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A full-day workshop!? No one has that kind of time!

We hear you. Everyone is busy, especially local governments who are still working through the lingering effects of a global pandemic and increasingly limited resources. And of course the pace and scale of climate change continues to accelerate, creating extra pressure for action. So why do we ask local leaders to commit a full day for each of two workshops in our Whole Community Resilience framework?

There are 4 important reasons we recommend your workshops be 6-7 hours long each (and yes, that includes lunch!):

  1. Climate change is complex
  2. Deciding what to do about climate change is also complex
  3. Identifying vulnerabilities is scary (but being together helps!)
  4. The workshop is just the beginning of the work

Climate change is complex

Our process asks communities to first dive into the science of climate change to understand their past and future climate trends. This is a critically important step because you need to know what, exactly, you will be planning for. Is it extreme heat? Flooding? Erosion? Wildfire? Extreme storms? Inconsistent precipitation? Reduced snowpack? Each of these can affect communities differently.

It is important that workshop participants have the same understanding of what climate impacts to expect as they work through the day. Building time in the vulnerability assessment workshop to review this is critical for ensuring that each breakout group develops information that is consistent with each other. 

Deciding what to do about climate change is also complex

Similarly, the effect climate change has on our communities is varied and complex. The impacts of climate change touch every aspect of our lives, from the structures we rely on for housing, work, and transportation, to physical and mental health, to cultural resources and community identity. Untangling this web of impacts takes time. As does figuring out what to do about it. 

The majority of each workshop day is spent in breakout groups, with participants working together to identify who and what is at risk in their community (the vulnerability assessment workshop) and what strategies and potential actions could address those risks (the strategy development workshop). These are active sessions, with many pages of notes on flip chart paper lining the walls – and sometimes the tables! 

Identifying vulnerabilities is scary (but being together helps!)

In the first workshop, we ask participants to spend the day thinking of all the ways climate change threatens their community. It is hard, scary, and frustrating work. We know that it is asking a lot for people to stay in these conversations and keep working. Knowing that there is a group of people in the same room, committed to also doing this hard work makes it a bit easier. 

We also make sure to structure our workshops so that each day ends on a positive note with an emphasis on action and forward motion. Participants line up and move around the room, they make paper airplanes, and toss a ball of yarn.  Yes, we know that when pressed to cut time some may be tempted to remove these “frivolous” elements, but these activities are strategically designed to solidify the community building that happens during the day. 

The workshop is just the beginning of the work

The mix of participants at both workshops should (ideally) represent all the major community systems and sectors. There should be people who manage community systems like wastewater, electric, transportation, economic development, health care, social services, etc. And there should be people who experience these systems as part of their daily lives, such as low-income residents, residents with chronic health issues, residents with visual, auditory, and/or physical limitations, parents, elders, youth, workforce employees, residents from major cultural communities, residents from immigrant communities, racially diverse, etc. The workshops are designed to bring these people together to work towards a common cause. 

These day-long workshops are often the first opportunity many participants have to meet each other. And they lay the groundwork for an ongoing relationship, which will be necessary as the community moves into the implementation phase. The truth is that no one department or organization can do it all. Each component of a community needs to be involved in building climate resilience, and these workshops are just the start. Spending a full day together helps solidify these relationships.