Community engagement and participation are powerful factors in the success of a climate action plan. Before planning began, a community engagement plan was developed in partnership with stakeholders, nonprofit organizations and community volunteers. The plan included strategies focused on providing information and education as well as ways for members of the community to take part in the process from beginning to end.
The rise of the COVID-19 pandemic forced necessary changes to many aspects of the engagement plan. For instance, workshops and in-person presentations and discussions in the community were transitioned to an online format. While an online-only format was challenging in many ways, there were also many benefits. The online format allowed staff to engage many more people. And it provided flexibility for members of the community to be able to participate on their own time. Below is a snapshot of the primary ways people were engaged in this process
The Climate Action KC coalition hosted its first Climate Action Summit at Johnson County Community College in Overland Park, Kansas. About 485 people attended the full-day event and 725 were on hand for the afternoon keynote session, which was open to the public. The summit focused on creating awareness of the impact of climate change in the region and the importance of addressing it through regional collaboration. The summit featured a Presentation by Principal Emeritus of BNIM, Bob Berkebile; as well as remarks by U.S. Representatives Sharice Davids and Emanuel Cleaver II; a discussion with Kansas City, Missouri, Mayor Quinton Lucas; and a keynote address by environmentalist and author Paul Hawken.
MARC hosted a two-day workshop for stakeholders to kick off the process to develop a regional Climate Action Plan, including a Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Inventory and Climate Risk and Vulnerability Assessment (CRVA). This workshop invited stakeholders from various sectors to learn and ask questions about the technical elements and requirements of the GHG Inventory and CRVA. Feedback from participants was also collected to inform elements of the CRVA, such as the hazard impact on sectors, assets and services.
Climate Action KC and MARC unveiled the new Climate Action Playbook at a public event where over 250 people attended. In addition to the unveiling of this playbook, the Climate Action Plan process was launched with an exercise using interactive polling. Participants were asked which actions in each section of the playbook (buildings and cities, food, land use, etc.) they would give the most priority. They were also asked what one climate resilience action they would fund if they had $5 million.
With so much interest in the planning process, participants were also asked to fill out a survey showing their interest and expertise within several identified sectors or areas of work. The intent was to begin building out networks within each of these areas to support the planning process and implementation of the final plan.
With the Greenhouse Gas Inventory and Climate Risk and Vulnerability Assessment completed, MARC and Climate Action KC, in partnership with the GCoM, held a webinar to share the findings from both efforts. Over 250 people attended the webinar and a video recording was made available on YouTube for those who could not attend. A second similar webinar was presented to members of the Greater Kansas
City Chamber of Commerce
A large community workshop was planned for late March but was canceled due to COVID-19 stay-at-home orders in Kansas City, Mo. Continuing to conduct community engagement was critical and so workshop activities transitioned to an online format.
A multi-week engagement series using the mobile-friendly MindMixer platform was planned to allow more time and flexibility for interested individuals to interact with the platform.
Each week of the engagement focused on a different topic area:
- Week 1: Resilience
- Week 2: Transportation & Land Use
- Week 3: Food & Land
- Week 4: Built Environment
- Week 5: Energy & Industry
- Week 6 & 7: Priorities Week
Within each week, the online community of over 275 active participants was asked questions and given surveys and polls that would help generate new ideas for climate actions and indicate priorities.
There were 56 topics in total. The weeks were moderated by volunteer experts in each of the topic areas. Once the engagement concluded, all of the ideas and priorities were synthesized for review and discussion by a set of work groups focused around each topic area.
Sector work groups were formed and met several times to help refine and develop mitigation and adaptation goals and strategies for the plan. The work groups were also charged with helping to identify important linkages across sector areas—where a strategy in one sector also provides mitigation and/or adaptation benefits in another sector.
This exercise helped to further focus in on the strongest strategies to include in the plan. There were six work groups covering the areas of transportation and land use, public health, food systems and green infrastructure, energy and buildings, innovation and finance, and waste.
MARC held 11 one-hour online community discussions to hear feedback from community members on the goals and strategies in the action plan. The strategies, along with an explainer video, was posted online for the public to review.
Community members were invited to choose one of the discussion times that best worked with their schedules. Organizations or individuals interested in providing feedback were able to request special meetings as needed or send feedback via email to staff. The community sessions had over 70 participants.
Climate Conversations was a series of 14 short video interviews that was produced and promoted during the first phase of community engagement, aligning with each weekly topic to provide education and generate interest. Each interview hosted experts and community leaders who share about the work they are involved in and what their climate action priorities are.
All Climate Conversations interviews can be found
Engagement of vulnerable communities
There are many organizations in the region that took part in the engagement process that directly serve vulnerable communities. Their voices were extremely powerful in conversations about equity and climate justice and how the plan should reflect these tenets. MARC and the Climate Action KC Equity Committee held several meetings with additional organizations, and this work will be continued with a focus on supporting leadership-building in the communities that are most vulnerable to the impact of a changing climate.
Local government leadership engagement
Climate Action KC formed a youth committee to provide a platform for young leaders to connect to regional climate action planning and explore ways to translate that action within a school setting. Youth from schools across the region took part in this committee and offered hopes and ideas for the plan. The committee worked through a process to prioritize actions that they would like to pursue as a group as well as ways to coordinate and connect schools across the region in these efforts.
Local government leadership engagement
Engaging local government leaders, including elected officials, city and county management, and staff, in discussions about climate resilience is critical to the implementation of the plan. While many local government leaders took part in all phases of engagement during the plan’s development, targeted efforts were made to bring in as much local leadership into the conversation as possible. A natural point of interaction lies in the myriad of MARC committees. Many presentations were made over the course of nearly two years to these committees, including the MARC Board of Directors, Air Quality Forum, Total Transportation Policy Committee, Sustainable Places Policy Committee, Regional Transit Coordinating Council, Planners’ Roundtable, Managers’ Roundtable and many more. In many cases, these committees posed questions about coordination on climate issues at the city and county level, and provided a sounding board for some of the boldest ideas in the plan.