This Risk-Taker Says Silos Are the Enemy of Urban Resilience
17 Jun 2015
Source: Next City
Next City isn’t just a news website, we are a nonprofit organization with a mission to inspire social, economic and environmental change in cities. Part of how we do that is by connecting our readers to the interesting people who are part of our Next City Network and holding an annual Vanguard conference bringing together top young urban leaders. This week’s profile is of Charles Rath, a member of our 2015 Vanguard class.
Name: Charles R. Rath
Current Occupation: President & CEO, Resilient Solutions 21
Hometown: Harrisburg, Illinois
Current City: Albuquerque
Twitter Tag: @rath_resilience
I drink: Coffee in the morning … and occasionally a nice Manhattan at night
I am an: Extrovert
I get to work by: i3, BMW’s electric car
The area I grew up in is: A struggling little coal-mining town in rural Illinois. Best people in the world. I’m a city guy now though.
What is your favorite city and why? Albuquerque, New Mexico. The weather in the high desert is gorgeous. The people are open-minded and peaceful — the cultural influence from Native Americans is profound. Viewing the watermelon-colored Sandia Mountains at sunset will change your life. You can get anywhere in the city in 20 minutes.
What do you do when you are not working? I love airplanes. I can’t get enough of new places and learning from people that are different than me. There’s so much cool stuff going on in the world. Right now, real people are creating ideas that transcend boundaries and will change our lives. Crazy-brilliant people are doing big things. In fact, I had the honor of meeting many of them during Next City’s Vanguard Conference in Reno. Don’t think for a second that all innovation starts within your country. Our world is connected; people are struggling with many of the same things. I want to know what works.
What do you like most about your current job? My company gives me the flexibility to be imaginative and take risks. To solve our toughest challenges, we need off-the-wall ideas, passion and the willingness to shake things up.
What is the coolest project you worked on? I started a new program at Sandia National Laboratories that supports Rockefeller Foundation’s 100 Resilient Cities Challenge. I met with leaders from all over the world … India, Thailand, Australia, Peru, and several major cities within the U.S. and Canada. I learned so much. It was a life-changing experience.
What is the biggest challenge facing cities today? We often see cities treating symptoms, not root causes. This is an outdated way of thinking … both inefficient and counterproductive. Silos are the enemy. Traditional organizational structures in cities usually result in myopic solutions and suffocate innovation. We’ve learned that issues related to the economy, education, infrastructure, health, crime, community cohesion and resilience are interwoven. The good news is that breakthroughs in systems thinking and technology are allowing us to understand how to make these connections work in our favor. We’re creating new and imaginative solutions that work. It’s incredible.
What makes a successful leader? Vision for something bigger than ourselves. Compassion for people. Desire to step up when things get tough. Humility.
What’s the best professional advice you have received? Hire well and manage less. That advice has served me well. I love watching people destroy mental roadblocks and chase dreams.
What career advice would you give an emerging urban leader? Be humble, be respectful, be a team player, and be compassionate. But most of all, never be afraid to rock the boat.