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Stories from the Coast by Coastal Stories

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Empowering, motivating, and encouraging coastal communities to enhance resiliency through stories, poems, artwork, photography, and film.




          We all tell stories, historically, that has been our way of communicating complex ideas and understanding our world. Four qualities make this proposal uniquely qualified for support from the Climate CoLab. First, the proposal utilizes traditional ecological knowledge passed down through generations to define a new, but rooted, narrative for our coasts. Second, the proposal calls upon coastal residents, planners, writers, artists, photographers, and anyone else near the sea to share their experiences and knowledge of their place. Third, it recognizes that communicating coastal risk requires looking towards the future to understand the impacts of sea level rise, ocean acidification, and other risks. Lastly, the proposal will use a multi-tiered platform to communicate the Stories from the Coast, via a web-based resource center, social media, and print volumes of the stories and images. The convergence of these qualities ensures valuable contributions to the coastal risk and resilience dialog, motivation for under-represented communities to take action, and support for enhancing resilience in coastal communities.

     Stories from the Coasts assembles stories, poems, and images within the three categories: the history of the coast, the state of resilience, or the impacts of climate change. By comparing the historic impacts on the coast, the current efforts to create resilience, and the possible future impacts, coastal planners can ensure that their actions reflect their unique place and not just a one-size-fits-all solution. More importantly, Stories from the Coasts will generate a cultural shift by motivating residents of coastal locations to think about their place in an artistic way, a relatable way, rather than one based solely on science and policy. 


Category of the action

Communicating Coastal Risk and Resiliency

What actions do you propose?

The primary action of the proposal is to encourage community members to look at their coastal ecosystem in a new way and to communicate their ideas in a unique approach. A series of actions will achieve this result:

1.     The first step is to gain support from a personal network by connecting with individuals (artists, photographers, writers) in coastal communities whom are already crafting stories around their coast. The first set of participants would serve as "ambassadors" who could utilize their own personal network and community involvement to begin the first push for stories.

2.     A call for submissions for images, stories, and poems will be made that will fall into one of three categories: the history of the coast, the state of resilience, or the impacts of climate change. The goal is to start by building a baseline for communities from historical images and stories. Then review the current status of resilience (or lack there of) in communities  through various mediums. Lastly, the project explores the anticipated and present risks of climate change. The Stories from the Coast team will be responsible for categorizing submissions and highlighting examples of resilience. 

3.     Continuing the momentum, Stories from the Coast would develop a toolkit that would be valuable for both the ambassadors and organizations. This would include a one-pager describing the project, a press release template, a checklist of ways to get your community involved, pre-written content for social media/communications, and a few samples of submissions to demonstrate the content.

4.     Connecting with local partners (including local/national/international NGOs, volunteer groups, and government coastal management agencies) would be the next major step in getting the word out. Surfrider, Oceana, and Save the Waves Coalition are just a couple of organizations that would be likely partners in spreading the call for submissions.

5.     Using social media to generate conversations, the submissions will then be uploaded to a website to encourages public participation. This could be used as a reference for additional submissions as well as a tool to explore the challenge of building resilience in diverse ecosystems. A published collection of submissions would also help provide an understanding coastal risks and resilience, realizing ownership of coastal culture. #CoastalStories

6.     Building on the growing number of submissions, more volumes of the "Stories from the Coast" will be published, now highlighting the 'best practices' of communities already effectively implementing actions for resilience. Using the web-platform allows communities to communicate with each other for assistance and suggestions in building resilience against their own unique risks.

7.     Once the concept of Stories from the Coast, reaching out to teachers about the project and including coastal stories as part of their lesson plan (both science and language arts). This could be tailored for students of all ages and would spread the word of resilience and adaptation to the next generation.

Through these simple actions, communities will be empowered to generate the best policies for their place and rely on a network of communities for support. These networks in turn empower change, catalyzing a cycle of positive feedback. 

The Stories from the Coast project will communicate the role of resilience in the communities that participate in submissions. By working with local ambassadors and partners, resilience ideas will be place-based and provide each community an exclusive experience of what risk and resilience means to them. A defining aspect to the proposal is the open-ended nature that allows for communicating information about resilience, identifying actions that local communities can take, and the ability to assess the effectiveness of resilience actions. By coordinating with existing tools (such as NOAA's Digital Coast tools) stories can accompany sea level rise estimates and other variables from recent publications. Essentially, Stories from the Coast uses personal stories to make the issues of coastal risk and resilience hit close to home while accompanied with materials to take informed actions.

The goal is to empower, motivate, and encourage coastal communities to understand what resilience means to them and what actions they can take.

Who will take these actions?

The key actors in "Stories from the Coast" include:

1) Ambassadors - Ambassadors are the first ripple, serving to bring both stories of their own and communication of the project. Based in communities in various locations, ambassadors will garner local support and connect with artists, writers, and photographers (individual participants) as well as local organizations to get the word out.

2) Local organizational partners - Organizations or local chapters of larger organizations with established followers and communication platforms would be able to reach a larger number of individuals compared to the ambassadors. Building partnerships with organizations will also help with the long-term sustainability of the project. Surfride, Oceana, volunteer beach clean-up groups, and coastal management orgaizations are all examples of local partners.

3) Teachers - Teachers are already teaching students about coastal issues and the role of stories in crafting narratives. Working with teachers in various communities would garner an entirely new category of submissions, "youth stories." The stories from youth may even be more profound, since it truly is their future resilience is responsible for.

4) Individual participants - Participants play a role in creating a narrative based on their own experiences and knowledge of their place. Individuals are responsible for providing the stories, poems, and images from their coastal community. Publication of their perspective of coastal risk and resilience of their coast will help encourage their community to take action. With a knowledge platform of various actions to generate resilience, communities will be responsible for creating policies that reflect their place

5) Stories from the Coast team - The Coastal Stories team will consist mainly of volunteers who will be responsible for reviewing submissions and categorizing them properly. The team will also have a weekly social media plan and regular contact with local partners and ambassadors. 

What are other key benefits?

Stories cross-spatial and temporal scales, inspiring future generations and informing communities all over the world. In 1962, Rachel Carson published Silent Spring, a story that both changed the way we looked at the world and inspired countless environmentalists to fight for a healthier planet. She isn't the only writer who has a passion for the natural world and a story that could inspire a generation. 

"Stories from the Coast" is just the first step in bringing people together to share their thoughts and beliefs of the changing coast. One of the major benefits of the project is that the action is being taken at the individual/local level. Communities will not only learn about the unique situation their place has, but they will also begin to understand the concept of resilience. The Coastal Stories team will use the stories they receive to communicate ideas and concepts of resilience in order for action to take place.

Who will your story inspire?

What are the proposal’s costs?

The $10,000 Grand Prize from Climate CoLab will be sufficient to ensure a self-sustaining future for Stories from the Coast. The initial investment will be used to build a website (≈ $5,000), develop a communications toolkit (≈ $1,000), contact ambassadors and local partners (≈ $2,000 for outreach internship), and generate enough media buzz to garner a larger number of submissions (≈ $2,000 for social media internship).

With the platform already built and submissions coming in, the next step for the project will be to secure small grant funds as well as support from organizational partners. Since the operating costs of the project are low and the platform is already receiving traffic, establishing grant support will be straightforward. NSF, Packard, and the Moore Foundation all have multiple grant opportunities that would support the continuation of the project. Additionally, institutions like the Center for the Blue Economy, Center for Ocean Solutions, and the Lawrence Hall of Science may also be interested in partnering with the Stories from the Coast project through fellowships/internships with students interested in communicating coastal risk and resilience.

The next major cost will be the publication of a print version of submissions. Free PDF versions will be available online as well as the option to purchase copies. Utilizing websites, such as MagCloud, publishing and printing the Stories from the Coast will be low risk and allow users and organizations the opportunity to purchase the magazine based on their own budgets. The estimated cost per magazine will be about $15 (or less).

One risk in starting the Stories from the Coast project would be a lack of interest in submissions. In order to avoid this risk the partnerships with ambassadors and local organizations will ensure that people are aware of the project.

Time line

In the short term (0-2 years), the proposal will begin a call for submissions for stories, poems, and images that fits in one of the three categories described above. This submission period will last indefinitely but will begin immediately. The next step will be to begin building a web platform to store and communicate the stories that are received. This will expand a presence online that could continually share information on the role of resilience in coastal areas. While stories continue to come in, within the first 5 years, the first volume of "Stories from the Coast" will be published (both online and in print).

For the medium term (2-5 years), the next step will be securing additional funding to continue the proposal in perpetuity. Additional volumes of the "Stories from the Coast" will continue to be published based on funding and number of submissions. There will also being a shift towards providing "best practices" for coastal communities to utilize as they build resilience, it is possible that awards will be given based on funding. The organization will begin by working with communities, helping them craft their own narrative based on stories from their coast.

In the long term (5 years+), the goal will be to encourage communities to build resilience by any means necessary. Once a number of volumes of the "Stories from the Coast" are published, it will be easier for communities to base their policies and actions of examples provided by similar areas. Building on the success of building narratives with communities, "Stories from the Coast" will be able to tell success stories from communities that have worked towards resilience over the years.

Related proposals

The three main proposals that are related to this proposal are:

  1. Mapping Climate Stories to Share Solutions - The focus of this proposal is on stories of resilience, one key component of Stories from the Coast. In order to create resilience we need to understand the history behind our coasts (TEK), the current efforts to establish resilience, and the possible futures we may face with the impacts of climate change.

  2. Climate Stories Project - The focus of this project is on the human experiences of climate change told through spoken narratives. Stories from the Coast focuses both on works of fiction as well as narratives of impacts solely on the coast. Coastal Stories also includes poems, art, photography, and film.

  3. Peer to peer communications among vulnerable coastal communities - The collection of stories from coastal communities will serve as peer to peer communication of the risks, challenges, and struggles of adapting to and building resilience against climate change.



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Tschakert, Petra, and Kathleen Ann Dietrich. "Anticipatory learning for climate change adaptation and resilience." Ecology and society 15, no. 2 (2010): 11.

“Will Fiction Influence How We React to Climate Change? - Room for Debate -” 2014. Accessed August 12.