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Key Components of Whole Community Adaptation

There is a transition afoot – a movement to build more resilient communities. Different groups use different terms, such as sustainable, equitable, and thriving, but the premise is the same – we can boost the capacity of our communities to withstand and thrive in the face of a multitude of stressors, including climate change. Resilience is the ability to anticipate risk, reduce the impact, and bounce back after disruption.

Whole Community resilience requires that all sectors and systems within a community are enhanced and supported, rather than shifting the risk from one sector to another, or to future generations.

Our current decision making structures assume a relatively stationary climate. But as climate changes, these same structures may exacerbate the impacts, rather than reducing them. For example, if each city department or community group responds to the changes without consulting with one another, there will be conflict, redundancy, and wasted resources down the road.

The complex, all-encompassing nature of climate change means that we need a new approach to develop long lasting and collaborative solutions. Whole Community adaptation is a holistic approach to climate change preparedness that addresses impacts across a community in ways that are cost effective and create multiple community benefits. Whole Community resilience can be achieved using a variety of methods as long as the following three primary components are included:

Multi-stakeholder Engagement

Get people involved. Each community has different groups of people who will be impacted in different ways by changing conditions. Each group, including many non-traditional partners, needs to be engaged in order to explore and address their specific vulnerabilities to climate change and other stressors.

Cross-sector Strategy Development

Bring diverse community sectors together to assess vulnerabilities and develop strategies. By developing strategies that work across different sectors, you will create co-benefits, save resources, and create overall community resilience.

Learning and Improvement over Time

Monitor, reassess, and be ready to change course, as needed. Across the country, community leaders are grappling with new challenges. Their innovations play a critically important role in our collective ability to build resilience. Some of those innovations will work and some will not. What is important is that local leaders make smart and transparent decisions, learn from new information, and remain flexible.

By taking a Whole Community approach, communities can develop strategies that reflect local values and address changing conditions while:

  • addressing existing community stressors
  • restoring and maintaining ecosystem function
  • creating benefits across multiple sectors
  • spurring community support for emissions reductions
  • preventing future resource conflicts
  • saving money over time

To learn more about Whole Community adaptation,read our recently published paper on the topic. Feel free to contact us for a reprint if you would like the full article.

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Geos Institute