KLA Perspectives

Heat Pump Coaches Get Residents -- and Climate Goals -- to Yes

Posted by Kim Lundgren on Mar 28, 2022 10:38:01 AM

KLA clients lead the way with innovative, scalable, replicable climate solutions at the local level.
Each month in 2022 we will shine a spotlight on their bright ideas.

Heat pump coaches in Concord, MA, help meet a climate goal:
getting homeowners to transition to efficient heating and cooling

“Why You (and the Planet) Really Need a Heat Pump.” We saw this headline the other day and our minds went to KLA client Concord, MA.

Like many communities sifting through data to identify the biggest-bang-for-your-buck ways to slash greenhouse gas emissions, getting more residents to switch to heat pumps emerged for Concord as a top strategy. But the process of transitioning a heating or cooling system to a new fuel source – plus choosing the right equipment and installer -- can be daunting for people. To begin with, don’t assume that heat pump technology and the benefits are common knowledge. In fact, a recent survey done by the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center (MassCEC) found that 50% of Massachusetts residents do not know what heat pumps are.

So it wasn’t surprising that in Concord the uptake of heat pumps to meet climate action goals was happening too slow and needed a nudge.

That nudge comes in the form of a coach.

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Topics: community engagement, local leadership, climate leadership, bright ideas

How an Employee Climate Training Program Can Boost Engagement and Action

Posted by Kim Lundgren on Feb 22, 2022 12:45:00 PM

KLA clients lead the way with innovative, scalable, replicable climate solutions at the local level.
Each month in 2022 we will shine a spotlight on their bright ideas.

A key but often overlooked strategy for local climate action plans is a training program for city/town/county employees to raise awareness of climate challenges and solutions among an important audience.

That wasn’t lost on KLA client San Antonio, which included “educate and empower all residents with knowledge to address climate change in the community and at the workplace” as a strategy in their Climate Action and Adaptation Plan. And they’ve already made good on that promise through a robust and ongoing employee training program.

For a city that employs 13,000 people, leading by example can make a big dent.

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Topics: community engagement, local leadership, climate leadership, bright ideas

Denver's Chief Storyteller on the Power of Stories to Engage Your Community

Posted by Kim Lundgren on Oct 29, 2019 12:35:14 PM

In the local government world, we are constantly trying to push information OUT to members of our community. A new initiative. Results from a previous initiative. A planning process. A public forum. A revamped website. Even when we’re seeking people’s feedback, we’re asking them *our* questions in a survey.  

Which is why I found my recent conversation with Rowena Alegria for KLA’s SAS Talk with Kim podcast so fascinating. Alegria has the supremely cool title of Chief Storyteller for the City and County of Denver, Colorado, and the even cooler goal to “change the history of Denver,” one story at a time. 


Her team’s approach -- the core of which is a “storytelling lab” -- has had the amazing result of turning interactions with residents into two-way conversations, the holy grail of community engagement. And these aren’t just the usual suspects. Denver’s storytelling labs have drawn a diverse array of Denverites and catalogued stories that you won’t hear at a typical public meeting. 

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Topics: community engagement, storytelling

New Resource! 4 Steps to Add Street Teams to Your Equity + Community Engagement Efforts

Posted by Kim Lundgren on Sep 25, 2019 10:17:17 PM

KLA's Summer Intern takes a look at our latest resource, a 4-step guidance document on adding "street teams" to your community engagement strategies.

By: Claire McCoy

We know that one of the most effective ways to effectively engage your community during a planning or similar process is to get out in the community. To be present at community events. To convene small get-togethers. To show up at the places where people live, work, play and commute. 

But for busy local government staff, that can be a time and resource intensive exercise. And you might not be in the best position to get honest feedback. 


That’s why a key ingredient for robust, equitable engagement is street teams. 

Given the questions about and interest in street teams on our recent Equitable Engagement webinar, we pulled together a resource on the topic. It includes:

  • a detailed 4-step Recruit-Train-Coordinate-Evaluate process
  • best practices for getting your municipality’s first street team up and running
  • pro tips
  • resources like job descriptions and contracts 

Download our 4-Step Street Teams Guidance

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Topics: community engagement, equity, planning, youth outreach

Box City: What Our Kids Are Learning - And Can Teach Us

Posted by Kim Lundgren on Jun 25, 2019 2:05:12 PM

School has just ended here in Boston, giving me time to reflect on all that my daughter, Charlotte, learned and accomplished in 3rd grade.

As a planner and sustainability professional working with local governments, I had a “proud mommy” moment visiting her class to check out Box City. A collaborative class project, Box City can tell cities a lot about what their future citizens want. 

It also got me thinking about the importance of two things we talk about with KLA clients often: youth engagement and regenerative thinking. 

The Kids are Alright

As these photos suggest, our kids are big thinkers. Here are some of the ways their ideas struck me forward-thinking: 

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Topics: community engagement, planning, youth outreach

How Indianapolis Used Animals, Bikes, Yoga and a Passport to Engage Kids in Sustainability Planning

Posted by Kim Lundgren on Aug 24, 2018 1:58:51 PM

Earlier we wrote about KLA’s work with the City of Indianapolis to think outside the box for public engagement in developing their Sustainability and Resilience Plan. Part of the Thrive Indianapolis approach is a focus on several populations that are not typically engaged in a community planning process, including youth. 

Young people -- which we defined loosely as elementary through high school ages -- will, after all, be the ones living with the impacts of today’s decisions longer than the rest of us.

So Indianapolis pulled together the first Thrive Community Day in mid-August as an end-of-summer celebratory and educational event specifically designed to engage a younger audience. It was a hit. 

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Topics: sustainability, community engagement, resilience, cities, youth outreach

Beyond the Usual Suspects: 4 Public Engagement Strategies from Thrive Indianapolis

Posted by Kim Lundgren on Aug 9, 2018 9:31:00 AM
Read a quick update on Thrive Indianapolis, "How Indianapolis Used Animals, Bikes, Yoga, and a Passport to Engage Kids in Sustainability Planning." 

Many sustainability planning processes (and indeed planning processes in general) tout community engagement as the cornerstone of plan development. But we often see the same actors engaged time after time. These are often representatives and members of environmental nonprofits and super civic-minded citizens. While their opinions are important, ultimately the needs and perspectives of huge swaths of the community are not reflected in the final plans because they weren’t given the right opportunity to voice them.

That was not the approach Indianapolis wanted to take when they embarked on their Sustainability and Resilience planning process and brought the KLA Team in to manage it. The plan -- called Thrive Indianapolis -- brings together City agencies, community partners, and residents to chart a course for an Indianapolis that is equitable, healthier, and prepared for the challenges of the 21st century. It encompasses 8 “plan elements”:

  • Built Environment
  • Economy
  • Energy
  • Food & Urban Agriculture
  • Natural Resources
  • Public Health & Safety
  • Transportation & Land Use
  • Waste & Recycling

So it touches on everything -- and everyone -- from infrastructure to parks to jobs to food access to transportation options to safe streets to air and water quality. We’re still only halfway through the process, but so far the approach we’ve taken with the City and our partners to really shake up the standard community engagement game is showing results.

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Topics: sustainability, community engagement, resilience, KLA, cities, indianapolis

How a Game, Surveys + Virtual Reality Can Support Your Resilience + Preparedness Outreach

Posted by Kim Lundgren on Aug 6, 2018 9:30:00 AM

3 Unique Ways to Get Your Stakeholders + Community Involved in Emergency Preparedness and Climate Resilience

We’re in the middle of hurricane and wildfire seasons with other parts of the country battling heat waves and others recovering from flooding. And we’re weeks away from National Emergency Preparedness Month (September). Is your community ready if your number is up?

There are plenty of ways to engage community members and key stakeholders in your emergency preparedness and climate resilience planning.  We're taking a look at 3 -- a game, a survey tool and virtual reality -- that we think are the most fun and effective. 

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Topics: sustainability, community engagement, resilience, cities, preparedness

Kick Start Branding for Your Next City Initiative with These 20 Questions

Posted by Kim Lundgren on Mar 27, 2018 10:30:15 PM

You’re embarking on a new city-wide planning process or developing a long-range sustainability, resilience, climate action plan or similar. Chances are you want to go beyond “Our City's Sustainability Plan” if you want to effectively grab the public’s attention.

At this same time, local governments don’t often have the luxury -- in time or dollars -- of a robust branding exercise for every new program, initiative or planning process.  

That’s why I asked Robin Samora to join me for our latest episode of the SAS Talk with Kim podcast. Robin is a friend who has worked with KLA on our branding and marketing strategies and who shared lots of great insight and tips that local governments can use to manage a smaller-scale, internal branding process.


One of the themes in my chat with Robin was the tendency -- not just at the local government level but across the board --  for our messages to convey the *what* of a particular service or initiative, instead of the WHY. Why does this particular initiative or program exist? Why is it important to people in your community? What’s the value proposition? Robin echoes the sentiments of branding experts the world over: branding is how you (your product, your service) make people feel. That’s why you need to get beyond calling it just a “Sustainability Plan” -- which is the what, not the why.

Part of that "why" value proposition is often a call-to-action (or "CTA"), particularly for cities who need their citizens to come to an event, give feedback on a proposed plan, make a lifestyle change, etc. That makes the delivery of your brand -- from the right spokespeople and “brand ambassadors” to targeted messaging and tactics -- critical.

Finally, you want to make sure to do due diligence in terms of institutional memory. Know your city’s branding (and any expectations of alignment with it), what market research already exists, what similar initiatives or programs have been promoted in recent years as well as what has worked and what hasn’t worked. That helps establish what messaging and tactics you might want to tap or, conversely, avoid.

In addition to KLA’s experience with Robin and other consultants in our own branding journey last year, we’ve worked with several clients to develop branding -- and attendant marketing collateral -- for their sustainability planning initiatives. (See some examples below.)

As a result, we’ve compiled a list of 20 questions to ask -- along with a few tips -- during the branding phase of your initiative.


  1. Will you be developing a separate graphic identity (i.e. logo, set of icons) for the initiative or program? Tip: If you don’t have internal design resources, consider a relatively cheap option like Logo Tournament.

  2. Will you need both a name and a tagline (i.e. mantra, motto, strap line) for the initiative or program?

  3. What is your city’s “brand personality”?  

  4. Are there particular features or characteristics for which your city is already known -- i.e. historical figures or events, sports team, cultural, universities, personalities (grit, innovative, etc)?

  5. Does your city have a style guide or branding outline you need to follow (things like logo, typography, color, photography usage)?

  6. What efforts similar to a sustainability/resilience/climate plan has the City done in the last decade?

  7. What were they called?

  8. Are they still visible or in people’s memories?

  9. Was the overall reception positive or negative?

  10. What market research has been done in your community? Tip: Start with your Economic Development Department, Chamber of Commerce or your Convention and Visitors Bureau (or equivalent).

  11. What kind of research and testing, if any, have been done around messaging and concepts like "sustainability" "resilience" "climate action" and "livability"?

  12. What kind of message testing will you be able to do in advance of your initiative or program launch? Tip: You can pull together a simple focus group, online survey or social media contest to elicit feedback. Also, think about tapping a local high school or university class to support your research.

  13. What are some key words or phrases associated with your initiative or program? Tip: Do a "word storming" session (which you can do in person, over the phone or via a shared doc online) where key staff and stakeholders share words and themes -- be sure to include "words to avoid." 

  14. What groups and individuals are considered leaders (or “influencers”) in your community?

  15. Do you have relationships with those people or ways to reach out to them? 

  16. What target audiences (i.e. moms, lower income, seniors) will you be trying to reach?

  17. What is the core value proposition to them? Tip: Consult with groups and individuals who serve these communities to ensure your messages will resonate. Get concrete examples of the language your audience uses and primary issues impacting them. 

  18. What are the best ways to reach these audiences -- and the barriers? Tip: Ask your community partners where these audiences can be found (in the physical community and online).
  19. What do most people in your community already know about the initiative, program or topic and what misperceptions might there be?

  20. Will you need to include translations for non-English speakers? 

That's just a starting point, but if you take the time -- with the right people involved -- to answer these questions honestly and thoroughly you will be leaps and bounds closer to a final brand.  The KLA team (in our KLA capacity and with previous clients/jobs) has worked with numerous local governments and community organizations to answer these questions, develop a brand and/or create basic guidance to pass off to designers, and ensure brand consistency across all outreach channels and collateral. Some examples of that work are below. It's a good reminder of the hard work, stories and meaning behind every brand you see. 

 Be sure to listen to our chat with Robin to get more insight. 




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Topics: sustainability, community engagement, branding

New Podcast: The Power of Participatory Budgeting

Posted by Kim Lundgren on Mar 19, 2018 10:42:32 AM

At a time when the integrity of many democratic institutions -- from voting rights to the free press -- is under attack, Participatory Budgeting (PB) is emerging as an effective, inclusive tool for local governments to forge, maintain or mend meaningful, engaging relationships with their citizens.

Jennifer Godzeno, Deputy Director at the Participatory Budgeting Project, joined us for an episode of our SAS Talk with Kim podcast series to talk about the basics of PB.

Listen to Our Participatory Budgeting Podcast.

PB is an open, democratic process through which community members directly decide how to spend part of a public budget. For cities, counties and local government departments, that often translates into funding for bike lanes, community gardens, transit upgrades (like bus station shelters or benches), playground equipment, street lights, composting facilities, community gardens (pictured here funded by PB in Vallejo, CA), murals, crosswalks and other street and sidewalk safety features, and playground and pool equipment. 

Started in Puerto Alegre, Brazil, in 1989 and introduced in the US in Chicago two decades later, PB is gaining steam because of the myriad of challenges it addresses and benefits it offers communities large and small, including:


  • Building community leaders
  • Creating a bottom-up conversation that illuminates a community’s needs and makes local leaders more responsive
  • Expanding civic engagement
  • Enhancing how  informed the public is
  • Fostering effective and fair leadership

How does it accomplish all of that? The Participatory Budgeting Project breaks the process down into fives stages:

  1. Design: A steering committee, representative of the community, creates the rules in partnership with government officials to ensure the process is inclusive and meets local needs.
  2. Brainstorm: Through meetings and online tools, residents share and discuss ideas for projects.
  3. Develop: Volunteers, usually called budget delegates, develop the ideas into feasible proposals, which are then vetted by agency staff.
  4. Vote: Residents vote to determine how the available budget will be spent to fund proposals. It’s a direct, democratic voice in their community’s future.
  5. Fund:  Winning projects are implemented, such as laptops in schools, Wi-Fi in public parks, or traffic safety improvements. The government and residents track and monitor implementation.

If you're ready to take the next step and learn more about how Participatory Budgeting could work for you, start with our podcast. Then you can download the Participatory Budgeting Project’s PB Scoping toolkit (there is also one specific to schools). 

Listen to Our Participatory Budgeting Podcast.

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Topics: sustainability, community engagement, participatory budgeting