5 Considerations to Build Alliances for Climate Action

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DHS Center for Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships Director Marcus Coleman provides five considerations toward building alliances for climate action

We have learned much from crisis leaders around the world, while supporting FEMA’s mission. I have seen what is possible when there is a tangible and actionable commitment to unlocking the full potential of partnerships to address disparities exacerbated by climate change

If we invest in these partnerships within our emergency management systems, we will build the social capital necessary to address the impacts of climate change. While there are longer-term consequences of this crisis that we must plan for, it pays to be smart about how we partner to advance equity and support historically underserved populations in the here and now. Without this approach, we leave our neighbors and communities susceptible to compounding inequities in times of crisis. We must invest in a whole community approach to disaster operations that affirms the importance of neighbors helping neighbors. 

The climate change crisis demands urgent action. A United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction report titled Human Cost of Disasters gives a glimpse of the scope and scale of human suffering from this issue. Between 2000 and 2019, 6,681 climate-related disasters affected 3.9 billion people and were responsible for 510,837 deaths. For comparison purposes, from 1980 to 1999 there were 3,656 climate-related events affected 3.2 billion people that accounted for 995,330 deaths.

This is an opportunity to learn from one another during efforts to strengthen climate resilience by acting on F.A.I.T.H.

  1. Fellowship.
  2. Appreciative inquiry.
  3. Integrative thinking.
  4. Transparency.
  5. Humility. 

Create opportunities for community fellowship.

We must continue to build on opportunities that not only institute good mitigation practices but also promote opportunities for community fellowship. A great example is the Community Forms project in Denver, Colorado. This project, completed under the Region 8 FEMA ArtWorks banner, is an art installation that cleverly merged public art, play space and stormwater mitigation. This is just one example of how building spaces that foster fellowship also promote social capital

Take a posture of appreciative inquiry.

Appreciative inquiry is a way of creating positive change by focusing on what works well in a system, rather than what is wrong. This mentality helps strengthen our approach toward climate action. It guides us in our search for the best in people, their organizations, and the opportunities in the world around them. For example, the partnership between Knox County, Tennessee, and the Knoxville National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) described in Effectively Expanding Community Engagement helped weatherize homes for populations vulnerable to extreme heat, unlocking partnerships in mitigation. 

Apply Integrative thinking.

Sustaining climate action partnerships increases our ability to apply integrative thinking. This means looking at two opposing ideas and coming to a creative resolution that contains elements of each but is superior to the original ideas. 

Focus on transparency and humility.

CEO of the Institute for Diversity and Inclusion in Emergency Management Chauncia Willis notes in Building Alliances for Equitable Resilience that the foundation of partnerships are commitments to transparency and humility. This approach to taking climate action, “requires understanding that everyone is not starting in the same place, everyone doesn’t have access to the same resources, and everyone doesn’t have the same life experiences. Therefore, one solution cannot address everyone’s needs.”

If we pursue partnerships that value fellowship, appreciative inquiry, integrative thinking, transparency and humility, we expand our collective opportunity to act on F.A.I.T.H. in collaboration with people and organizations necessary to ensure our actions to mitigate the impacts of climate change serve everyone in the most equitable manner possible. 

For more information on the DHS Center for Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships, visit https://www.fema.gov/faith or contact partnerships@fema.dhs.gov

This blog post is adapted from Marcus Coleman’s contribution to the Building Alliances for Climate Action (fema.gov)

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