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Meet the 2022 Climate Resilience Grantees

As climate change continues to exacerbate existing burdens on communities and present new and unique challenges, River Network is expanding our work to assist local organizations in launching Community-Led Research (CLR) projects and Leadership Development (LD) programs. This year, with support of the Kresge Foundation and the Patagonia Foundation, we have connected with 8 new organizations interested in implementing community-centered approaches to building climate resilience and addressing other local, water-related issues using River Network’s tools. River Network is providing each of these organizations with grant funding and technical support to implement their projects. 

In 2020, River Network published a two-part toolkit, Tools for Equitable Climate Resilience. The first publication, Fostering Community Leadership, outlines the importance of building capacity in existing and emerging leaders on the local level, and engaging a broader and more experiential perspective in formal and informal leadership roles. The second, Fostering Community-Led Research and Knowledge, presents a step-by-step guide for collecting relevant data and centering community-based expertise at the heart of local investments and policy. Together, these guides blend two intentional techniques that put community experiences at the forefront of decision-making.  

In 2021, we supported 8 organizations exploring CLR, and provided project planning support through every stage of the process. Simultaneously, we assisted 3 organizations with the planning and design of leadership development programs, to build capacity in community members. All 11 organizations received grant funding and access to River Network staff for technical support, as well as peer calls and sharing opportunities with other organizations in the 2021 cohort.  

We’re excited to be exploring new project ideas with the 2022 cohort, intentionally fine-tuning the ways in which we can support local organizations, and eagerly anticipating the final projects and programs as a result of our work together. Check out the map and summaries below to meet our new partners! 

(1) Heartland Conservation AllianceKansas City, MO 

In the East Palestine neighborhood of downtown Kansas City, Heartland Conservation Alliance (HCA) is working to develop a strip of vacant lots, totaling over a half-mile long in continuous land, into a community asset. The proposed project is complex: involving land purchase, multiple municipal agencies, and a culturally diverse neighborhood with a high percentage of renters. Using CLR, HCA seeks to understand what the community wants to see happen with this land, who should ultimately own the land, and various impacts that could result from developing it as green space or another identified asset.  

(2) Blue Water BaltimoreBaltimore, MD 

Blue Water Baltimore is working with leaders in Baltimore’s Cherry Hill and Belair Edison neighborhoods to collect and amplify residents’ firsthand experiences of sewage backups, in order to connect residents with resources, increase understanding of climate- and water-related issues, and bolster advocacy efforts to mitigate the number and severity of sewage backups across the city. This project, conducted in partnership with the University of Maryland and neighborhood leaders, will engage with and financially compensate approximately 50 residents to share their experiences with sewage backups, positioning them to apply to various city programs that support cleanup activities. 

(3) White Clay Watershed Association – Landenberg, PA 

The White Clay Watershed Association (WCWA) has partnered with community leaders in Avondale Borough to engage residents impacted by recurring flooding, and who have repeatedly experienced displacement from their homes in recent years, as part of an effort to inform the Avondale Watershed Assessment and Restoration Plan being developed by WCWA. A particular focus of this effort is engaging members of the Latinx community in identifying solutions that mitigate the impacts of flooding, while also addressing other residents’ needs related to parks, open space, transportation and affordable housing. Avondale Borough sits at the lower end of the East Branch of the White Clay Creek watershed; the White Clay Creek is a federally-designated National Wild and Scenic River.  

(4) Un Nuevo Amanecer – Ponce, Puerto Rico 

Un Nuevo Amanecer, Inc., (UNA) a community-based organization in Ponce, Puerto Rico, on the island’s south coast. They are using community-led research to inventory hundreds of abandoned, near-shore properties in the Barrio Playa de Ponce to assess their potential for restoration and mitigation of coastal storm, coastal erosion, and sea surge impacts. UNA has partnered with data visualization experts at Centro para la Reconstrucción de Hábitat to map the collected data, creating tools to support UNA’s advocacy for the city’s purchase of the abandoned lots and their inclusion in a community land bank geared towards green infrastructure, in-community relocation away from flood hazards, and the creation of a local green infrastructure workforce and economy. The results of this project will inform a US Army Corps of Engineers floodplain study that will begin later this year.  

(5) Retail Arts Innovation Livability (RAIL) Community Development Corporation – Mesa, AZ 

RAIL CDC is engaging with community members in the Mesa Water Tower Improvement District in Mesa, AZ to identify, plan and implement projects that address local impacts of extreme heat, plan for disasters, and examine water scarcity scenarios. Using the Greater Phoenix Heat Action Plan as a guide, RAIL is working alongside HUE Heat Ready Neighborhoods Project. 

(6) Musconetcong Watershed Association – Asbury, NJ 

Although Latinx community members in Hacketstown, NJ (the only urban center on the Musconetcong River) live within 2 miles of two state parks, they have historically underutilized these resources. The Musconetcong Watershed Association (MWA) is working with organizational partners and leaders of the Latinx community to design and implement a community-led research project to better understand the community’s needs and interests related to open space, recreation, and public lands and to identify barriers to access. Through this initiative, MWA and community partners will explore issues such as language access, transportation barriers, and cultural relevance of programming and outreach by recreational and watershed organizations in the region. 

(7) Huron Pines – Gaylord, MI 

You can find the staff of Huron Pines spread across 12 counties in Michigan’s upper lower peninsula. With a variety of established programs and relationships relating to environmental education, water quality, and ecosystem health, this team is looking to infuse current offerings with new forms of training for both elected/appointed officials and community members, alike. This two-sided capacity-building approach aims to ease communication and collaboration between communities and formal leadership, and elevate residents to view themselves as local experts and community leaders as well. Their involvement in the Lake Huron Forever initiative emphasizes the need for a disbursed network of leaders protecting water resources (check out a gathering opportunity for organizations in the Lake Huron basin here!). 

(8) Verde – Portland, OR 

Cheyenne Holliday, Verde’s Water Justice Coordinator, is working with results from the Oregon Water Futures Project Report to build a Water Justice Leadership Institute. This funded program is set to launch in 2023, but Verde is working collaboratively with River Network on planning the foundational pieces of the program well ahead of its launch. Focusing on components like structure, accessibility, hands-on learning experiences, and technical- and soft-skills development, the planning team is enthusiastically mapping a successful trajectory for future participants. We’ve even had some fun playing with K-12 educational tools we can adapt for adults!

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