5. Develop governance structure


‘Governance’ can be a loaded word. In the context of this toolkit, the term refers to the formal structure and operating principles of a regional adaptation collaborative, which may or may not become actual governance.

Collaboration is based on relationships, both informal and formal. Informal relationships are often the first and most important, but as activities and desired impacts broaden, more formal structures can be crucial. A formal structure can help a regional adaptation collaborative better choose, receive, and administer funding, as well as alleviate potential conflicts. Furthermore, formal structures foster longevity, because they address the challenge of how to institutionalize the champion role so that the regional collaborative can maintain momentum and continuity even as the participation of key individuals or support of local elected officials fluctuates.

Developing a governance structure can be relatively quick and easy or can be a very lengthy and involved process. Determining the governance structure that allows you to function effectively yet preserves individual autonomy can be challenging, but is absolutely essential to your long-term success as a collaborative. Spending time on a decision-making structure helps create feedback loops, a clear path for new entities to get involved and a mechanism to help the collaborative be both proactive and reactive when opportunities emerge. Some formality can also help keep partners at the table as natural turnover happens at individual organizations.

A Greater LA: The Framework for Regional Climate Action and Sustainability’ started out as an academic exercise; governance transformed it into something real. We have just adopted our second iteration of a governance policy to reflect the evolution of the collaborative.

– Krista Kline, Managing Director, The Los Angeles Regional Collaborative for Climate Action and Sustainability (LARC)

Regional collaboration around adaptation requires a level of commitment of interested parties. The governance structure should capture interest and allow for the group to be effective, but does not supplant other authorities in the region. If interested parties include public agencies, as is likely, you will have to determine the rules of engagement. Consider the nature of public discussions in the development of a governance structure. If you create ‘safe spaces’ for members, they will more readily share ideas, which will help build the momentum of the collaborative.

There are many challenges that are unique to developing a governance structure for a regional adaptation collaborative versus another type of regional collaboration. First, there is the issue of authority and level of governance (if any at all). There are many existing authorities in a region, so it can be difficult to define what is needed, what is desired and what will be effective at moving regional adaptation issues forward. In some cases, no formal authority is needed to gather groups to meet and share ideas and move individual organizational efforts forward in a coordinated way. In other cases, that level of commitment and legitimacy might be critical, especially when shared funding is involved.

There may be different rules of engagement based on different adaptation topics. For example, a regional adaptation collaborative might want to provide input on an issue that is better handled by a water agency. An effective regional adaptation collaborative will be a part of key regional actions without hindering regional progress.

Another challenge related to governance is funding. Without a formal structure a regional adaptation collaborative cannot take in funding or be effective in bringing together regional funding at the scale needed to address adaption issues. If you add a fiscal structure, some of your flexibility will be removed; however, without funding, you will also be limited. You might consider a fiscal agent or other means to address this issue.

Tools & Resources

Case Study: ARCCA Member Governance Stories

Developing a governance structure has proven to be an iterative and unique process for each of the ARCCA regions.

The Capital Region Climate Readiness Collaborative (CRC) works as a cooperative network to benefit its member organizations. For ease of formation and administration, and to maintain flexibility, CRC is structured as an unincorporated membership association made up of entities representing regional interests that are involved in climate change policy and decision-making or influence how the region responds to climate change. The Local Government Commission (LGC) provides fiscal and administrative support for CRC. The affairs of the CRC are managed by the Steering Committee, which provides strategic direction and general oversight for the CRC. Ad hoc committees can be formed and disbanded by the Steering Committee, created in order to make recommendations, and pursue programmatic objectives and pilot projects. General quarterly meetings are open to the public.

The Los Angeles Regional Collaborative for Climate Action and Sustainability (LARC) is housed at the UCLA Institute of the Environment and Sustainability, but governed by its membership. LARC has a Governance Policy document, which includes detailed information about membership terms, committee formation, and staffing and additional functional elements. There is a standing governance committee called the LARC Governing Board, which provides strategic direction and general oversight for the collaborative. The Governing Board can create additional committees based on the needs of the organization. The officers of LARC are elected by the general LARC membership. Currently, staff includes a Managing Director and two part-time Project Managers, with additional staff positions to be instituted as needed.  Monthly membership meetings are open to members, and are intended to be a networking opportunity and occasion to exchange information on projects and research.

The Bay Area Climate and Energy Resilience Project is a network of more than 250 public, private and non-profit stakeholders in the nine-county San Francisco Bay Area. The effort is currently coordinated through the Bay Area Joint Policy Committee, which consists of the Metropolitan Transportation Commission (MTC), the Bay Conservation and Development Commission (BCDC), the Bay Area Air Quality Management District (BAAQMD), and the Association of Bay Area Governments (ABAG). The JPC has twenty voting members: five from the Executive Board of ABAG, five from the BAAQMD Board of Directors, five BCDC Commissioners, and five MTC Commissioners. A representative of the Secretary of the State of California’s Business, Transportation and Housing Agency is a non-voting member. The Bay Area JPC meets on a bi-monthly basis.

San Diego Regional Climate Collaborative was launched with significant investments from SDG&E’s Local Government Energy Efficiency Partnerships Programs and building on regional investments made by The San Diego Foundation’s Climate Initiative. A steering committee made up of the following entities has been formed: City of Chula Vista, City of San Diego, County of San Diego, Port of San Diego, The San Diego Association of Governments, The San Diego Foundation, San Diego Gas and Electric and the University of San Diego. The University of San Diego also serves as the fiscal sponsor for the group and houses staff of the Collaborative. A quarterly Public Agency Network meeting is held for staff from all of the region’s 18 cities, County, and major public agencies to coordinate climate planning, best practices, and lessons learned.

LARC Governance Policy

This governance document, updated August 5, 2014, outlines aspects of membership; discusses the role of the governing board and LARC staff; addresses contracting and finances and budgets.

Green Cities California's Climate Adaption Breakthrough Convening

This report explores primary climate risks, indirect or compounding challenges, and governance issues.  Discusses mapping roles and tasks for addressing drought, water supply, sea level rise, and public health impacts from heat waves.  Includes a framework of capabilities and needs for climate adaption collaboration.

Institute for Sustainable Communities' Think Resiliently, Act Regionally

This guide includes a map of teams participating in the 2014 Sustainable Communities Leadership Academy, along with community profiles and team information, resource team and staff contact information, and biographies.

Regional Collaboration Models

A presentation made at the 2014 Sustainable Communities Leadership Academy by Mariia Zimmerman, offering a historical review of regional collaboratives.