Climate change & online community engagement: 10 examples, 5 countries

Last updated: 11-03-2019

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Climate change & online community engagement: 10 examples, 5 countries

We do most of our community engagement work with local government organizations. A challenge that keeps coming up is how we meaningfully make a contribution of the fight against climate change at a local level.

This is a difficult area for engagement on two levels:

I think these issues are both best dealt with by positive framing of the issue. 'How can we contribute to a solution?' 'How can we act locally to minimize our impact?' Responding to these statements make it hard to troll, argue or present false narratives and also bring the big messy global problem to a more manageable local level.

Here are some great examples of this work in action (click the links to see the projects):

Cheshire West and Chester in the UK have set the tone beautifully with a video highlighting the issue and how local action can make a difference. They are then asking the community for ideas on what the Council can do and also inviting questions to the cabinet. There are information sources available and although this (at the time of writing) is a relatively young engagement, the community is responding and doing so in a positive way.

Staying in the UK, the City of Kingston is holding a citizens assembly on the issue of improving air quality. While not directly addressing climate change there are obvious connections. I like the way the City is acknowledging that they cannot solve the whole problem but have a part to play and also the open ideation process collecting ideas online ahead of the assembly.

Mississauga in Canada are taking a long term approach to this with a site packed with information resources and events in the lead up to the release of their climate action plan. The open QandA tool allows the community to ask their questions and it's interesting to note that many of the questions are actually ideas about what the city can do or they reflect the need people feel to be doing something themselves.

Staying in Canada, the City of Oshawaran a project some years ago about energy conservation. I will always remember this one because of the way people offered up stories about steps they had taken to conserve energy which were immensely practical and down to earth. This is another approach to engaging the community on Climate Change. Asking about what individuals will do. Halifax have been doing something along these lines using the Ideas tool rather than stories.

I've been hoping we could eventually move toward community pledges that we attempt to quantify towards some sort of overall target.

In the USA, the City of Longmont are asking the community to sign up to a Climate Emergency Taskforce and to share tips on how individuals can make a difference. This is a relatively new project and it will be interesting to watch it evolve. Meanwhile in San Mateo California they have dedicated an entire site to getting the community 'climate ready'.

Next to Australia, where theNoosa Shire Councilran a remarkably positive discussion forum on aspects of their carbon reduction plan - proving that open discussion on this issue can, in fact, be constructive and positive. Meanwhile Wollongong got some great feedback from the community when asked for ideas on how to reduce emissions.

Finally to New Zealand where this quite beautiful looking site from Western Bay of Plenty Regional Council engaged the community around the 'changing tides'. The discussion around coastal erosion has clear relevance to rising sea levels but focuses directly on a very practical aspect of managing the changes coastal areas are going to experience.


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