When People’s Climate Innovation Center (Climate Innovation) co-launched the National Association of Climate Resilience Planners’ (NACRP) 2023 Facilitative Leadership Certification, we knew grassroots organizers were routinely on the margins of local planning efforts, mobilizing their communities to get involved in local planning or starting their own community priority-setting. I never imagined how often this organizing is a labor of love, under-resourced if resourced at all, and often led by community members volunteering their time or trying to juggle facilitation as another part of their main job.
Community-driven planning should be the norm. The outcomes for local health, wealth, ecological and economic resilience are markedly better and lasting when a community leads on assessing its own problems and designing its own solutions. We also know that communities leading in authentic partnership with local government are the determiner of public funding being leveraged for community solutions– see the recent report Climate Innovation released in collaboration with Emerald Cities Collaborative and SPARCC, which highlights the ingredients needed for communities to access federal infrastructure dollars. In short, it takes sustained resources to move community-driven planning from the margins, both economically and politically, to become mainstream where it belongs.
I recently organized an NACRP facilitators certification session on resourcing community-driven planning in response to facilitators asking about how to support the work and funding their role as facilitative leaders. Many have stories of the challenges of being seen as a “professional” facilitator or having their expertise and knowledge of the community valued. The dichotomy of community members organizing and intervening in public planning processes being seen as “volunteers” but not considered “professionals” or “experts” is problematic. Often, city agencies will release a competitive request for proposals or contract an outside firm to lead a community engagement process, overlooking the community groups already leading local organizing, which forces local community members to compete with large public relations firms for paid outreach and facilitation gigs in their own communities– if they are even made aware of the opportunity to apply. This is a repeated insult to community members who dedicate their time to representing and advocating for the interests of their communities without compensation.
When asked about federal, state or local funding for this type of planning it was not easy to come up with a list of sources; in fact, the pool of public funding dedicated to community-led planning of any scale is so limited that communities find they cannot compete for the limited notices of funding, which generally only fund up to 10 projects nationally. To better respond to the request for more funding opportunities, we have begun to track and share funding opportunities with the NACRP network, as well as opportunities to become a technical assistance provider to city and state governments. Surprisingly, the hardest opportunities to track are philanthropic programs that support community-driven planning in a sustained way (as opposed to specific pre-project development phases of a larger grant). Obviously, all funding sources need to evolve to include, even require, that public benefit projects include community-driven planning as part of the process and budget for local community participation in the program design early on in the process.
In an effort to support community-driven planning facilitators to be able to launch, complete, or evaluate and sustain their planning efforts, we are launching a NACRP Fund in 2024 governed by and for NACRP members. The vision of the Fund is to help cultivate local facilitation capacity to ensure rootedness and accountability to frontline communities, as opposed to bringing in outside facilitators or corporate firms. To continue building the field of practice of community-driven planning and evolving tools and approaches, we need more on-the-ground examples and models across the country. This Fund will seed and raise the visibility of those emergent efforts, and contribute to the dissemination of community-led “people plans,” facilitative leadership, and community power-building. These unrestricted funds to NACRP members cannot replace the shift in governance and resourcing needed to build civic infrastructure for community participation in decision-making but it’s one more tool in the climate resilience planning and power-building toolbox for asserting community priorities toward better outcomes for all.
1. Reference to the “Shifts in Governance to Support Lasting Solutions” chapter of the Community-Driven Climate Resilience Planning Framework, NACRP 2017.
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