As with most “issue oriented” organizations, the Thurston Climate Action Team started with a series of discussion-oriented meetings to look at local actions that could be taken to reduce the effects of climate change, and what the roles of various sectors (local governmenets, citizens, businesses) might be in working toward that goal. This discussion eventually led to establishing a mission statement and set of goals, and agreeing on priority areas to work on. This allowed TCAT to narrow down its concerns into a set of “offers” it could make to the community in the areas of energy efficiency, transportation, and land use. Group members also clearly expressed their focus on taking action locally to produce a dramatic reduction in greenhouse gases resulting from community activities.
One group that “self-organized” within TCAT was an education committee. That group created two outreach and learning programs to engage both citizens and policy makers.
One education effort became the Cool Thurston Campaign, modeled on the Low Carbon Diet program developed nationally by David Gershon and others. This resulted in creation of over a dozen neighborhood teams working to improve their individual carbon footprints. Each participant committed to carbon reduction targets, and reported regularly to the team.
The other initiative targeted policy makers and business leaders in a series of educational events hosted by a local college. Topics included national climate and energy policy, innovative financing of energy efficiency projects, transportation alternatives, and climate action plans. These events used a combination of lecture and small group work focused on questions and challenges that were relevant and immediate. Participants were invited to name “next steps” they intended to take.
In a sesne, TCAT was still engaging in lots of “talking.” The difference was the conversations increasingly took the form of commitments to action and building partnerships. City and county officials found themselves talking more about climate change, and hiring and assigning staff to work on it. They also increased their discussions on collaborating together on a wide range of issues, including climate change.
So this is how one local initiative started moving from “somebody should” to “let’s get started.” Next time, I’ll discuss how this group started signing up partners in the region, and building financial support.
In the meantime, I invite you to share your own experiences and reflections on moving from talking to action. Here are some questions that might help:
- What was your most satisfying experience in taking action with others on a concern you were passionate about? What do you think was the most important factor in its success?
- What issue or concern in your organization or community would you like to see more action on? What questions could you ask of others to get things moving?
- What formal or informal learning experiences have you had that helped you get things done? What made them especially practical and useful?
Have fun with these…I’m looking forward to your response, reflections and wisdom!