Although climate change is on the minds of pretty much everybody, one group has been routinely left out of the policy conversation: rural residents. Farmers, ranchers and others who live outside our big cities have found that policy designed by urban and suburban interests often fails to address the distinctive realities and challenges they experience.
The Saint Paul, Minnesota-based Jefferson Center joined with the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy to create the “Rural Climate Dialogues”, in which people in three rural Minnesota communities hosted Citizen Juries to deliberate on the topic of climate and extreme weather, and create solutions that worked for them.
Camille Morse Nicholson, Program Coordinator at the Jefferson Center, outlined some of the different techniques required to build community support in advance of the dialogue, facilitate the jury’s work, and support the communities in their follow-up. Although a divisive debate is a possibility with such a politically-loaded topic, one participant remarked, “there was no political/ideological divisiveness: everything was done with respect and in good order.”
The dialogues continue with a focus on the future of energy in rural Minnesota, and the project has already won the Core Values Award for “Creativity and Innovation.”
Dealing with the prospect of closing schools is a touchy subject in the best of conditions, but throw in language and other cultural differences, and things get even trickier.
That was the challenge faced by the Richmond BC School District when faced with the need to do seismic upgrading on their buildings, in a zone identified as prone to liquefaction in case of an earthquake. The potential hit to the budget meant a real potential for closing some schools. This meant taking it to the people, which led to a Core Values Award for the District and Catherine Rockandel of Rockandel and Associates.
The Award — for “Respect for Diversity, Inclusion and Culture” — recognized the work done to reach out to families in a place where sixty percent of households do not have English as a first language. Languages in Richmond include Mandarin, Cantonese, Taiwanese, Tagalog, Punjabi and some Japanese. Moreover, many of the immigrants come from cultures which mistrust governments and officialdom in general.
What tools and techniques did they use to encourage people to take part and trust that their voices are being heard and taken seriously? How did they reach a conclusion in which no schools were closed?
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