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Resilience Dialogues Mid-Year Review

By Melissa Goodwin

Communities across the United States – and globally – are negatively affected by climate change. As these impacts grow in the future, communities must make plans and decisions to reduce their vulnerability. If done well, this planning makes a community not only less vulnerable to climate impacts, but also more resilient. Across the federal government, NGO, private sector and climate services community at large, there is more than enough scientific information, data and tools to facilitate resilience. However, many local communities are uncertain how to begin, what available information means for them (and whether it’s even applicable to their situation), and where to turn for trustworthy advice.

Thriving Earth Exchange launched the Resilience Dialogues in 2016 in partnership with the U.S. Global Change Research Program (USGCRP) and White House Office of Science and Technology Policy to address this need. In the time since, it has served 18 communities and engaged approximately 120 community leaders and more than 150 climate and resilience practitioners in facilitated, online conversations. Grounded in local priorities and climate impacts, these conversations are oriented toward identifying next steps and supporting resources to enhance community resilience.

What’s New in 2018?

The program has grown and evolved through every iteration of Community Dialogues (cohorts of 3-6 communities who go through the Resilience Dialogues simultaneously), and 2018 has been no exception. The 2018 evolution of the Resilience Dialogue has seen changes in leadership, technology and the way we engage with communities:

  • Leadership. In December 2017, we announced new leadership for the Resilience Dialogues: the American Society of Adaptation Professionals (ASAP) joined USGCRP as co-lead of the program. As a nationally-recognized networking, curating and convening power, ASAP brings deep experience with the adaptation field of practice and the potential for new, innovative partnerships. Despite stepping back from a formal leadership role, Thriving Earth Exchange has continued to play a key role in the strategic development and implementation of the Resilience Dialogues.
  • Technology. In 2018, Community dialogues took place on AGU Connect for the first time. User experience and feedback resulting from the previous platform had indicated a need for a more streamlined and reliable discussion space. The new platform made engagement simpler (for example, it allowed mobile access and the ability to tag users and reply directly from email), enabling participants to maximize time spent engaging substantively in their respective dialogues.
  • “Bridge Support” for Communities after the Resilience Dialogues. In 2018, Resilience Dialogues launched Bridge Support opportunities for alumni communities. Bridge Support is a stepping stone from dialogue to action. Alumni communities are encouraged to take advantage of Bridge Support after they have engaged their broader community on the recommendations outlined in their dialogues synthesis report (for example, via a community meeting) and feel ready to prepare for or act on one or more of those recommendations. Bridge Support currently consists of two options:
    • Capacity building brainstorm: A two-hour facilitated conference call with a Community Leader and 2-3 subject matter experts. Participants discuss capacity-related challenges for implementing the priorities identified in their Community Dialogue.
    • Thriving Earth Exchange Project: A 6-18-month collaboration between a volunteer scientist and the community to jumpstart a community resilience priority identified within their Community Dialogue.

What Communities Has Resilience Dialogues Served in 2018 So Far?

Three communities participated in the most recent round of dialogues in June 2018: Anchorage, Alaska; Carlisle, Penn.; and Nashua, N.H.

  • Community leaders from Anchorage discussed how to improve engagement with different departments in the municipal government, as well as how to access climate information and data that is relevant to local decision making. Priority next steps identified include improving resilience metrics, highlighting co-benefits of resilience planning to incentivize implementation across city-departments, cross-training employees, developing and tracking local climate indicators, and organizing a workshop for scenario development.
  • Community leaders from Carlisle considered the need for a plan to address extreme rainfall and flooding, incorporating public health impacts of climate change into the city’s hazard mitigation plan, and a communication system for emergencies. Priority next steps identified include incorporating projected climate change into stormwater infrastructure planning, pursuing improvements to emergency planning, and implementing a public education campaign to raise awareness of climate risks and promote actions to increase resilience.
  • Community leaders from Nashua explored enhancing cross-departmental planning and coordination on resilience, locally-relevant and actionable climate information, and multi-stakeholder engagement. Priority next steps identified include a city staff educational/visioning workshop, a directive to prioritize resilience, and engaging with residents to crowdsource information on flood events in the community.

What’s Next for Resilience Dialogues?

  • The Resilience Dialogues is currently recruiting network and service partners to engage with staff to develop and implement the Resilience Dialogues and use it to support communities within their networks. The insights, priorities and reach of partner organizations will support the Resilience Dialogues’ efforts to grow and support more communities as they begin their resilience journey.
  • A new cohort of three communities will participate in the Resilience Dialogues this fall (October-November). Climate scientists and resilience practitioners interested in volunteering with the program are invited to learn more about Resilience Dialogues by visiting our website and reading about the subject matter expert (SME) role Apply to volunteer by filling out this google form and email Rachel Jacobson at [email protected] with any questions.
  • The first Resilience Dialogues Community Meeting will take place on Wednesday, August 29 at the California Adaptation Forum. This will be an opportunity for past and prospective Resilience Dialogues participants to connect and learn from one another. Alumni communities will share how they’re building on their Resilience Dialogues experience and meeting participants will engage in a facilitated, outcome-oriented conversation about enhancing local community capacity for building climate resilience. Anyone interested in attending in-person or online can contact [email protected] for more information.


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