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Fostering Climate Collaboration in Boulder, CO 2016


Question: How can we build community engagement and connectivity around climate change?
Submit proposals:
Rules: All entrants must agree to the 2015 Contest Rules. and Terms of Use.
Deadline: Friday, Jan 29, 2016 at 20:00:00 PM Eastern Standard Time
Judging Criteria & Prizes: See below.


Boulder is a community that houses, per capita, more tech and natural food start-ups, impact investors and entities working on behalf of our environment than anywhere in the world—boasting nearly 100 climate-oriented organizations and roughly 3,000 climate experts. Yet, with this bounty of committed community members, we lack awareness of one another, as well as cohesion and the ability to effectively align our collective agendas for greater impact. We’ve found that we are not alone; lack of collaboration is a struggle recognized in many communities, nationally and internationally and is often due to a shortage of resources—time and money—to collaborate.

This contest is seeking dynamic, self-renewing platforms that will build community engagement and help leverage and coordinate existing efforts in the community for a magnified impact. Note that we are not seeking outright climate change mitigation solutions—we have an abundance of those. Rather, our goal is to foster enhanced collaboration and greater understanding of community action partners—and identifying them is our first step. While this contest is soliciting ideas for Boulder, CO, we encourage proposals that can be adopted by communities worldwide.

In 2007 Boulder, CO implemented a city-wide Climate Action Plan (CAP) in an effort to reduce local greenhouse gas emissions and address and mitigate negative human impacts. Eight years later, the city is still seeking community engagement and ownership. In April, Boulder joined 16 other international cities to form the Carbon Neutral Cities Alliance with the objective of 80 percent emission reduction by 2050 or sooner. After observing the CAP solutions for almost a decade, it has become apparent that Boulder’s larger, contextual challenge isn’t a lack of technological solutions, but rather a lack of cohesion and collaboration within our community.

We have precedent to act: still recovering from historic-level flooding in 2013, just months after being faced with Colorado’s most devastating wildfire in history, Boulder was chosen to be one of the 100 Resilient Cities network, pioneered by the Rockefeller Foundation. We have already taken significant steps. The city and County have initiated substantial energy efficiency programs, and the community has taken action too, with one of the highest per capita adoptions of solar, hybrids, and now electric vehicles in the country. Yet there seems to be a disconnect between expected and actual impact of our collective action.

Dismantling the Disconnect

We believe that the disconnect stems from lack of community cohesion, something which is undoubtedly essential in the struggle to create a cleaner, greener future. Pope Francis said it best during his Climate Encyclical: “The urgent challenge to protect our common home includes a concern to bring the whole human family together to seek a sustainable and integral development, for we know that things can change.” If we are seeking lasting, impactful change, we must come together as a “whole human family” to understand and address our unsustainable attitudes, norms and values. Only then will we be able to create a community-based climate collaboration model to help us reach our sustainability goals.

Two Crucial Steps

As of now, we have identified two crucial steps that must be taken before meaningfully addressing climate change:

  1. Increase connectivity.  We need to be able to find each other, we need to be able to know each other, and we need to be able to connect with each other.

  2. Increase awareness.  There’s a difference between knowing what an organization does and understanding how what it does relates to the work another organization is doing. It is only once we have a culture of collective awareness of environmental change, and in particular climate change, that we can begin to develop highly integrated and impactful solutions.

Pushing the Boulder Uphill

Here’s a metaphor to illustrate what we mean: right now, we are trying to move an immense boulder (pun intended!) up a hill. We don’t quite know how to move it, but we definitely know we can’t do it alone. Unfortunately, we can’t seem to get all of the unique boulder pushers together in the same spaces to collaborate and brainstorm best possible solutions and strategies. Communications get tangled and key players get left out. We spread ourselves too thin, tire and fail. Sound familiar? The reason we are struggling to create urgent, impactful change is because we are operating under an impoverished understanding of collaboration. But in order to even begin to effectively collaborate, we need self-replenishing, dynamic networking platforms— systems where people who are unfamiliar with the community can immediately plug-in and be connected.

So the question is this:

What social infrastructure is needed to bring our climate community together?

New creative innovations are waiting to emerge, whether it be a mobile application, a web portal or a new format for bringing problem solvers together. We can bring together a resilient community of thinkers, creators and doers, and we can combine our efforts and our minds, to create a lasting impact. So let’s tackle this crisis, hand-in-hand with our neighbors, and serve as a model for communities around the world!

Key Issues

Because climate change is a nested mess of global environmental, social, political and economic issues, it is extremely difficult to create a silver-bullet solution. This is why we are seeking proposals that:

Judging Criteria

Judges will be asked to evaluate proposals on the following criteria:


Additional $2,500 to be awarded to a winner on the Front Range (CO).

All Finalists are asked to submit a 3-minute video outlining their proposal.  Videos will be featured on the MIT Climate CoLab website and Winners will show their videos at the conference.


We'd like to extend a huge thank you to everyone who helped bring this contest forward! Especially:

Resources for Proposal Authors

Climate Change: