resilient infrastructure should be profitable, support growth, and save lives. This signature initiative of ISD will leverage IO Sustainability’s landmark Project ROI methodology to analyze and prioritize critical infrastructure investments for smart, secure, sustainable and resilient community development.

Project #2: Building a management tool for community investors to help them prioritize and manage their community investments. This complements Project #1 and provides community investors, business leaders, and government agencies with lessons learned from successful funders and their approach to shaping communities.


Over the last twenty years, new technologies, business continuity, critical infrastructure protection, community development and regional planning interests have converged in many ways, but this has not necessarily translated into new public policy frameworks.

Some of the policy issues at stake include:

  • Revising and enriching infrastructure design to include interdependencies and cascade effects
  • Public-Private threat, vulnerability, opportunity, and capacity information exchange improvements
  • Water infrastructure multi-regional interdependencies and potential financing solutions
  • Embedding natural defenses and green solutions into critical infrastructure protection frameworks


Ranking the top 10 urgent risks. This annual ISD ranking will identify the top 10 environmental, social, and governance (ESG)-related risks with the highest potential for catastrophic impact. The ranking will highlight private, public, and civil sector best practices to address these risks and underscore crucial gaps in action and policy.
Ranking positive innovations and innovators in sustainable development.


Building the growth and sustainable development knowledge portal. This online portal will help decision-makers track current research and resources in regional growth and development that is resilient and inclusive.
Briefings. Regular briefings and webinars on community investment, critical infrastructure, public-private partnerships, and sustainable development.


Regional Studies. These will commence after the Investment Prioritization study is completed.  ISD has prioritized seven regions in the U.S., and three international regions for initial critical infrastructure and community design scans.



ISD is based on the idea that if the long-term recovery is well-designed, it will incorporate resilience, design-thinking, systems integration, and innovation. This way, if future extreme events occur, they will not take the same toll. This "built to last" mentality is embedded in everything we do. We don't believe in reinventing the wheel, but in learning from past experiences and benchmarking successful practices wherever they may be found. We also believe in leveraging the deep expertise, talents, and resources of the private sector, academia, and civil society organizations. None of us has all of the answers, but when we come together, we can build communities back better.

ISD Services

  • Community Diagnostic Tools
  • Visioning
  • Planning and Strategy
  • Skills-based Volunteer Opportunities
  • Training and Workshops
  • Partnership Facilitation 
  • Case Work

Long-Term Recovery Useful Links

  • Center For Disaster Philanthropy - 
  • International Economic Development Council - 
  • National Voluntary Organizations Active In Disaster -
  • USCC -





“The future is here. It’s just not evenly distributed yet.”




The Institute for Sustainable Development was founded in the North Carolina Research Triangle in 2007 by a unique partnership of academic, business and philanthropic leaders, which included Duke University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, the Chapel Hill-Carrboro and Greater Durham Chambers of Commerce, and the Fenwick Foundation. The Institute has trained more than 200 chamber of commerce executives across the United States, and 160 small businesses and non-profits in twelve U.S. states. Now, serving as the not-for-profit arm of IO Sustainability, ISD builds on this legacy of bringing together business, academic, and other thought leaders to promote partnerships, policies, and projects that promote (a) community resilience and disaster recovery, and (b) long-term community transformation based on applied innovation and sustainable development principles.



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