Cultivating a Network For Messaging About Climate Change Across an Urban System

Monday, 15 December 2014
Jill Wertheim, National Geographic Society, Washington, DC, United States
Currently, some of the most promising efforts to address climate change are taking place at the scale of cities and municipalities. Large urban areas host an active population of organizations working to influence local environmental policies more rigorous than those at the state and national level. The composition of these groups is broadening as impacts of climate change are being recognized as relevant to more sectors within urban systems, from health centers to community leaders, leading more organizations to consider how they can raise awareness and gain support for their needs. The National Geographic Society, as part of the National Science Foundation (NSF)-funded Climate and Urban Systems Partnership (CUSP), has convened a pilot “community of practice” (CoP) consisting of organizations working at the local level in Washington, DC to communicate with audiences, from the general public to local government agencies, about ways that climate change is predicted to affect the city and what can be done about it.

The purpose of the CoP was initially to help these groups coordinate their activities, share knowledge and resources, and to create a platform for ongoing collaborative learning. While the CoP is still evolving, it is clear that it has potential to provide even deeper and more meaningful support to these groups’ efforts. Developing effective messaging about climate change across an urban system depends on the valuable insight these groups have into their audience’s interests, beliefs, and knowledge, but it also requires a set of competencies that few members of the CoP hold. As conveners of the CoP, we have identified and prioritized those competencies and are developing a process for training CoP members to apply their expertise to implement empirically-based best practices in climate change messaging, public communication, and integration of data and visualizations. The process of training the group has the potential to both create a CoP that becomes a trusted resource for climate messaging activities in DC and an enduring network of professionals who identify participating in the group’s ongoing work as essential to their own professional development