Since the turn of the millennium, pandemics, heat waves, wildfires, floods, cyberattacks, supply chain interruptions, and other crises have deeply stressed governments, communities, businesses, and individuals around the world.

Contributing Authors: Rob Handfield, Bank of America University Distinguished Professor of Operations and Supply Chain Management, North Carolina State University and Tony Scott, President and CEO, Intrusion, Inc.

This cascade of catastrophic events raises fundamental questions about how governments can anticipate, prepare for, and respond to these and other shocks yet to come.

Shocks transcend geographic, jurisdictional, political, and organizational boundaries. Furthermore, adaptation, preparation, and response to shock events cannot be the responsibility of a single sector, program, agency, or level of government. Instead, the key to success—and the root cause of many failures— lies within the capabilities of individual network participants and the strength of the network before, during, and after an upheaval. Simply put, complex problems cannot be solved in silos.

What practical steps can governments take in the near term to better prepare for and respond to future shocks? IBM, working through the IBM Institute for Business Value (IBV), the IBM Center for The Business of Government (the IBM Center), and in partnership with the National Academy of Public Administration (the Academy), launched an initiative to help governments identify core capabilities critical to building resilience. The initiative also addressed priorities included in the “Grand Challenges for Public Administration” put forth by the Academy.

Global sessions were combined with regional and local sessions through partners including the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), the Center for American Studies (CSA), and the American Chamber of Commerce in the Netherlands (AmCham).

The partners convened a series of international roundtable discussions with global leaders from the public, private, academic, and nonprofit sectors to capture lessons across five key domain areas: emergency preparedness and response, cybersecurity, supply chain, climate sustainability, and workforce development. Insights from the roundtables identified valuable strategies and solutions to drive governmental action. A roundtable on a sixth domain, international collaboration, is scheduled for 2024 and will be reported on separately. To learn more about the initiative, read the blog, ‘Preparing Governments for Future Shocks’ or listen to the podcast with Michael J. Keegan, IBM Center for The Business of Government.

Based on the common themes that emerged from the roundtable discussions, this compendium report lays out a roadmap of eight imperatives—a guide that governments at all levels can use to anticipate, prepare for, and respond to shocks of virtually any origin. These imperatives and related practices do not constitute an exhaustive list. Instead, they reflect expert insights presented in a roundtable discussion context. Finally, this compendium does not substitute for individual roundtable reports that provide more details and domain-specific recommendations.