Skip navigation
Share via:

Pitch

To reinvent our cities from the bottom up to create deep carbon reduction, disaster resilient neighborhoods, and green economic development.


Description

Summary

Since cities represent 70% of the planet’s carbon emissions and citizens’ daily lifestyle choices represent 70% of these emissions, helping cities and their citizens reduce their carbon footprint provides the world with an unparalleled opportunity to address climate change. Further, engaging citizens can serve as a demand-side driver to increase the pace of renewable energy, energy efficiency and new technology adoption.

The purpose of the Cool City Challenge is to seize this opportunity by bringing to scale a proven community-based social innovation to achieve deep carbon reduction while building disaster-resilient neighborhoods and green prosperity in three early adopter California cities (the five city finalists, from which we will chose three, are San Francisco, Palo Alto, Davis, Sonoma, and San Rafael) and then throughout California, nationally and worldwide. The ultimate goal of the Cool City Challenge is to change the game around carbon reduction in cities and provide a viable path forward to address climate change.

The Cool City Challenge is designed to work from the bottom up by empowering citizens to reduce their carbon footprint through participation in a structured behavior change program—the Low Carbon Diet—with a peer support group of neighbors. It not only engages citizens, but the whole system including local government, local businesses and civic organizations.

The Cool City Challenge brings to scale a tested behavior change and community engagement methodology. This behavior change methodology is based on two decades of rigorous research and social learning that has demonstrated how a peer support system combined with recipe style actions set in the context of a structured program and compelling community vision, move citizens to take action.

The cities chosen to participate will serve as models to the thousands of cities looking for a cost effective, replicable and high impact solution to help them achieve their climate action plan goals.


Key actor

Grassroots neighborhood organizations


What actions do you propose?

Deep Carbon Reduction: reduce community’s carbon emissions through the mobilization of a large percentage of citizens to reduce their CO2 footprint by participation in Low Carbon Diet neighborhood-based teams and develop a transition plan to a carbon neutral city.

Disaster-Resilient Neighborhoods: increase the individual and collective resiliency of residents in neighborhoods to address climate-related risks and enhance overall sustainability and livability.

Green Economic Development: create demand for green goods and services enabling the development of a robust local green economy through bringing neighborhood teams to scale citywide.

Cool City Challenge Goals

1. Engage 25% or more of each city’s households to reduce their carbon footprints by a minimum of 25% with a minimum of 40% of doing home energy retrofits.

2. Redeploy the social capital generated by block-based teams to increase the individual and collective resiliency of residents in neighborhoods to address climate-related risks and enhance overall sustainability and livability

3. Develop a green economic development strategy around the increased residential demand generated by the campaign for energy efficiency retrofits and renewable energy.

4. Create a whole system solution through engaging and developing synergy between the local government, community-based organizations and businesses. This approach will not only enable the campaign to accomplish its EcoTeam recruitment goals, but leave a legacy of enhanced community leadership, strengthened community partnerships, and a deepened environmental stewardship ethic.

5. Help each city deploy the political will of its engaged and carbon literate citizenry to assist it in developing a carbon neutral city strategy.

6. Document, measure and evaluate the GHG reductions, retrofits, community participation levels, economic and social outcomes, and community engagement processes to optimize the learning and assist with the future dissemination of the Cool City Challenge.

7. At the completion of the three-year Cool City Challenge disseminate this methodology throughout California, nationally and internationally. 

Process

Unlike conventional top down climate action approaches, the Cool City Challenge is designed to work from the bottom up by empowering citizens to reduce their carbon footprint through participation in a structured behavior change program—the Low Carbon Diet—with a peer support group of neighbors called EcoTeams. A full suite of 24 carbon reduction actions is provided including transportation, home energy and food. The program will then be rolled out block-by block.

Project Management

Cool City Challenge’s project management is based on processes, systems, training and coaching methodologies Empowerment Institute has successfully developed and deployed in many cities previously. We will be carefully recruiting local project management teams and actively training and supporting them over the full three years of this initiative.

The main and important distinction with this initiative in comparison to previous work we have done with cities is the amount of behavior change, scale of participation and in-depth research that the Cool City Challenge is designed to achieve. To help with this we have put together a world-class team described in the proposal. We will also be building a robust information and project management software platform for both the project managers and program participants. Automating the information and project management is an essential component to managing an initiative at this level of scale. 

Phase 1 – Start-Up Implementation (1 Year): Empowerment Institute Key Tasks

1. Select three early adopter California cities. We have invited and received letters of intent from five cities that meet our criteria as early adopter cities: Davis, Palo Alto, San Francisco, San Rafael and Sonoma. When funding is secured we will select three of these cities to participate in the Cool City Challenge through a competitive application process.

2. Design and build the information management system for carbon aggregation, participation tracking, social networking, results simulation at different levels of scale, and project management. (CAPTIN).

3. Adapt Empowerment Institute’s Low Carbon Diet, Green Living, Disaster Resilient Communities and Livable Neighborhood programs to electronic format, integrate into a single program, and customize for each of the cities with localized resources.

4. Integrate into the four-part program and community organizing strategy game mechanics and feedback systems to enhance participation, social innovation and stickiness among households, blocks, community sectors, community groups and cities.

5. Design the Cool Community Corps (student engagement) and Cool Corporate Citizen (employee volunteers) programs and customize for each of the communities.

6. Create a local green economic development strategy in partnership with each city’s economic development agency.

7. Design and implement the overall communication strategy including branding, written materials, website, promotional film, and social and traditional media and customize for each city.

8. Meet with local government leaders, civic and faith-based groups, and green businesses in the three cities to understand the unique opportunities offered to each by the campaign and the points of synergy available through increased collaboration with one another. Integrate this information into a visioning and strategic planning retreat for each city.

9. Help with the development of campaign leadership teams for each city.

10. Facilitate a visioning retreat with each community’s campaign leadership team, key strategic partners and advisors. The outcomes will be a clearly delineated multi-year vision customized to the unique needs and opportunities of each city, and alignment of the team around this vision.

11. Based on each community’s vision assist the campaign leadership teams to develop a three year strategic plan for program implementation including the residential sector carbon footprint if it does not already exist, the integration of the campaign into other community-based carbon reduction, neighborhood improvement, disaster resiliency and community development initiatives to maximize synergy.

12. Provide a capacity building training for each community’s campaign leadership team to enable execution of their strategic plan through developing competencies in Empowerment Institute’s behavior change and community engagement methodology.

13. Assist each city’s campaign leadership team in developing a compelling presentation for introducing the campaign to their community including the track record of the behavior change and community engagement methodology being deployed, overall vision, benefits to the community at different levels of scale, and the strategic plan to achieve it.

14. Working with our research partners, develop the research methodology and experimental design for the data collection of the various metrics to be measured including household GHG reductions and retrofits, community participation levels, economic and social outcomes, and community engagement processes. 

Phase 2: Campaign Implementation (3 Years): Empowerment Institute Key Tasks Per City

Year 1

1. Assist the local campaign leadership teams in collaboration with city officials in making the Cool City Challenge presentation in an event to on-board community leadership. Each partner organization will be asked to contribute to the formation of block-based teams and participate in a capacity building program. This is the formal launch point of the campaign.

2. Provide capacity building training and coaching for community partners in block-based team recruitment strategies, empowerment coaching, and utilization of the carbon aggregation and participation tracking information network (CAPTIN).

3. Facilitate monthly master classes for partner organizations to assist them in mastery of the empowerment tools and achievement of their goals.

4. Provide on-going consultation and coaching to each community’s campaign leadership team on strategy, tactics, mastery of the empowerment tools, implementation of the specialized programs and communication strategy, and attainment of their campaign metrics.

5. Develop the baseline data and begin implementation of the research.

6. Establish and facilitate a community of practice between the cities through regular teleconferences and the web.

Year 2

7. Provide on-going consultation and coaching to each community’s campaign leadership team on strategy, tactics, mastery of the empowerment tools, implementation of the specialized programs and communication strategy, and attainment of their campaign metrics.

8. Provide on-going facilitation of a community of practice between the cities through regular teleconferences and the web.

9. Conduct an on-site retreat with each campaign's campaign’s leadership team to review progress against their goals and adjust strategies and tactics based as needed.

10. Lead a multi-city off-site retreat to cull best practices and next practices that are emerging in all aspects of the campaign.

11. Manage and provide continuous upgrades in the CAPTIN information management system.

12. Continue implementation of the research.

Year 3

13. Provide on-going consultation and coaching to each community’s campaign leadership team on strategy, tactics, mastery of the empowerment tools, implementation of the specialized programs and communication strategy, and attainment of their campaign metrics.

14. Facilitate the community of practice between the cities through regular teleconferences and the web.

15. Conduct an on-site retreat with each campaign’s leadership team to review progress against their goals and develop strategies for necessary adjustments.

16. Lead a multi-city off-site retreat to cull best practices and next practices that are emerging in all aspects of the campaign.

17. Manage and provide continuous upgrades in the CAPTIN information management system.

18. Design and implement Cool City Challenge dissemination strategy.

19. Support cities, in collaboration with local universities, to serve as teaching cities.

20. Present and disseminate research findings.

Phase 2 – Campaign Implementation (3 Years): Local Management Key Tasks Per City

The staffing required to manage the campaign is estimated to be four full-time people or the equivalent: a campaign director and three program managers. Volunteers and the various community stakeholders can enhance these positions.

1. Organize the community campaign launch event.

2. Implement the local strategic plan. 

3. Recruit partner organizations and block leaders to form teams.

4. Help in the training and support of partner organizations to stay on track with their team formation goals and inputting of them into the CAPTIN information management system. Ultimately this function will be fully managed locally as capacity is established over time. 

5. Manage implementation of the green economic development strategy. 

6. Manage participation in the Cool Community Corps that engages high school and university students.

7. Manage participation in the Cool Corporate Citizen program that engages employee volunteers. 

8. Manage the local communication strategy.

9. Support the various areas of research.


Who will take these actions?

Citizens will take the carbon reduction and resiliency actions supported by a local campaign management team collaborating with local government agencies, community-based organizations, local businesses, schools and universities. A key part of the community organizing strategy is designing a whole system solution.

The Cool City Challenge is headed up by David Gershon, CEO of Empowerment Institute, and one of the world’s foremost authorities on behavior change and community engagement. Since 2006 his Empowerment Institute has helped tens of thousands of households reduce their carbon footprint by 25% through participation in its Low Carbon Diet behavior change program and trained over 300 communities in six countries, including China, in its community engagement methodology.

Empowerment Institute is the principle architect of the Cool City Challenge and responsible for its overall implementation. It has assembled a world-class team of experts to support with implementation, research and scaling including: 

Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory is lead research partner and will coordinate the research efforts of the other research institutions as well as support technology demonstrations and pilots with industry and other stakeholders.  

Stanford University will assist in energy and transportation efficiency research through the application of gamification and feedback systems to increase the efficacy of program participant behavior change.

University of California, Berkeley will support development of the carbon calculation aspects of the information management system and the personal transportation data collection.

University of California, Davis will support research around technology adoption, energy efficiency and transportation behavior change and modeling for carbon neutral city development.  

World Wildlife Fund will assist in scaling the Cool City Challenge by disseminating it to the many cities participating in its Earth Hour initiative in the US and worldwide.


Where will these actions be taken?

Our search for the right cities led us to California because of the political commitment of the state to GHG reduction as evidenced by its landmark global warming legislation, AB 32, and its investment of a billion dollars a year from cap-and-trade revenues in carbon reduction activities. To a specific part of the state, Northern California, because of the widespread sustainability ethic that permeated cities and citizenry in this region. And eventually to identifying five cities (from which we will select three) that had demonstrated early adopter credentials around taking climate action and were a manageable size for such an innovative endeavor. Those cities are Davis, Palo Alto, San Francisco (district), San Rafael, and Sonoma (city and county). Within these cities the program will take place at the block scale by small groups of neighbors called EcoTeams.

The cities were selected because they were early adopters and seeking out this type of solution to help them accomplish their ambitious carbon reduction goals that can only be achieved with citizen engagement and behavior change. Empowerment Institute spent a year doing due diligence through meeting with local government officials, community-based organization leaders, and key local organizers who would help to manage this on the ground. Only after we were satisfied that the political will and local support were in place did we invite the qualified cities to provide a letter of intent. We now have letters of intent from each of the five candidate cites. These can be found on our website at www.coolcitychallenge.org. When the financing is in place for Phase 1 we will request proposals from each city formally describing the local support and commitment that are in place to help execute this. Based on these proposals we will select the final three cities.


How much will emissions be reduced or sequestered vs. business as usual levels?

Target year: 2018

Goals: 25% household participation rate in 3 Cool City Challenge cities of approximately 65,000 people and an average carbon reduction per household of 25% = 268,125,000 pounds of CO2 reduced. 

Assumptions:

  •  55,000 average carbon footprint per American
  •  25% reduction = 13,750 pounds
  •  65,000 person community = 26,000 households (2.5 people per HH)
  •  25% participation = 6,500 households
  •  6,500 x 3 communities = 19,500 households
  •  19,500 households x 13,750 pounds = 268,125,000 pounds of carbon reduced
  •  Demonstration phase begins in 2016 and is completed by 2018.


What are other key benefits?

The Cool City Challenge initiates a new paradigm in addressing climate change. Focusing solely on policy implementation, technology adoption and market development--the traditional supply-side approach to carbon mitigation--is an incomplete strategy without including the human factor. This is because households represent the most immediately accessible and largest carbon footprint and because behavior change activates the whole system by driving demand for new technology, policy adoption and market creation.

Cool City Challenge also has the potential to be a tipping point solution because it can achieve substantial carbon reduction, can be immediately implemented, is cost effective relative to other solutions, and is scalable. Further, it enables the reinvention of our planet's cities from the bottom up, or if you will, a major upgrade of their operating system that can help them better address the multiple challenges and opportunities the 21st century will bring humankind. 


What are the proposal’s costs?

The Cool City Challenge budget is divided into two phases.

Phase 1 is the one-year start-up budget to build the technological, social, and programmatic infrastructure to serve all three cities and the many cities that will follow this demonstration phase. This start-up phase is a one-time investment of $850,000.

Phase 2 is the three-year campaign implementation and research phase and its budget is divided equally among the three cities. Since each of the three cities has agreed to be “teaching cities” to disseminate this model, the costs for future cities to participate will be significantly reduced. The cost of phase 2 is $7,350,000.

Full project funding for Phase 1 and 2 in three cities divided over four years is $8.2 million. If full project funding is not secured we will begin in one city and bring on the other two cities as additional funds are raised. The amount needed for a one-city rollout is $3.1 million or an average of $775,000 per year. Each additional city can be brought on for $2,450,000.

The Cool City Challenge is in the financing stage so should we win the $10K prize it would be used for out of pocket fundraising expenses and to pay team members who are volunteering their time to get this off the ground. The PR that goes along with the money would also be helpful. A need is getting this initiative in front of funders. Once they learn about it they are quite interested. 

We are in active fundraising mode with a small team who are reaching out to foundations, philanthropists, CA state agencies responsible for investing the one billion dollars a year of cap-and trade funding in carbon reduction initiatives, US DOE and EPA who are looking for innovative solutions to help President Obama achieve his ambitious carbon goals, and sponsorships with companies who have a track record on climate change mitigation leadership. We will also be seeking out a technology partner to assist us in building of the information management system.


Time line

Start-Up Phase (Year 1): build program and technology infrastructure. 

Demonstration Phase (Years 2 to 4): Implement the Cool City Challenge in the three California cities.

Roll Out Phase (Years 4 and beyond) -- Expand the Cool City Challenge to cities throughout California, America and the world. The roll-out phase may begin sooner if the pent up demand in cities, financing and early results warrant.


Related proposals

There are no other Climate Colab proposals that are directly related, but because the Cool City Challenge is designed as a whole system solution it can benefit from mature social innovations in a number of the other categories.


References

The following video, award, white paper, journalists' articles and more that support points made in this proposal can be found at:www.coolcitychallenge.org 

Cool City Challenge video:http://vimeo.com/67684066

The Cool City Challenge recently won the NASA/Sustainable Silicon Valley global competition as the “most outstanding solution in addressing human impact on the planet.” Selection was based on the following criteria. "The project must be game-changing, implementable and scalable; be bold, visionary and tangible, focusing on a well-defined need of critical importance; be a part of an integrated strategy dealing with key social, economic, environmental, policy and cultural issues; exhibit clarity of solution design; be regionally specific yet globally applicable, and backed up by a solid plan and the capability to move the solution forward."

"The Role of Local Carbon Reduction Initiatives in California's Cap-and-Trade Program Investments" -- a white paper commissioned by one of the State Senators responsible for CA's global warming legislation to help make the case for investing cap-and-trade revenues in local carbon reduction initiatives. Cool City Challenge is used as an example of what is possible. The lead author is David Gershon with support from Joe Krovoza, Mayor of the City of Davis, CA, Mitch Sears, Sustainability Director of the City of Davis, CA and Max Wei, Program Manager, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.

"The Cool City Challenge: Getting a Low Carbon Diet to Catch On", Mark Fischetti, Senior Editor, Scientific America

"Changing the World One Household at a Time: Portland's 30 Day Program to Lose 5,000 pounds, Sarah Rabkin, a chapter from the book Creating a Climate for Change.