2. Get buy-in from key leaders and agencies to form initial working group


The constitution of a regional collaborative is a key to success for adaptation, so once you have a lay of the land, it is time to bring people to the table in a preliminary but formal way. This involves building buy-in from a core group of stakeholders who represent the regional diversity of interests and expertise, but also are a small enough team to form an effective working group for the next stages.

In San Diego, our Climate Collaborative was built from a groundswell of interest in collaboration by several key public agencies in San Diego, as well as our utility and local community foundation. The commitment of these entities played a significant role in standing up the entity, as well as giving the organization credibility from the start.”
– Laura Engeman, Manager, San Diego Regional Climate Collaborative

Examples of membership types

  • The San Diego Regional Climate Collaborative consists of public agencies (such as San Diego County, several cities, the Port of San Diego, San Diego Airport Authority, and the San Diego Association of Governments) and supporting members (including nonprofit, foundation, utility, and university representatives).
  • The Los Angeles Regional Collaborative for Climate Action and Sustainability (LARC) includes governing bodies (such as South Coast Air Quality Management District, The Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, and Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority), environmental and community groups, the business community, and academia.
  • The Bay Area Climate & Energy Resilience Project is a collaborative of more than 100 public, private, and non-profit stakeholders in the nine-county San Francisco Bay Area.
  • The Capital Region’s Climate Readiness Collaborative includes government representatives (such as the Sacramento Area council of Governments and the Sacramento Metropolitan Air Quality Management District) as well as nonprofit, utility, and university representatives.

Considering aspects specific to adaptation work can help guide you to appropriate key stakeholders.  The following factors can help guide your search.

  • Regional Interest: Adaptation is an issue that crosses jurisdictional boundaries, as does the work of many regional governmental agencies like air or water quality management districts. Adaptation efforts benefit from the unique expertise of key stakeholders, expertise in forestry or farming, for example. Also, you might start with a few key agencies and champions and then grow – this has been an effective strategy for ARCCA regions. Similarly, major utility companies often have service areas that encompass multiple cities and counties. Entities such as these likely already understand the challenges and advantages of collaboration across borders, and may more readily understand the value of coordinating efforts to prepare for climate change impacts that are indifferent to political boundaries. Adaptation is also linked to mitigation activities, or actions that aim to reduce anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions. Air and water quality management districts are entrusted with regulating sources of pollution. Councils of government often coordinate land use, transportation and air quality decisions. These governing bodies can leverage mitigation activities and expertise to support adaptation.
  • Regional impact interest and expertise: Adaptation efforts may vary from region to region – for example, while the San Joaquin Valley may place more emphasis on drought, coastal communities are facing pressures from sea level rise. Appropriate key stakeholders will possess expertise specific to the challenges of the region in which they are located.
  • Scientific resources: From the gathering of regional-scale climate information to the development of vulnerability assessments, sound adaptation work is firmly rooted in and depends upon science. Many universities house institutes or centers devoted to research and education around climate change and adaptation. These entities often have experience working to translate complex data into useful information that can inform policy.
  • Awareness of and access to funding: Adaptation work can be costly, and at the same time climate change impacts will be costly to regions without adequate preparations. Key stakeholders will understand the value of adaptation and the need for the expense. These actors will understand how to collaborate with like actors to strengthen fundraising efforts, or they may be funders themselves, whose mission includes adaptation goals.
  • Empowered to act: Alongside the focus and reach of your potential stakeholders, it is important to determine whether or not a given key stakeholder is empowered to take action within its own level of authority – motivated actors with no authority will limit the success of a regional adaptation collaborative. Striking a balance between being representative and effective, given the diversity of interests around adaptation issues, may be a challenge. As noted above, ARCCA brings a diversity of key stakeholders to the table; however, the majority of members are key policy actors that have played a major role in successful collaboration to date. Creating a venue where these actors can convene and engage in candid discussion is important.

Once you develop a list of potential key stakeholders, a formal or informal interview process can help to better understand views, values and perspectives of key leaders and how they perceive climate change. Get a sense from these leaders about what a successful regional collaborative might focus on, which players should be at the table, and what organizations might lead. This will be an iterative process.  You will start to build your network through this process, so the referrals that come from the interviews are important. You may start with the goal of completing 20 interviews, but that goal may increase as initial interviews elicit new leads.

The interview process can also serve as a way to engage key stakeholders in the emerging collaborative. The interview process should include mechanisms that not only capture feedback about key stakeholder expertise, but that outline the collaborative’s structure, its goals, first steps, and how they can be involved. This way, you can use the process to start to build a community of interested actors and develop buy-in to the collaborative. Advise leaders what their input will inform, and create feedback mechanisms to keep them informed as the collaborative develops.

Once the interview process is complete, determine the most appropriate key stakeholders to form an initial working group. These stakeholders should be both willing and able to facilitate a working group effectively. The working group will likely include a a core of people who can invest the time to steer the collaborative but also should have a means for others to participate as needed. One agency may volunteer to lead early coordination of the group or agencies may need to rotate duties to keep momentum up.

Tools & Resources