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Allowing members of coastal communities that already felt the effects of climate change to share their experiences with other communities.



The idea is to allow members of coastal communities who already experienced the effect of climate change to share their experiences and learning with people like them in other vulnerable communities.

Cities officials who had to deal with floods, house owners who had to deal with erosion etc. All those people being able to communicate with others who share similar preoccupations and speak the same language.

This type of exchange probably already happens in some places but with this project we can create an organized movement and trend of peer to peer climate change knowledge transfer.

The program, in collaboration with cities and community organizations, could involve travels of individuals to other communities, workshops or webinars.  

Obviously, every community is different and an assessment of climate change vulnerabilities is clearly the first step for each of them. But at the end of the day, it is all about saving houses, infrastructures, food systems, and changing habits and expectations. Technology, science and research are necessary. However, sharing what people experienced and what they learnt is the best way to sensitize populations who do not realize fully how the reality of climate change can affect them. And the best people to talk about it are those who experienced it.

Category of the action

Communicating Coastal Risk and Resiliency

What actions do you propose?

A mayor explains to another mayor how his whole community had to organize to face floods. By doing so, he or she shares some knowledge and perspective that can inform the other community preparedness projects and even policies. A citizen talks to another about how he wishes he had saved the most important things like family pictures and important memories, how he wishes he had prepared better.  Nothing is more convincing than someone like me who tells me what he experienced. This is the reason why this project need to be peer to peer. People can be matched on a professional basis or by demographics. All that counts is that the mentor has an element that easily mirrors that of the targeted audience. Example: Eldery people or physically challenged people and their families getting information about preparing from peers.

That said, we need to recognize that everything that deals with humans is not totally predictable. Not everyone reacts the same way. Not everyone would be an excellent ambassador to talk to other communities. Not everything needs to be said. So there is in this project a need for a third party that monitors the messages and that select the people involved in the project. So the first step of this project should be the recruitment. The structure will be organized with a central coordination bureau, chapters all around the covered areas working as satellite organizations and groups within every chapter gathered on the basis of similarities in life. Every chapter will be in charge of supervising the local action and recruiting and creating more and more diverse groups to touch all parts of the society.

We need to emphasize the fact that this project will be to be peer to peer oriented. It will not be about big conferences directed only to the general public. It will be about focused experience sharing. The knowledge transfer experience could use many communication means. You should see that project as a communication campaign.


Following some comments, I am updating this proposal with more details. 07/04/2014

In my researches, I came across a very timely and relevant articles entitled: Hurricane unprepared: we don’t prepare for what we don’t understand.

The author clearly says that talking to someone else who experienced a strong climatic event is probably the best way to get the information and, more importantly, the motivation to be prepared.

We decided to structure the project peer to peer communication as a communication campaign, a pilot project with a beginning and an end. We would use part of the grant to ask for the creativity of communication agencies that we noticed, like the agency the community in Toronto, who have a great sense of creating full fun experiences. So we will get help for the strategy  from communication professionals and create a long term campaign. That campaign will be composed of series of events that create a place where like minded people can learn from each other on climate change and have fun. Those projects will be directed to communities on coastal areas from United States to Canada, around the Great Lakes and many other coastal communities. 

To visualize the movement, think about earth day. At the same moment, people all over the planet do the same thing. That campaign will try to create such a synergy and momentum on a smaller scale so that 4 people gathered in one room could feel that they are part of a movement of hundreds doing the same thing at the same time. Social media strategy, tv, radio, internet, you name it!

Here is a roadmap for the implementation of this proposal.

  1. Milestone 1 : The assessment

Stage: "We have identified the geographical areas that are vulnerable and least prepared as well as the ones with more direct experience."

This step is a research based step. We try to match communities to each other based on similarities on their vulnerabilities and demographics.

Once we have identified those areas, then we can try to start recruiting there. Obviously, assessing local vulnerabilities requires a lot of research. The good news: there are already many initiatives about assessing coastal communities climate change vulnerabilities. Why reinvent the wheel? We need to collaborate, get more people involved and get data from those already collected it or who have an interest and expertise doing so.

For instance, (not making any promotion here) UCI's engineering' department has a project called Flood-Resilient Infrastructure & Sustainable Environments – or FloodRISE – project. Basically, some student researchers do just that : assessing climate vulnerabilities and trying to communicate with citizens. ):

2.   Milestone 2 : Assessing the level of local interest

Stage: " We have promoted the idea among city officials and community organizations and we have a good idea of who will support the project and who will block it and why"

Such a project need to be adapted to the local reality and cities are the level of government  supposed to be the most connected to local reality.

There are many great lakes organizations or interstates organizations that could help us reach out to a number of cities with similar situations.

3.   Milestone 3 : Recruiting participants

Stage: "We have already reduced the territory to a limited number of places where the first actions will take place in the previous milestone. Now we start promoting the project, defining a communication angle and recruiting participants"

At that stage, we sell the projects to the participants. We create the communication angle with the help of communication experts, preferably creative people with new ideas. We create a website or any other structure to present the chapter creation process, the philosophy and to give tools. We go on the ground to meet people and recruit them.

Now, how do we format and communicate about such a project in a way that people will love to participate?

We suspect that the campaign should have a fun and gamification angle

We believe that this project can be useful, innovative and even very fun.

There is no need to say that the first obstacle to any communication project is getting people to pay attention. For instance, such a great site like climate colab has the potential of reaching a thousand times more people. But we believe that most people do not participate because they are busy having issues, surviving, working and when they have a little bit of time they are busy having fun. Being Fun is what it takes to make people pay attention. So we want to make that project look cool, make climate adaptation look cool. That objective will be met by involving a lot of very creative people and also real people, authentic people on the ground. They are the one who will make the project fun.

One of the first things that we know when it comes to environmental communications is that alarming messages do not inspire. By focusing on inspiring and entertaining, we will end up informing people without them even realizing that we are campaigning. The information will be a collateral effect of the entertainment. Remember, this is just about the format. What is fundamental about this project is the objective of creating knowledge transfer spaces between people living in coastal communities. Those spaces can take thousands of forms but we think the tone should not be alarming but fun.

We will organize the recruitment by using a mix of entertainment and face to face interviews.

Maybe that one of the best way to recruit on a peer to peer basis is to start with networking events. For instance, every month in many places in the world, there are the green drinks. People with a professional interest in environment gather to network and get to know each other. Maybe we could start the climate change drinks in order to create a network where we can find climate ambassadors for the project.

We should also invest in private business partnerships with corporate philantropy. Businesses involved in employee volunteer projects could support us and bring us participants and maybe financial support.(See that article)

Anyway, it is important to say that only local reality should dictate the right communication means, not everything could work everywhere. So we find it important to stay open on the means as long as the objectives are clear enough.

4.   Milestone 4 : Training the participants about the communication strategy

Stage: "We have already recruited the first participants on the previous steps. Now we have trained them and prepared them on what to expect and how to be the most effective at sharing their experiences"

We need to be able to train the ambassadors on how to present their experiences. We need to know key elements that will be shared and we need to help each ambassador with the communication. That will also help us keep track of some human experience data that could be shared with other people in other territories through online platforms, for instance.

It is important to understand that our role in the whole project is to recruit, promote, coordinate but also supervise the communication aspect.

5.   Milestone 5 : Coordinating and assessing the participants experience sharing events

Stage: "We have already trained the first participants. Now we coordinate their face to face communications and we assess them to continuously improve the programs"

If we could create delegations of people from one place to go and talk to people in other places, we would probably need some sort of additional funding for the transportation aspects.

We think the easiest way is to organize local events aimed at targetted populations. Those events should be entertaining and informing at the same time. The same formula will be used everywhere. People find a venue, organize the event and share the knowledge.

The more we think about it the more it seems that this project should have chapters in many of the targeted places. Every chapter will follow guidelines as directed by the strategy created with the communication professionals.

We could also count on a community based approach to cost reduction. For instance, one ambassador could have a host family in the community where he or she moves for the project and stay there for a couple of days.This is exactly what international cooperation organizations do so it is probably feasible.


Who will take these actions?

That movement could be coordinated in collaboration with cities and citizen groups. Home owners would speak to home owners, workers to workers, politicians to politicians and youth to youth.


Let us summarize: We create chapters of PPCC(peer to peer climate communication) in every relevant area. That chapter recruits people  gathered in groups of specific similar traits as profession, social position etc. They have some kind of social life, regular meetings etc.

The third party, us, coordinate exchange moments between chapters from one place to another. Thanks to a creative communication strategy created by us and other communication professionals, the exchange moments have many forms and are also entertaining. 

Community organizations provide support by helping finding the people. Cities and other institutions provide additional support including funding if possible.

The PPCC manager, us, coordinate the different chapters and create the website to explain the PPCC project and receive the applications from people. But since online is not the always the best organizing space, our initiative will be on the ground. We will go in places to meet people and motivate them to start the project in their localities.

Honestly, this is a draft of an idea. We need a room full of people who brainstorm to make it to a final idea but the vision is there.


What are other key benefits?

Mobilizing people across communities. It could create a stronger synergy accross communities.

It is also an occasion to make environmental communication look fun.

If this type of projects already happens, we need more of this. The peer to peer approach could reach many parts of the communities that do not feel concerned by general public communications. Focusing on small groups communications will work well and help improve coastal dwellers awareness.

What are the proposal’s costs?

It depends on the scale. As we would have to recruit ambassadors, we would have to invest in promoting the action. Honestly, transportation costs and events costs cannot be covered by this grant. But the pilot and the promotion and research could.

Anyway, we believe in a  grassroots approach  where the volunteers participate to their projects by fundraising to contribute to the costs. If every chapter can raise 5000$, they can finance their groups events. Additional fundraising will be necessary but when people get together, it can be done easily. 

One of the biggest risks in this project is the human factor. No matter how good is your project, it only takes one crazy man in the audience to make the conversations sound pretty uncomfortable before everyone leaves the room. The challenge will be to recruit the right people and to keep the focus of the chapters on the adaptation to climate change, not other issues. It will also be not to look political since it is a delicate subject.

A website will be created to explain the strategy and help people create chapters. Cost of the website creation are low since we can do it. 500$ is enough to create such a website. About 2500$ to consult a communication agency on a strategy, another 2000$ for several trips to meet some people and make things happen. Total cost of 5000$ for the starting moves.

Time line

1rst year: 2015- Creation of the first chapter and the first group

2016- Creation of 5 groups in one locality and at least 2 other chapters

2017- Review of the communication strategy

2020- Chapters are now international, groups are many around the world.


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