Engaging all residents - especially the most impacted - in a solutions-based approach to addressing climate change
Climate change affects everyone and effective adaptation planning requires the input from a wide spectrum of community members. Inclusive planning emphasizes the participation of all, especially those who are most impacted by climate hazards and those who have historically been left out of decision-making processes.
Low-income people, communities of color, elders, children and youth, immigrants, Indigenous people and people with disabilities face enhanced climate risks and yet are often under-represented in community planning. Explore Neighborhoods at Risk to better understand vulnerabilities in your community.
Inclusive planning encourages effective engagement
- An inclusive process begins with project design.1 Identify the neighborhoods and residents most impacted by climate change, including traditionally marginalized groups, and tailor your engagement strategy to reflect their needs and interests.
- Take steps to ensure that ample time and financial resources will be devoted to the inclusive planning process.
- Be patient and process oriented (vs. goal oriented).
- Cultivate mutually-beneficial partnerships with community-based organizations2 that are trusted by your target audience, before the launch of your project.
- Hire community organizers from the neighborhoods you seek to engage as leaders in the resilience planning process.
- Approach climate adaptation planning from a perspective of building a better future, rather than simply responding to risks.
- Create an outreach plan3 that uses multiple platforms to reach as much of the community as possible, including social media, emails, websites, online surveys and mailings to residents. Post printed materials in public spaces and advertise in publications read by your target audiences.
- Use best practices4 to engage historically under-represented populations.
- Create opportunities for ongoing dialogue and collaboration.
- Build long-term relationships to pursue projects that have tangible community benefits.
- As the process advances, be mindful of how your efforts may be harming the community and exacerbating inequities through processes such as green gentrification. Ground your efforts in building equitable, intersectional approaches in partnership with the community.
When creating a plan, assess the impacts of resilience actions5 on traditionally marginalized groups.
Tips for hosting more inclusive events
Planning & Outreach
- Partner with community organizations to plan and co-host meetings and events.
- Develop culturally appropriate outreach materials that will resonate with your audience and advertise through trusted media.
- Request feedback from member(s) of the target audience on the effectiveness of meeting plans and outreach materials.
- Offer meetings at a time of day and day of week that is most convenient for audiences, or offer in conjunction with existing community events.
- Offer the workshops at easily accessible and trusted locations, such as places of worship or community centers.
- Provide background information and educational materials to ensure all participants are informed about the project.
Hosting & Facilitating
- Employ a peer-to-peer, rather than “expert lecturer” approach and value participants’ knowledge, concerns and opinions. This includes being aware of power dynamics in a room (such as who is speaking most and who feels comfortable contributing), and do your best to address these hierarchies.
- Commit to learning and listening more than you talk.
- Be flexible and alter meeting plans and processes if they’re not effective for participants.
- Provide interpretation and/or translation services as appropriate.
- Provide food and beverages at meetings.
- Provide childcare and offer travel stipends to meeting participants.
- Consider methods to make meetings effective for individuals with disabilities, such as assuring venue is accessible, providing American Sign Language interpretation and providing meeting attendees with information in advance on where to submit accommodation requests.
- Follow up after meetings to say thanks, give progress reports and provide opportunities for ongoing input.
Keep on Learning!
- Take this self-guided, easy-to-use Whole Community Coastal Climate Resilience Planning training offered by the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection.
- Review Sustainable Connecticut’s Equity Toolkit for practical advice and guidance.
- Learn the six core values that emphasize the importance of inclusion and equity in the organizing process in the Jemez Principles for Democratic Organization fact sheet (PDF).
- Check out the National Association of Climate Resilience Planner’s Community Driven Climate Resilience Planning Framework and the Urban Sustainability Director’s Network’s Guide to Equitable, Community-Driven Climate Preparedness Planning
- Learn from your peers by reading the Climate Action Through Equity case study produced by the City of Portland, Oregon.
- Avoid community displacement and gentrification associated with green infrastructure projects by following the guidelines in the Greening in Place toolkit.
1Participatory Processes: A Checklist for Resilience Planners (Jacques Cousteau National Estuarine Research Reserve’s Getting to Resilience)
2Community Landscape Template (Institute for Local Government’s TIERS Public Engagement Framework)
3Outreach Template (Institute for Local Government’s TIERS Public Engagement Framework)
4Best Practices for Meaningful Community Engagement (Groundwork USA)
5Assessing Your Plan’s Impact on Socially Vulnerable Populations (Jacques Cousteau National Estuarine Research Reserve’s Getting to Resilience)