Zurich’s Flood Resilience Alliance phase 2

What we focus on – pre-event resilience building

We focus on pre-event resilience building. As insurers, we know the impact that flooding causes. We also know that prevention is cost-effective and that every USD 1 invested in prevention saves on average USD 5 in future losses 1, 2, but still, nearly 87 percent of disaster-related aid spending goes into emergency response, reconstruction and rehabilitation, and only 13 percent toward reducing and managing risks before they became disasters3. But flood resilience cannot be enhanced by one stakeholder alone.

Zurich’s Flood Resilience Alliance started in 2013. Between 2013 and 2018 (phase 1), our multi-sector collaboration between the humanitarian sector, academia and Zurich’s risk experts has focused on shifting from the traditional emphasis on post-event recovery to pre-event resilience. More than 110 communities in nine countries with over 225,000 direct beneficiaries have benefited from our alliance programs. Our evidence-based approach - built through dozens of research papers published, and implemented in the community programs across the globe - illustrates the value of investing in flood resilience, and this will continue to be our vision through to 2023.

According to the ClimateWise Investing for Resilience report, 2016 saw natural hazards causing USD 175 billion worth of economic losses (of which floods are a major part); yet only USD 50 billion were insured. This USD 125 billion gap is due in part to the lack of evidence of “what works” and because there are few incentives and regulations to encourage investments into protection measures at all levels of society.

In July 2018, we launched the second phase of the Zurich Flood Resilience Alliance.

The first year largely focused on setting up the internal systems and structures to achieve our broader objectives. Combining investment in these systems and structures with leveraging Phase I successes is already leading to promising contributions to flood resilience policy and practice globally. This learning report presents what we have learned about best-practice working as an Alliance and what that set-up is allowing us to accomplish.

1Zurich Risk Nexus: Turning knowledge into action – processes and tools for increasing flood resilience, 2015.
2Zurich Flood resilience alliance White Paper: Making communities more flood resilient: The Role of cost-benefit analysis and other decision support tools in Disaster Risk Reduction. White Paper, Zurich Flood resilience alliance, 2014
3Kellett, J. & Caravani, A. 2013 (959 KB/PDF): ‘Financing disaster risk reduction: A 20-year story of international aid,’ ODI and the Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery at the World Bank, London/ Washington

Who we are – the nine organizations forming the Zurich flood resilience alliance

In 2013, we created a multi-organizational alliance to enhance community flood resilience, each member bringing complementary skills and expertise to link academic insights, humanitarian sector capabilities and risk management expertise to improve community resilience to floods.

This alliance is now comprised of nine members – Zurich Insurance Group working with the civil society and humanitarian organizations Concern Worldwide, the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), Mercy Corps, Plan International and Practical Action as well as research partners the International Institute for Applied Systems and Analysis (IIASA), the London School of Economics (LSE) and the Institute for Social and Environmental Transition-International (ISET). Funding for our alliance partners is provided by the Z Zurich Foundation.

How we work together – the alliance model is one of shared responsibility and full collaboration

To achieve large scale impact, learnings need to be turned into practical solutions and then used to inform large scale programs. Our alliance brings together specialists in each of these areas which will lead to improved community resilience towards flooding. This is a true collaboration. Rather than Zurich simply being a donor and providing the money for research to be conducted and community programs to be implemented in isolation, we work together through a set of work streams, each led by one alliance member organization. Coordination across the work streams ensures they don’t operate in silos. They are accountable to the alliance management team – senior representatives from all member organizations. The work streams are organized as follows:


Our objective is that policy at global, national or sub-national level is improved and that the overall and relative investment into pre-event resilience building is increased. We want wording to include resilience-building aspects and aim to mainstream risk-informed decision-making in development.


We share our expertise and knowledge internally across all alliance members and externally through our external-facing activities and a dedicated learning sharing portal. The portal is currently available in three languages

Our tools and manuals are publically available for download, including an explanation of our Resilience Measurement Framework and our Post Event Review Capability (PERC). Our knowledge gained from experience from the community programs helps inform advocacy messages.

Community programs

Most of the impact of flood events are felt most severely at the community level. This is also where we can have a direct impact. We work with flood exposed and vulnerable communities around the world. Our community programs will provide the evidence of what works and why, supporting our other work streams.

To share knowledge about interventions that work at community program level, the solutions finder on the portal is an advanced search with clever filters to help find a solution.

Resilience measurement (FRMC)

Measuring the change that resilience building efforts have is key for demonstrating impact in communities. The FRMC is the Alliance’s framework for measuring community flood resilience. As there was no framework to measure resilience, we developed our own.

Impact measurement

Measuring outcomes and impacts and therefore long-term change, as opposed to activities and outputs, is challenging.

Through our FRMC, we have taken a first approach at measuring resilience. We have already seen positive resilience trends in the first phase of our program.

We aim to take our impact measurement to the next level and are working on a fully integrated measurement, evaluation and learning framework focused on reporting change across all alliance members.


Research and evidence are important aspects to underpin our practical efforts. Leading research organizations are supporting us with our measurement validation, the applicability of our work for a variety of urban-rural and Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) developing contexts globally, and provide us with research support in our community, knowledge and advocacy work streams.


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