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The City of Portland, Oregon

Planning and Sustainability

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September 11, 2013 Notes from Conference Call

Members Present: Bill Beamer, Kristey Nguyen, Demi Espinoza, Linda Nettekoven, Claudia Arana-Colen, Vivian Satterfield

Members Absent: Rachael Hoy

Staff Present: Michele Crim, Taren Evans, Tim Lynch, Shoshannah Oppenheim, Lauren Norris


General Check-In

  • Tim invited committee members to share any things from the prior week’s conversation that either didn’t come up or that folks wanted to highlight
  • It was a rich discussion and the new format seems to be working well


Community Engagement Presentation

  • Lauren Norris with BPS gave an overview of the outreach and education program work of the bureau.
  • Much of the work has focused on behavior change – how people use the spaces, how they get around, what they buy, etc. Behavior change could result in a reduction of 1 Billion tons of carbon emissions – so it is a big opportunity.
  • Most of the programs don’t look/feel/sound like a climate conversation – it’s about recycling, bike commuting, etc.
  • There is value in talking about climate itself too – in part so people can see what the connections are between climate change and buildings, energy, transportation, etc.
  • Portland’s primary focus on talking about climate in four categories – healthy home, food choices, getting around, your stuff. The program is called “Portland CAN” (Climate Action Now).
  • It is a place of resources, information, positive stories, action oriented, etc.
  • There have been grassroots approaches to connecting the public with this information – including tabling at community events, as well as a program called ReThink.
  • ReThink was a pilot that focused on climate and sustainability education focused on serving low-income communities and communities of color. Community organizations would host the program, and received $1,000 to $1,500 for implementing a climate action.
  • The City has learned a lot about talking about climate as well as consumption to the public, and have identified some opportunities for improvement. For example, the ReThink program was very meaningful and impactful, but only reached a few people.
  • Another lesson has been that many Portlanders across a wide variety of communities understand what actions to take why it is it is a good thing to do them – the challenge is understanding where/how to do them and having the right resources in place. The new focus is about connecting individuals with the resources/information they need to take the action – less about why taking an action is important.
  • The focus will be on helping people connect through their existing social groups (e.g. churches, etc.) to do projects within their community that would be supported with grant funds.
  • The City is also looking at developing web-based tools that can make the project and behavior change into a game (recognition, competition, connections through social media, etc.).
  • Key questions:
    • Is this approach appealing? 
    • How can the City better tie the community project to the individual actions (behavior change)?
    • Is it better to have a competing larger prize, or more smaller prizes or some other approach?


Group Discussion

  • With respect to ReThink – did the City get any feedback? After each event there were evaluations after the classes and the event, as well as a follow-up several months later for the June Key Delta event. Generally, respondents were very positive about their experience and many were still taking actions. The shift the City is looking at taking is focused more on enabling people to take actions, rather than spending so much time being introspective.
  • Often, people are of different mindsets – some like to go deep and understand the “whys”, while others are more interested in getting out there and doing something.
  • The City is interested in quantifying the actions that people are taking so that progress can measure. The web interface (e.g. game) might help track that information.
  • The amount attracts different types of organizations. $1,500 may not be too small – but it is an important question to ask. It might be a good amount for a smaller, less established – but it might not be enough to get a larger organization like the Urban League to engage.
  • Is there value in the City coming in to support an existing effort or priority of an organization – what’s on their agenda that ties into climate action? How could the grant help drive their larger agenda. There is then a double incentive.
  • One of the benefits of that approach is to help change the perception of who is involved and taking action in the climate discussion (e.g. the June Key Delta center project has helped to expand the perception that African Americans are working toward the solution too).
  • For some larger organization – they might be interested in a larger grant that could be distributed through them to other smaller groups (e.g. a bigger pot of money, but with more partners coming together to work on smaller projects).
  • There are several years of recent history related to small grants that were given out through the neighborhood coalitions – there might be some lessons learned there that could inform the process.
  • Depending on funding possibilities, a long-term goal might be to make small grants with people competing for a larger prize based on the good outcomes from the smaller grants. Or alternatively – maybe individuals that participate in the small grant project compete for a prize through prolonged behavior change at an individual level.
  • In terms of how the outreach is done to let people know about the grant opportunity is important – e.g. are the announcements, materials, grant contracts translated. This should be budgeted for in the roll out of the program.
  • The City’s existing work likely as a general framework (healthy home, your stuff, food choices, getting around) so community groups wouldn’t need to completely start from scratch. The City would provide technical assistance and/or connect the communities with existing resources.
  • For the action related to neighborhood metrics – how will that information be provided and used? The City hasn’t thought this through and would be very interested in ideas, or cautions committee members might have.
  • Is resiliency and emergency preparedness part of the Fix-It Fairs? Yes, but they might not be explicitly talking about climate.
  • Green Spot was piloted at the last Sunday Parkways, the evaluations were very favorable. However, it rained during the event so fewer people were engaged than was hoped for.
  • The action related to Your Sustainable City – is it working? Are the City getting into underrepresented events? Yes, they do 6 events a year and generally attend diverse community events. These tabling events would be a good place to advertise the CAN! small grants.
  • How would the County envision connecting existing outreach and services to the climate outreach? There is an active commitment to having a larger conversation, but no clear plans on how it would be accomplished. The County would welcome ideas and suggestions from the committee to help inform that work going forward. There is a need to better understand how to leverage the conversations and find messaging that works with the East County partners.