By Carolyn Yvellez and Michael McCormick
The concept of resilience has gained popularity in the last year as we begin to recover from compounding crises, including the COVID-19 pandemic, the murder of George Floyd and killing of many others at the hands of police, and the worst wildfire season on record in California. Resilience has historically been defined as the ability to return to normal after a singular disrupting event. However, in this day and age, resilience has taken a new form, and “normal” is harder to define. To effectively respond to these complex yet interrelated crises, this last year has made clear the need to fundamentally shift how we build the core capacity of our communities to respond to acute shocks and long term stress. It is in this context that Farallon Strategies was founded to support a transformation in our communities and regions needed to meet these challenges and leverage the moment to support true systems change.
Of course, the practice of resilience is not new, especially for low-income communities of color who know no other way but to continuously adapt to hardships and barriers brought about by perpetrated discrimination and institutional racism. The climate adaptation and resilience field, however, is relatively new. It has occupied a niche, but burgeoning space within the urban planning field--planning being the de facto process through which states, regional collaboratives, and local governments opted to address climate impacts. But as it gains popularity and importance, it is worth reflecting on the history and evolution of the planning field, identifying its shortfalls, and ultimately reimagine what the practice of resilience should be moving forward to bring about the transformative change our communities need.
Climate adaptation and resilience plans too often do not reflect or address the needs of frontline communities. Traditional planning processes often feature a top-down approach to community engagement. In many instances, draft plans are written by the time the community has an opportunity to engage and provide feedback. This challenging dynamic can be destructive to building trust in communities that have already experienced first hand the consequences of planning without community consent. It is time to support a paradigm shift around climate resilience planning to center community priorities by empowering frontline communities to not only participate in, but lead decision-making processes to support the transition from incremental progress to transformational change.
In order to facilitate this shift in climate resiliency planning, practitioners must first acknowledge, as many already already have, the discriminatory history of planning, and its contribution to many of the challenges communities face throughout California. The racist legacy of land dispossessing, redlining, and housing discimination has directly contributed to the heightened vulnerability of low income, communities of color to the impacts of climate change. Previously dispossessed communities face dire climate-warming impacts and redlined communities, to this day, have fewer trees and higher concentrations of impervious pavement (concrete/asphalt) compared to non-redlined communities. And yet, the practice of planning, quite ironically, has assumed the responsibility of (re)building resilient communities in the face of climate change.
California has been at the forefront of policies designed to combat climate change. However, for some cities and counties, State legislation mandating planning for climate impacts has increased the burden on low-resource communities that still lack basic infrastructure and services, while local governments do not have staff capacity to navigate complex planning processes. Moreover, the push for plan integration has left many local governments scrambling to navigate a complex regulatory environment with ambiguous (and at times conflicting) guidance, resulting in the explosion of the for-profit consulting sector. Consultants, as a result, are tasked with developing not only tools and frameworks to support local planning, but also the plans themselves. The average general plan update cycle for a jurisdiction in California can cost several million dollars--an expense that is rooted in the lack of capacity for local governments to do the work in house, and exacerbating a cycle of outsourcing that leaves communities with a well-polished document, but little direction on how to implement policies and programs. And even more challenging is that jurisdictions doing it well (jurisdictions that have met and exceeded regulatory mandates around climate action and adaptation, and have allocated the funds to hire planning consultants) have not progressed to the implementation phase, often due to lack of governance structures or funding.
Given these realities, resilience practitioners need to categorically rethink the existing planning paradigm wherein cities outsource plan development to consulting firms with little awareness or accountability to the communities impacted by the plans. Equitable planning processes are only made equitable by meeting communities where they are, with timely and meaningful engagement by those with a stake in the plan and capacity to engage. In order to achieve the transformational change that yields resilient, empowered communities, we need to flip the paradigm. This change in approach could be facilitated by defunding the traditional “fee for service”, consultant-led model of delivering template based documents with a focus on statutory compliance and limited regard for community need. This shift would create capacity and provide funding for other levers of change, including community visioning and capacity-building where the consultant’s expertise is given as-needed to the community-led planning process.
The responsibility of this paradigm shift does not fall solely on consultants. We recognize that planning consultants are typically required to respond to and execute a scope of work that is laid out in a request for proposals (RFP), typically written by local jurisdictions whose priority is to ensure regulatory compliance through standard practices. Firms that propose alternate scopes of work outside of what is specified in the RFP rarely win contracts, much less are invited to interview. This leads to hesitancy by consultants to support an evolution of standard practices, and the simultaneous reinforcement of standard practices that do not meet the needs of our communities. Local jurisdictions must also take responsibility for issuing RFPs with input from the community that reflect community needs and a commitment to an equitable and inclusive planning process.
Many of our colleagues are locked into these inadequate practices and systems even though they see the change that needs to take place. Farallon Strategies was founded to address the systems change needed to serve our communities better, and bring resources and capacity to communities in support of the paradigm shift we need to build community resilience in the face of overlapping and worsening shocks and stresses. Farallon Strategies is committed to advancing community-driven planning processes at the regional and local scale by supporting community based organizations and regional collaboratives with technical assistance and facilitation support in an as-needed capacity. We don’t just want to identify the issues facing our areas of practice, Farallon Strategies also supports disruption in standard RFP practices, and is working to support more innovative RFPs and technical assistance alternatives to traditional planning practices.
Farallon Strategies is supporting the Sustainable Economies Law Center in the development of The Oakland People's Plan proposal for the City of Oakland’s General Plan. Their proposal seeks to turn the planning paradigm on its head. Instead of a planning firm subcontracting to community based organizations (CBOs), the CBOs would lead a truly community-driven planning process, and sub-contract out as necessary the required technical analysis in support of specific general plan elements required by the state. The Oakland People’s Plan (TOPP) offers Oakland an opportunity to center the community in Oakland’s General Plan development. TOPP has no agenda other than to allow the people of Oakland to plan. TOPP intends to make space for infinite possibilities for the General Plan, not control its content. TOPP has obtained informal commitments from planning firms that may become subcontractors, and community groups will determine planning firms’ involvement, not the other way around.
Farallon Strategies, in partnership with Consero Solutions, is also supporting implementation of Yolo County’s Climate Emergency Resolution, which sets an ambitious goal of carbon negative by 2030. We are helping to lift voices into the process and build capacity in the County and community to respond to this potentially transformative effort to stand up a diverse community focused climate action commission, develop and implement an updated climate action plan, and create a more resilient community. We see our role as facilitators and capacity builders supporting partnerships between community leaders, local government, and technical experts helping to plan and implement climate initiatives and solutions that address community needs and priorities. We are serving as an extension of the County team by assisting with the recruitment and hiring of critical staff, bringing forward AmeriCorps CivicSpark members to build capacity to move quickly, supporting the development of an advisory commission, and providing guidance to support inclusive decision-making processes.
In the status quo, private firms are doing the work that responds to standard engagement practices. In many instances, private firms are serving clients who view responsiveness to request for proposals, statutory compliance, and legal defensibility as the primary drivers of the work, and not community accountability and outcomes of the planning process as the driver. An equity-driven approach to building resilience to climate impacts should seek to dismantle structures that reinforce the status quo planning service delivery methods, which are failing to address the needs in our communities.
As we reimagine the future of resilience planning, we should think of planning consultants as capacity builders within the resilience movement, not as the resilience movement itself. Consulting firms, as organizations that support technical assistance, capacity-building, and facilitation between the community and local jurisdictions should be a partner in a community-driven resilience movement. There are obviously exceptions to this critique of our industry, but as the resilience community of practice comes of age we must not repeat the planning mistakes of the past. We must consider, not just what seems to be the most technically efficient solution to community challenges, and rather ask the question, in partnership with the communities we serve: “What modes of planning and governance do we want in our communities and how do we expedite implementation and reorient budgets to reflect the urgency of the climate crisis?” There are no easy answers to this question and we also must recognize that equity readiness varies across organizations. Thus this post should not be read as a prescription on the “right” way to plan, but as an invitation to join us and the others working to evolve our practice, and think about what other possibilities exist that empower communities to chart their own future.
By Michael McCormick
California is facing a number of worsening impacts of climate change now and into the future. LGC, a Farallon Strategies partner, produced a sign-on letter (below), mirrored by #FaraStrat's own letter (also below), to support a robust investment in this work in this historic budget. The effort is compatible with a number of other priorities reflected in other comment letters coming from other organizations - some of these and other budget priorities are reflected in LGC's blog post <here>.
See the LGC letter <here> - and consider signing on via the following link.
Please sign on to this letter <here>.
Also see Farallon Strategies' resilience budget letter <here> as an example of a more personalized letter. Feel free to borrow any content for any of these letters for your organization's comments.
By Michael McCormick and Carolyn Yvellez
The context, opportunity, and need around local climate action is changing. But is local climate planning keeping up? Farallon Strategies staff collaborated with a group of practitioners, convened by City Scale, to answer this question.
The State of U.S. Local Climate Action Planning is a collective statement based on the reflections of a group of climate practitioners that worked, over a series of conversations in 2019, to identify the state of local climate action planning, and how the field can improve to meet aggressive GHG reduction targets while providing community benefit. We found that local climate action planning had reached an inflection point, and progress has become stagnant. In order to achieve the rapid transformational GHG reductions needed, the field must identify lessons learned from the last decade and move beyond traditional climate action planning processes to prioritizing implementation.The work ahead does not live with a single organization or small group of people: we hope these observations support reflection, spark dialogue, and fuel an appetite to work in new direction with new partners.
This statement was drafted in fall 2019—prior to the emergence of COVID-19, prior to the renewed reckoning with structural racism following the murder of George Floyd, prior to the deeply unequal economic impacts of the pandemic, and prior to the 2020 elections and their aftermath that laid bare the fragility of democratic norms. Personal and community priorities have shifted, a new federal administration is vigorously linking climate change with economic justice, municipal and state budgets are upended, and the global geopolitical order is evolving rapidly.
This is a moment to re-assess, consider where we have been as local climate practitioners, what we have learned, and how we might proceed in the new circumstances ahead. Over the last 18 months, we have heard increasing awareness and discussion around many of the observations outlined in our statement, but even with how much our world has changed in the past 18 months nearly all of our observations remain relevant.
"The local climate action movement has plateaued...We believe that the next generation of local climate action must be a collective effort, centered around people and values, and focused on opportunities for dramatic systems change." - The State of U.S. Local Climate Action Planning
In the spirit of collective learning, we share this statement as an expression of the state of the local government climate field in 2019, acknowledging that 2020 brought its own set of unique challenges that will further influence the climate action field moving forward.
Thank you to City Scale for convening this group of thoughtful and collaborative climate professionals, to the contributors below, and to the vast number of perspectives we brought in through engagement of our networks on this issue since 2019.
Contributors to this statement include:
Farallon Strategies is thankful to have attended Greenlining's 28th Annual Economic Summit focused on Meeting the Moment and #Momentum21 to support the work of the California Resilience Partnership. We will continue to bring these important concepts in our work in creating transformational change and advancing equity in work on climate and resilience.
We need to Decarbonize, Democratize, and Decolonize our energy system. -Antonio Diaz
The status quo had nothing going for it, but still some people feel the status quo is all they have. -Angela Glover Blackwell
We should never go back to the status quo that existed before we began to build the new world. -Angela Glover Blackwell
We just want healthy places to live in, good jobs, and respect and dignity. The status quo makes those things look radical. - Michael Tubbs
What's radical is the notion that white supremacy is a false ideology. - Michael Tubbs
We must move through allyship to ownership. - Angela Glover Blackwell
Transformative solidarity is the creation of a beloved community. - Michael Tubbs
We need rapid and radical decarbonization to meet the challenge of climate change. But decarbonization at all cost is problematic without putting justice at the center.
Networks and collaboration are essential for trust. Without trust, you don't get community participation or buy-in to the technologies that need to be widely adopted.
The real urgency of the climate crisis needs to be in achieving justice.
Building resilience is building community power.
Thank you @Greenlining for inspiring us to imagine communities we want to build together and @CitiesCatalyst and @HiltonFound for the support to attend and participate in this critical discussion. #FaraStrat @farastrat @mmccormickcc
Today, April 22, 2021, is Earth Day, a perfect opportunity to celebrate all that we are provided by our planet and remember how we must work every day to protect this “pale blue dot.” For a small mission-driven organization like Farallon Strategies, we work to integrate our values into everything we do with partners, clients, and communities that share our vision for a vibrant future and meaningful life. As an organization, we are focused on transformative change: decarbonization, regional resilience, governance, and through it all - a focus on getting work done on the ground. In our own lives we want to live our company values, and likewise. We built values that bring us together and allow us to connect more deeply to our organization and our work. Importantly, Farallon Strategies recognizes that our commitment to environmental stewardship is rooted in our privilege--not only the privilege of education-- understanding how our behaviors affect the Earth and others--but also in our financial ability to act on that knowledge. To bring about the transformational change needed to respond to the climate crisis, Farallon Strategies works to empower communities and individuals, through an environmental justice and social equity lens, and to support long term investments in the capacity and resources needed for us all to rise in standard of living while supporting a just and resilient future on our Earth.
Sustainability and resilience
The fight against climate change is more pressing this Earth Day than ever. Farallon Strategies is committed to maintaining its net zero carbon operation. Founded amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Farallon Strategies embraces telework to create a carbon-neutral work environment. Farallon Strategies remote offices are powered by the sun, with materials and supplies all following our strict procurement rules - prioritizing low/no carbon 100% recycled materials, and eliminating the use of disposable materials and office supplies wherever possible. We try not to travel, but when we must we prioritize walking/biking, personal transportation, transit, and then, if we must, driving electric vehicles. Air travel is only for critical situations, as it is one of the largest contributors to emissions for consultants, and one of the hardest to mitigate. As an organization pursuing B-Corp Pending status, we are also tracking our progress and holding ourselves accountable for our actions and commitments. Longer term we strive to be carbon negative - creating an operational and staff environment where we are reducing emissions from our activities vs contributing to the global problem of climate change.
As our organization grows, we commit to maintaining carbon neutrality and striving to go carbon negative longer term. We also commit to pushing for changes in our industry to create more efficient ways of doing things, including telework and remote meetings. It matters more what we do than what we say, however institutionalized use of fossil fuels makes it difficult for average Americans to transition to a low carbon way of living. Expectations for travel to work events, family events, and vacations make travel one of the most significant sources of greenhouse gas emissions for a typical traveler’s annual emissions. Farallon Strategies is committed to supporting the change needed in how society operates to become more efficient and resilient.
Our team is located in areas that allow for greater efficiency (Davis and San Diego) and the communities in which we live and work support sustainability and resilience as part of their culture. Because of commitments at the local, regional, and State level, our commitments are buttressed and supported by other levels of governance. How might our work support all communities in the same way? How might we work together across the landscape of private, public, NGO, and across society to support deeper ambition and stronger implementation? The urgency to act now to address immediate and long term needs drove the reason for the company - we must all work together to hold each other accountable and push for actions that are not just status quo incrementalism, but transformative.
On a more personal note, Farallon Strategies was created with future generations in mind. The founder's daughter, Farallon, is an avid outdoor enthusiast, bug hunter, and gardener. She loves being outside and creating unique spaces and objects from found materials. Farallon Strategies was named after her so that the mission driven reason for its existence can never be forgotten.
Farallon Strategies seeks partners and collaborators to create and support the transformative change necessary to support the change we need. Please reach out to Michael McCormick, Founder and President or Carolyn Yvellez, Founding Associate, to check in and identify ways we can work together moving forward. #FaraStrat
Joining Farallon Strategies in February 2021 as a Founding Associate, Carolyn Yvellez brings a deep understanding of how climate change and resilience goals and policies are implemented on the ground. She brings advanced analytical proficiency, passion, and knowledge of climate and environmental justice issues to help communities make informed planning decisions and arrive at solutions that promote equity and resilience.
Carolyn has worked with the team at Farallon Strategies and partners actively over the past few years in other capacities, and developed a focus on helping communities, non-governmental organizations, and government work together more effectively. Carolyn has extensive experience assessing potential climate impacts on people, structures, and natural systems - and developing strategies and tactics to address those impacts. In prior roles, she conducted over 20 climate vulnerability assessments, and wrote and prepared several climate action and adaptation plans, local hazard mitigation plans, general plan safety elements, and environmental justice elements.
Carolyn works with jurisdictions to develop and pursue policies that promote climate resilience through community-building initiatives including community gardening, community-owned energy, and community land trusts, among others that result in a more sustainable, regenerative economy.
In her free time, Carolyn enjoys camping, tending to her garden and three chickens, and making pottery.
Farallon Strategies is proud to be part of the California Resilience Partnership (CRP), launched by Resilient Cities Catalyst (RCC) on February 22, 2021. CRP is a multimillion-dollar public-philanthropic effort in coordination with a diverse set of organizations and stakeholders, along with participation by representatives of California State Agencies, to support collaboration on statewide priorities. California’s regions are tackling unprecedented, urgent, and compounding resilience challenges, linked by common drivers including climate change, the COVID-19 pandemic, racial injustice, and economic forces. This new, multi-sector model, expanding statewide from pilot work in Los Angeles and San Diego, will develop new partnerships to advance high-impact projects that tackle California’s complex resilience challenges across several regions in the state.
This new model is designed to attract philanthropic and other funders for high-impact resilience projects. CRP aims to secure at least $30 million from public, private, and philanthropic sources over the next five years to help scale to regions across the state. To date, the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation has committed nearly $3 million in grant support for the CRP and complementary projects, along with additional support from Alumbra Innovations Foundation, The San Diego Foundation, and Builders Initiative. In addition, a project emerging from CRP pilot work recently secured funding from the California Ocean Protection Council. New and existing grant funding for CRP includes:
The Hilton Foundation also made a $500,000 award to the Governor’s Office of Planning and Research (OPR) for efforts that will complement the CRP program. Specifically, this funding will support OPR’s coordinated effort with other State agencies and offices to work with communities recovering from last year’s wildfires while fostering long-term preparedness for future risks, especially for communities most vulnerable to climate impacts.
An additional complementary $350,000 grant from the Hilton Foundation to The Nature Conservancy will support pilot development for a Resilience Park prototype to protect communities from future wildfires by acting as a buffer while promoting conservation and increasing access to open space.
In addition to these philanthropic partners, other CRP programmatic and advisory partners include Climate Resolve, the San Diego Regional Climate Collaborative, the Alliance of Regional Collaboratives for Climate Adaptation, the Institute for Local Government, the Local Government Commission, the Greenlining Institute, and the Nonprofit Institute.
“After the Woolsey Fire devastated our local community in 2018, we engaged with local resilience-building efforts; the challenges of this past year serve as a stark reminder of how urgent this work continues to be,” shared Marc Holley, Vice President of Strategy and Programs at the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation. “The California Resilience Partnership is the next step forward in advancing a bold effort to establish the state as a leader in the resilience movement, and making continued progress so we are better prepared to serve our communities in uncertain times will require increased collaboration and intentional effort across a range of stakeholders.”
“Efforts like the California Resilience Partnership model public-private-philanthropic partnerships, which are essential to moving communities in California towards a more resilient and equitable future," said Nuin-Tara Key, Deputy Director for Climate Resilience and Chair of the Technical Advisory Council for the Integrated Climate Adaptation and Resiliency Program at the Governor’s Office of Planning and Research.
The CRP is geared toward generating the most relevant and highest impact initiatives and projects and will be advised by an Advisory Board representing leading climate, community, and resilience experts from across the state, including:
In the coming years, CRP will expand to new regions to support local NGO and government partners in project development and advancing equity, offering technical assistance, crowding in global best practices, and fostering collaborative knowledge exchange among resilience practitioners across California and the globe. Through RCC’s leadership, CRP will:
“We are excited to launch the CRP today, a flagship initiative at RCC that builds on our past work at 100 Resilient Cities and the Rebuild by Design process in New York City,” said Sam Carter, Founding Principal at Resilient Cities Catalyst. “Rooted in our experience working alongside Los Angeles and San Diego communities on climate resilience projects, we see the potential to scale our city and regional experiences in California and elsewhere to a statewide approach.”
The CRP builds on pilot projects in the Greater Los Angeles and Greater San Diego regions from 2019 and 2020. Collaboration among RCC, Climate Resolve, Farallon Strategies, and SDRCC, among other local partners, yielded new approaches and projects to build resilience in the face of stresses like housing affordability, racism, and economic inequity, as well as mounting risks, posed to Californians, such as wildfire and coastal erosion.
“The California Resilience Partnership will help Los Angeles-area communities prepare for climate change by providing time-tested tools and ideas garnered from lessons learned across the globe,” said Jonathan Parfrey, Executive Director of Climate Resolve. “Our relationship has already borne fruit. Our research effort, Lessons from the Woolsey Fire, supported by Resilient Cities Catalyst and the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation, suggests exciting new policy ideas and initiatives for California.”
“Local communities across the state are already experiencing adverse impacts of a changing climate, including more frequent coastal flooding, extreme heat, and wildfires,” said Dr. Emily Young, Executive Director of The Nonprofit Institute at the University of San Diego and Founding Advisor to SDRCC. “We are excited to participate in the California Resilience Partnership, to mobilize new funding and catalyze innovative projects that work with nature to reduce our region's vulnerability to the most harmful impacts of climate change.”
Ultimately, CRP aims to amplify and further connect the diverse ecosystem of actors across sectors in California to increase investments in a pipeline of high-impact resilience projects that address multiple complex risks. This unprecedented and complex time requires a comprehensive approach and collaboration across multiple sectors and at different scales. Nonetheless, disruptive moments can create unique and generational opportunities for positive change. Together, these entities will build a more resilient California, and build scalable lessons for communities across the U.S. and around the world.
About Resilient Cities Catalyst
Resilient Cities Catalyst (RCC) is a nonprofit comprised of urban practitioners and resilience experts with deep experience working in cities and regions around the world. RCC joins with cities and regions worldwide to help them better leverage the experience, resources, and energies of their leaders, managers, communities, companies, and urbanists to realize their collective visions. Founded by executives from 100 Resilient Cities, RCC’s work is anchored in the knowledge gained in the development of the resilience movement. For more info, please visit: www.rcc.city.
About the Conrad N. Hilton Foundation
International hotelier Conrad N. Hilton established the grantmaking foundation that bears his name in 1944 to help people living in poverty and experiencing disadvantage worldwide. Today, the work continues, concentrating on efforts to improve early childhood development outcomes, support older youth as they transition from foster care, ensure opportunity youth can access career pathways, prevent homelessness, identify solutions to safe-water access, help integrate refugees into society and lift the work of Catholic sisters. Additionally, following selection by an independent, international jury, the Foundation annually awards the $2.5 million Conrad N. Hilton Humanitarian Prize to an organization doing extraordinary work to reduce human suffering. The Foundation is one of the world’s largest, with assets recently growing to approximately $7.5 billion. It has awarded grants to date totaling more than $2 billion, $207 million worldwide in 2020. Please visit www.hiltonfoundation.org for more information.
About Farallon Strategies
Farallon Strategies (FS) supports the transformative change needed in organizations, communities, and regions to address the impacts of climate change, and to take the proactive actions required to reduce these impacts. From community resilience to carbon neutrality - big goals require strong actions to ensure success. FS supports the entire process - from vision to implementation - to help communities and organizations achieve their goals. FS clients and partners are public agencies, consulting firms, collaboratives, and non-profit organizations working towards the common goal of a better tomorrow. FS works with people across a broad range of organizations to ensure the best team for each initiative. Please visit www.farallonstrategies.com for more information.
Farallon Strategies launched in September of 2020 to activate emerging opportunities that support transformative change in climate and resilience governance, strategy, policies, programs, and projects in California and beyond. In this space we will share more on our work and how we are supporting efforts across California, and the United States, to spur innovation around climate change, sustainability, and resilience. From carbon negative ambitions to transformative and equitable resilience, incrementalism is no longer enough to drive the change we need to stabilize our climate and emerge a prosperous, equitable, and vibrant society for future generations.
Farallon strategies helps fill a gap in the management consulting and policy shop landscape – not only providing fee for service and extension of staff relationships – but also partnership, strategy, and capacity building. Farallon Strategies helps to create and activate networks in new ways to drive transformative change in organizations and communities.
We look forward to working with you.
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