Greauxing Resilience at Home: A Regional Vision

Objective 1.1:

Design community-led resilience planning frameworks — Design and facilitate community-led and -centered resilience planning processes and project co-development frameworks for open space and other nature-based solutions like green streets.

The Need

Developing a community plan or nature-based project that helps build community resilience with significant stakeholder input can help to ensure that any resulting plan or project is tailored specifically to a community’s individual strengths, vulnerabilities, and assets. While these plans should be community-led and centered, policymakers can still assist in helping to create general frameworks upon which more neighborhood-specific plans can be based.

Across the United States, there is an overarching lack of trust in a government’s ability to implement resilience projects. In the past, many approaches to facilitate community resilience have not necessarily taken a more holistic approach to plan development in viewing the social, economic, and historical challenges that make each community unique.See footnote 1 Even in instances where a community has been consulted, residents may not be involved in the implementation of those laws, plans, policies, and projects. To build and maintain trust with residents, policymakers should encourage continued transparency and make concerted efforts at engaging with the community, including when developing and updating laws, plans, programs, and projects that “greaux” or grow local resilience through open space and nature-based solutions. In an effort to encourage this practice and institutionalize community engagement in planning and policymaking efforts, public participation laws can be amended or construed more widely to promote opportunities for community engagement (e.g., creating advisory boards staffed by community leaders, developing and tracking community engagement metrics).

How to Make Progress on This Objective 

This part outlines four types of actions regional and local policymakers can take to ensure that laws, plans, policies, and projects around open space and nature-based solutions are designed with significant and meaningful community engagement. These four steps are:

  • Creating and implementing plans;
  • Updating land-use and zoning laws and policies;
  • Proposing and implementing projects; and
  • Strengthening regional and local public participation laws and policies.

While there are some overlapping considerations for each of these entry points into nature-based processes, it is important to call out each one separately because planning, land use and zoning, and projects can occur together or in distinct tracks. Ideally, cumulative, sequential processes — from planning to land use and zoning to project implementation — can help build on and reinforce one another to maximize alignment. In contrast, the fourth type of action related to public participation laws and policies is an overarching action that cuts across all of the other three. Regardless of the approach, however, each category requires equitable engagement with the community that is iterative and long-term.

These four actions are not meant to be inclusive of any and all actions a policymaker can make to ensure that resilience processes for nature-based solutions are community-centered. Instead, they should be viewed as some initial and priority ways that policymakers can evaluate to start to build more robust decisionmaking frameworks. This is in contrast to providing “how-to” steps to construct such a framework. For a more robust discussion on the importance of community engagement in the creation of plans, the development of land-use and zoning laws and land-use policies, the implementation of projects, and the strengthening of regional and local public participation laws and policies more generally, see Objective 5.1. In contrast to that objective, this part of the Regional Vision will discuss these four approaches more narrowly, in the context of facilitating stronger community resilience to flooding and extreme weather events.


Plans can set a comprehensive framework that guides how laws, policies, and projects are implemented. Plans go by many names and take a variety of forms. They are developed at different and multiple levels of government and are prepared on multiple geographic scales. Some are legally required and others are out-of-cycle or discretionary.

Credit: Build Baton Rouge, Imagine Plank Road Plan for Equitable Development 12 (Nov. 2019), available at

Specific to this objective, parishes and municipalities can work with communities to prioritize open space and nature-based considerations in different ways. This can include collaborating with the community in the design of jurisdiction-wide local comprehensive plans or in the development of more discrete plans focused on preserving and increasing the amount of green space in a given neighborhood. Regardless of the type of plan, all planning documents should be created in collaboration with impacted residents. Within Region Seven alone, neighborhoods and communities differ in terms of population, the socioeconomic status of residents, access to resources, cultural history, community assets, climate vulnerabilities, and more. By centering community engagement in these processes, policymakers and planners can learn about the strengths, vulnerabilities, and existing assets and initiatives that the community has, and tailor specific initiatives to address these unique characteristics. In doing so, any resulting plan will better address the unique challenges each community faces. 

One action policymakers can take to help ensure that community voices are heard in the creation of a plan is to host expansive community workshops with diverse stakeholders to better understand what types of planning and projects will best benefit specific neighborhoods.  For example, in Miami-Dade County, the creation of the Sea Level Rise Strategy involved hosting community events, workshops, presentations, online surveys, and conferences.See footnote 2  By the end of the design process, the County’s Office of Resilience had heard from almost 400 stakeholders, whose input helped to prioritize the adaptive and resilience strategies that were ultimately recommended in the final strategy. 

Facilitating community-led planning processes means involving community members early and often in the development and implementation of any related plan. Along with hosting events (both online and in-person), policymakers and planners can also create specific outreach strategies and ensure they are accompanied by engagement metrics, which can measure outreach and resilience plan success. This can help parishes and municipalities better streamline and institutionalize community engagement in agency or policymaking actions. Kresge Foundation’s Community-Driven Climate Resilience Planning: A Framework offers examples of outreach actions policymakers can take when developing an adaptation or resilience plan and “interventions” or metrics that can keep the goals included in the plans “on track.” 

Land Use and Zoning 

​Creating and updating local land-use and/or zoning ordinances can be used to increase nature-based solutions in a community. Local governments have the primary authority to regulate land uses in their communities through zoning and floodplain ordinances. Land use is connected to, but also distinct from zoning. Land use contemplates the economic and cultural “human use of land” and the different uses of public and private land. It also directly affects land cover pertaining to impervious and green surfaces, which can, in turn, affect flooding and stormwater — ultimately affecting a community’s resilience. Essentially, land use planning not only determines where a community allows or does not allow development, but also what communities can choose to cover the land with. Conversely, land-use and zoning ordinances provide the legal framework that governs the use and development of land in a municipality according to different districts based on the uses that are permitted (e.g., residential, commercial, industrial). The use of land use and zoning as specific tools to expand the promulgation of nature-based solutions and projects will be discussed in Objective 1.2. This part of the Regional Strategy pertains to how community engagement should be integrated into land use and zoning discussions.

Because of historical land-use and planning practices, some communities are more heavily impacted by the effects of industrial activities, like decreased air quality and more smog than others. These places typically also have less access to green, open spaces and nature-based projects and solutions. Community members are often the best sources to hear from regarding a first-hand basis about the effects that these historical practices have had on their neighborhoods. Land-use and zoning designations can be used to promote nature-based solutions, which can help to mitigate the impacts of poor air quality and increase access to open spaces. Thus, when amending land-use and zoning practices to take these inequities into account and create more resilient, green neighborhoods, community stakeholders' voices should be heard. 

For example, Community-Driven Climate Resilience Planning: A Framework spotlights the work done by the Center for Earth, Energy, and Democracy (CEED) in Minneapolis, Minnesota. In the process of rezoning certain areas of the City, CEED promoted the use of a community-based tool — the Twin Cities Environmental Justice Mapping Tool — which works to incorporate “hard data to the experiences of impacted communities” pertaining to air quality, land use, and more.See footnote 3  As a result of CEED’s recommendation that Minneapolis planners use community-driven data and voices in this process, the city ultimately committed to rezoning several environmental justice communities as “green zones.” “Green zoning” created a new designation for these neighborhoods that now specifically targets them for new green infrastructure projects and programs. This case study emphasizes the impact that community engagement and community-driven data can have on amending land use and zoning laws and plans, especially in those neighborhoods that typically have less access to green spaces and have to deal with reduced air quality. 


There are several different types of nature-based projects or programs that can be implemented or installed within a community that can help drive community resilience. Examples and scales can vary from planting a few trees in a small area within a community to help with stormwater filtration to restoring acres of land back to their natural state to offer ecosystem services and mitigate flood impacts. 

Because a community experiences impacts from flooding and extreme weather events first-hand, the people that live in these areas are often the most familiar with what their neighborhood needs to become more resilient. Therefore, in order to determine what type of nature-based project or program can best benefit a community and improve resilience, it is vital that neighborhood stakeholders are consulted early and often in a project’s design and implementation process. Educating communities on what types of stormwater and green infrastructure projects can help with creating community resilience is extremely important, and is discussed in Objective 5.1. Nature-based projects that involve heavy community engagement throughout the process are oftentimes the most successful in helping a community become more resilient. 

For example, in the City of North Miami, a previously vacant lot (to be discussed further in Objective 1.3) was redeveloped to create the Good Neighbor Stormwater Park: an open space available for recreation that doubles as stormwater detention to help with local flood prevention. From the inception of the project, community engagement was a priority for project planners. Community outreach actions included hosting convenings (including public or individual, one-on-one meetings) in a variety of languages to help ensure that a wider variety of stakeholders would have the opportunity to be heard. After an extensive engagement process, the resulting design was extremely community-friendly, and incorporated a variety of recreational opportunities the community members had prioritized throughout the planning process — while also providing flood mitigation benefits. 

On a larger, neighborhood-wide scale, the City of New Orleans worked extensively with the community in the design and implementation of the Gentilly Resilience District and the individual green infrastructure and nature-based programs that make up the project as a whole. Community engagement activities included presentations and workshops held by the city to determine what problems the Gentilly community faced due to flooding, options on how these problems could be addressed, and the benefits that nature-based solutions like water gardens and blue/green corridors projects could have for the community. Throughout these meetings, stakeholders were encouraged to offer insights on the unique characteristics of their community and what green infrastructure projects and amenities they would like to see prioritized by the city. In implementing many of the Gentilly Resilience District programs, community outreach directly impacted what types of green infrastructure were introduced into the community. 

In both instances, these types and levels of extensive engagement made specific projects of the Gentilly Resilience District (like the Mirabeau Water Garden and the improvements to the Pontilly Neighborhood stormwater network) and the Good Neighbor Stormwater Park more successful in helping to make these communities more resilient.

Public Participation Laws and Policies  

From a more generalized standpoint, one way to help ensure that a resilience framework is centered and directed by affected communities is to legally strengthen public participation laws so that policymakers are required to meaningfully collaborate with residents in the development of climate resilience plans or projects. Relating to community resilience and nature-based projects and programs specifically, potential options include:

  • Creating or funding positions for staff or environmental commissions/councils dedicated to public outreach and engagement (see, e.g., the City of Charleston, South Carolina, and the creation of a Chief Resilience Officer and the Mayor’s Office of Resilience and Sustainability);
  • Adopting a set of principles and minimum standards that can guide how local governments should conduct outreach with community stakeholders, with an emphasis on determining a community’s vulnerabilities and priorities pertaining to flooding and extreme weather events (see, e.g., Five Guiding Principles, in Community-Driven Climate Resilience Planning: A Framework); 
  • Incorporating public participation metrics as a part of post-engagement reviews of government resilience actions or nature-based project implementation to actively manage and adapt these policies and projects over time and/or in response to individual decisionmaking processes (e.g., to monitor and manage the implementation of relevant plans);  and 
  • Creating a public system or database that allows for sharing of best public engagement practices relating to resilience plans, projects, or programs between municipalities and parishes (see, e.g., Justice Mapping Tool, Center for Earth, Energy, and Democracy in Minneapolis, Minnesota, in Community-Driven Climate Resilience Planning: A Framework; New York City (NYC) Rezoning Commitments Tracker).

By strengthening public participation laws and policies at a local level, decisionmakers can help increase opportunities for meaningful and equitable collaboration with a community in developing a plan, law, policy, or project that addresses a community’s adaptive capacity and resilience. To meaningfully reflect community ideals and needs, this type of public participation will need to be particularly robust, and may even need to involve compensating residents for their time, ensuring that stakeholder groups are representative of the community, etc. For more information generally on how to strengthen public participation and engagement laws (without a specific focus on resilience), see Objective 5.1.

Crosscutting Considerations and Practice Tips

When developing or amending a resilience plan, policy, or project with an emphasis on community engagement, decisionmakers may consider the following crosscutting considerations and practice tips that apply to each of the above recommendations:

  • Plan with an eye toward implementation 
  • Build local partnerships
  • Engage communities throughout planning and implementation
  • Create cross-jurisdictional mediums or centralized systems for sharing data and best practices
  • Raise the voices of overburdened, underresourced communities
  • Develop community-specific engagement methods

These tips are based on priority implementation best practices and considerations most relevant to this specific objective and do not present an exhaustive list for regional and local planners and policymakers. In addition to this objective, decisionmakers should, at a minimum, also refer to Goal Five for crosscutting considerations and practice tips including structuring equitable and inclusive community engagement processes and evaluating opportunities to build public-private-nonprofit-community partnerships. 

It is important to acknowledge that every jurisdiction will be starting from a different place and have a unique local context and needs, among other factors. Therefore, these considerations and practice tips could be adopted individually, collectively, or not at all. It will be up to policymakers to work directly with their communities and other key stakeholders and partners to assess and determine potential tools and approaches to implement this goal and objective.  

  • Lead with data: Governments should avoid “planning for planning’s sake” or overplanning. This can result in several administrative and social consequences. First, this can lead to wasted time and resources. On the community side, too much planning may confuse or frustrate people trying to understand how different plans to further a government’s resilience goals. In addition, governments can risk burning out residents by asking them to contribute their time and expertise again and again. Moreover, planning processes leading to nowhere can erode faith or trust in government with community members that expect and need plans to lead to immediate action, which can be especially true relating to plans, policies, or projects that relate to flooding. Instead, plans, policies, and projects should be developed with the intention that they will be implemented in ways that support community-driven resilience laws, policies, and projects. The Little River AAA provides an example of how a community-led and implementation-focused strategic plan is already helping the city make progress on economic development, resilience, and other initiatives. In this instance, community stakeholders collaborated directly with the government to provide insights into the resilience projects that were ultimately recommended and prioritized within the plan.
  • Build local partnerships: Building partnerships between public and private organizations and community stakeholder groups is vital to creating community-centered planning processes. Local organizations and stakeholders on the ground will often have lived experiences and better first-hand knowledge of local perspectives and the challenges that residents face relative to flooding and extreme weather events. Partners can include local officials or decisionmakers that are already involved in the community, community interest groups, and academic institutions that already have a presence in the community and are working to facilitate community resilience. Parishes should work to incorporate this knowledge and these lived experiences into planning processes relating to nature-based projects and open space solutions. 

    For example, with the Mirabeau Rain Gardens (Gentilly Resilience District) project, the City of New Orleans partnered with private developers and Greater New Orleans, Inc., which is a regional organization operating within a ten-parish region that works to create more economically resilient communities. In collaboration with the Sisters of St. Joseph, the convent that owned the land, 25-acres of previously vacant space was redeveloped to provide a community amenity that offers recreational and flood mitigation benefits. Because the city collaborated and built partnerships with organizations and individuals already working within the community, they were able to lease the land for $1 and implement a nature-based project that is community-centered and greatly benefits its residents.

  • Create cross-jurisdictional mediums or centralized systems for sharing data and best practices: Weaved throughout this objective is the consistent theme of collaboration between various levels of government among each other and with community stakeholders. Resources on a local government level are often limited, and endeavors to reduce the duplication of research and other efforts are welcome. As localities and parishes begin to better integrate community engagement and outreach into the creation of resilience laws, plans, policies, and projects, to avoid duplicative efforts and their associated costs, best practices and successes should be recorded for the benefit of other jurisdictions. Data collected from community members (i.e., first-hand accounts of flooding, Census information, flood maps) during the design and implementation of resilience plans, policies, and projects can be stored in a database or centralized for future use; as can metrics analysis of the success of the resulting projects and plans. Creating an index or database where data on flooding and extreme weather events, as well as best practices of resulting resilience plans and projects, can help to avoid duplicating research efforts and allow parishes and municipalities to learn from each other on what types of resilience plans, policies, and projects work for different types of communities. For more information on centralized data resources, see Objective 5.3 and Objective 5.4.
  • Raise the voices of overburdened and underresourced communitiesIt is vital to center equity and raise the voices of overburdened and underresourced community residents in the creation of a resilience or adaptation framework, since these are the individuals being “hit first and worst” by the impacts of climate drivers, flooding, and extreme weather events. Because of this, hearing from these communities is vital to the development of any law, plan, policy, or program that works to address these impacts. To ensure that these voices are heard, policymakers developing a resilience plan or framework can: (1) center equity when beginning planning processes and implementing resilience initiatives; (2) support empowered communities by including the insights of community members and residents relating to flooding and extreme weather events; (3) engage effectively through holding convenings and reaching as many stakeholders as possible; (4) hold themselves accountable and ensuring transparency in the implementation of resilience projects, plans, or policies; and (5) build on the social cohesion of a society that works towards the well being of all of its members in creating a more resilience, overall community.See footnote 4 
  • Develop community-specific engagement mehtods: There is no standardized approach to engaging with communities. Regardless, in any approach, it is important to create spaces of accountability and co-design with community members through formalized groups, such as community advisory committees, to craft effective and equitable strategies and implement some of the practice tips listed above. To develop equitable solutions for a community, policymakers need to comprehensively understand the needs of the community they are serving relating to flooding and hazard events. Equitable engagement will vary based on a number of factors including but not limited to, how much time decisionmakers spend working with and learning from residents impacted by a given government initiative, a community’s demographics, culture, and history, and a community’s ability to access resources. It is important to understand the unique characteristics of a community in order to determine the ways to most meaningfully interact with and learn from residents to better facilitate community resilience and the implementation of adaptation projects.

    The Community-Driven Climate Resilience Planning: A Framework document lays out some of the ways in which policymakers can take their communities’ unique characteristics into account when deciding how best to reach out to the community they are seeking to assist. The framework highlights Gulf South Rising, which is a coordinated organization across Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida that takes an intersectional approach to movement building for adapting to sea-level rise. Gulf South Rising works to emphasize that outreach and engagement to these communities — and the organizations that serve their needs — must be approached from a stakeholder-driven perspective. In other words, developing methods to encourage community outreach that will later inform a resilience plan, project, policy, or program must be tailor-made to fit that specific community.

The summaries below highlight resources and case studies available in Georgetown Climate Center’s Adaptation Clearinghouse that are relevant to this objective. They illustrate how many of the above benefits, practice tips, and planning, legal, and policy tools were or are being evaluated and used in practice in different jurisdictions. To learn more and navigate to the Adaptation Clearinghouse, click on the “View Resource” buttons.


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