Convening an Equity Advisory Group on Climate Resilience and Sustainability in the District of Columbia

November 8, 2018

In 2017 and 2018, the Georgetown Climate Center (GCC) in partnership with the Department of Energy and Environment (DOEE) worked to establish a community-driven planning process in the Far Northeast neighborhoods of Ward 7 to inform the District’s climate resilience and sustainability work. These neighborhoods were chosen because the District of Columbia’s climate vulnerability analysis showed that the communities surrounding the Watts Branch tributary of the Anacostia River face disproportionate flooding and other climate-related risks relative to other parts of the District.

GCC and DOEE convened an Equity Advisory Group (EAG) of community leaders and residents of Far Northeast Ward 7 who were charged with developing recommendations to inform DOEE’s implementation of its Climate Ready DC and Clean Energy DC plans. This project allowed DOEE to work directly with community members to understand how best to implement strategies for addressing climate risks in ways that support other community priorities, promote social and racial equity, and capitalize on community knowledge. The project team also developed a Community Engagement Guide to reflect on the process and create a model for other District agencies to apply similar engagement practices in future planning and other District initiatives.

An equity consultant was brought on to develop meeting agendas and facilitate meetings; and an equity evaluator observed and provided feedback on the process, which enabled the Project Team to make mid-project adjustments to enhance the project outcomes.

About the Equity Advisory GroupMembers of the community from diverse backgrounds sit around a table with many worksheets and papers, working on equity community issues.

The Equity Advisory Group included 13 members who either lived or worked in Ward 7. The EAG was racially representative of the community, multigenerational, included newer and lifelong residents, and integrated existing community leaders with “emerging leaders” who had not previously engaged in District planning initiatives. The EAG met monthly from January to July 2018 to inform neighborhood-level planning and implementation of the District’s Climate Ready DC and Clean Energy DC plans. The EAG finalized recommendations to DOEE in July 2018 and presented their recommendations at a public meeting in September 2018.

Deliverables

Through this project, the following deliverables were produced:

  • Equity Advisory Group Recommendations: The EAG delivered a set of recommendations for how to implement specific actions in the District’s plans. These recommendations aimed to support resilience and sustainability, and also address other community priorities including creating jobs, building resident capacity and skills, greening the community, and uplifting existing community resources.
  • Community Engagement Guide: A guide was produced to synthesize lessons from the process that can inform future planning efforts in the District. It is intended to help District agencies institutionalize equitable planning processes. It also includes specific recommendations for centering racial equity in community engagement. A Technical Appendix includes materials developed to convene the EAG and facilitate EAG meetings, among other resources.
  • Equity Evaluation:  An equity evaluator provided assessments to help the team understand its progress in meeting the equity goals for this work. The evaluations provided useful feedback that helped the team make adjustments halfway through the engagement process and informed the development of the community engagement guide, which will help District agencies improve upon this approach in future processes.

This project was part of the Partners for Places Equity Pilot Initiative—a project of the Funders’ Network for Smart Growth and Livable Communities. We would like to thank Funders’ Network for Smart Growth and Livable Communities, Prince Charitable Trusts, the Morris & Gwendolyn Cafritz Foundation, and the Kresge Foundation for their generous support. The Georgetown Climate Center is grateful for generous support from these and other funders that make our work possible.