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10 years of the Zurich Flood Resilience Alliance

By Practical Action On 12.01.2024 ResilienceBlog

A man smiling in a red shirt, representing the Zurich Flood Resilience Alliance's 10 years of impactful work.As we celebrate 10 years of the Zurich Flood Resilience Alliance, we talk with David Nash, Head of Adapting to Climate Change at Z Zurich Foundation about the Alliance’s successes so far, and Practical Action’s role in it.

For supporters who aren’t familiar with the Alliance, can you explain what it is?

The Zurich Flood Resilience Alliance is a partnership of nine organisations, including Practical Action. We work together to support vulnerable communities around the world in building their resilience to flooding.

What is the secret of the Alliance’s success?

Building a successful partnership relies on two things: a shared purpose, and trust. The Alliance came together around the aim that no-one, wherever they are in the world, would be negatively affected by floods. Our willingness to learn from each other and contribute to a collective goal is the foundation of the trust between us. In my role in the Z Zurich Foundation, it’s not always easy to accommodate nine different organisations, but this willingness means we seek solutions and compromises that work for us all. By coming together, we create more than the sum of our parts.

What does Practical Action bring specifically to the mix?

Practical Action is one of several partners in the Alliance that work directly with communities. One of their greatest strengths is the deep knowledge and experience they have of developing early warning systems. This is particularly evident in their successes in Nepal and Peru. However, this is only part of Practical Action’s contribution. They have also been instrumental in developing the way learnings from across all the Alliance’s work are collated and shared with the wider world, so the benefits impact many more people than we could ever work with directly.

A woman holding a water bottle in front of a house, demonstrating resilience against potential floods.

A volunteer shows one of the manual rain gauges used by communities in the Zurich Flood Resilience Alliance projects. Photo taken by Giorgio Madueño.

In the ten years since the Alliance began, what have been its most important successes?

Together, we’ve helped around 1.1 million people improve their lives. One clear example of this has been in Peru. We’ve developed a new and improved approach to early warning systems centred around community-gathered data. This approach has been so successful that the local weather service has adopted it in their own nationwide approaches to early warning systems. Following this, Practical Action helped encourage the government of Peru to invest significantly in flood resilience. Already, 457,000 people in Peru are benefitting from the early warning systems. The new investment is expected to improve the lives of over 9.3 million people.

Looking forward, what are the Alliance’s ambitions and goals for the future?

The next stage of working together is, in part, inspired by our work in Peru – this idea of influencing wider systems, to scale our impact. Our plan is to expand the number of people we are working with massively over the next 12 years and create a real step-change in global resilience. The plan is ambitious, but built on a very solid foundation.

What’s the most important thing you’d like Practical Action supporters to know about the Alliance?

The key thing to remember about the Alliance is that it embodies the idea that we can achieve more together than we ever can alone. The spirit of collaboration is a very human trait and one that has helped humans be successful over millennia – and it is one that helps us aim high. In that spirit, I want to say a big thank you to Practical Action supporters for helping make this work possible. You are an essential part of the Alliance!