KLA Perspectives

New Podcast: What a Resilience Hub Can Do for Your Community Before, During + After Disasters

Posted by Kim Lundgren on Aug 28, 2018 10:18:57 AM

Summer is winding down, and National Preparedness Month is upon us.  It’s been a summer filled with headlines of devastating wildfires in California, heat waves around the globe and extreme rainfall and flooding events from the US to Japan. It’s clear that communities big and small should be thinking about the impacts they might face now and in the future with climate change.   

Among strategies to prepare for natural disasters, “resilience hubs” are gaining momentum as well as a reputation for fostering equity, neighborhood development and local community power.

In my latest podcast episode of SAS Talk with Kim, I spoke with Kristin Baja, Climate Resilience Officer at USDN and formerly with the City of Baltimore, about the concept, value and logistics of resilience hubs and more of USDN’s work on climate resilience.  

Read More

Topics: sustainability, resilience, SAS Talk Podcast, cities

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. 

Read More

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.

Read More

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. 

Read More

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

Meet the KLA Team

Posted by Kim Lundgren on Jul 25, 2018 10:44:07 AM

Who is Behind the KLA Curtain?

On any given day you can find members of our growing KLA Team:

  • Organizing and attending workshops and events for our clients, their stakeholders and community members
  • Coordinating with local partner organizations in client cities as we develop sustainability, resilience and climate action plans
  • Deep in data analysis for GHG inventories
  • Mapping with GIS
  • Talking with technical partners as we refine our Community Dashboard
  • Walking clients through a messaging and branding process as they kick off new initiatives
  • Designing and conducting surveys to gauge community awareness and opinion on behalf of our clients
  • Drafting social media posts, blog posts and newsletter articles for our clients
  • Speaking at and attending conferences
  • Recording podcasts with leading local government and sustainability voices for our SAS Talk with Kim podcast (Sustainability Action Series)
  • Researching the latest trends and best practices when it comes to sustainability, livability, equity, storytelling, community engagement, smart cities and more

These are tasks we all juggle. And for a growing slate of clients. But with a team this expansive and collaborative, we can effectively juggle without dropping any balls.

So who is this team? Lately we’ve been growing by leaps and bounds, so I wanted to take the opportunity to introduce us to you. You can also do the Cliffs Notes version on our profile page. 

Read More

Topics: sustainability, KLA, cities

"The Latest": Monthly KLA Email

Posted by Kim Lundgren on Jul 10, 2018 10:34:54 AM

In the immortal words of Ferris Bueller, "Life moves pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it." 

These days that's especially true when it comes to local governments' pursuit of sustainability, resilience, smart city and livability goals. As the KLA team churns out new analysis, resources, blog posts and podcasts on these topics -- "KLA Perspectives" -- we want to ensure you don't miss the next big thing. 

Read More

Topics: sustainability

How We Can Use this Heat Wave to Get Ready for the Next Ones

Posted by Kim Lundgren on Jul 5, 2018 3:02:36 PM

As many of us are gearing up for an extra long holiday weekend, it will be hard to leave “our work” at the office. I have been tracking the weather in my hometown of Boston as well as in a number of my client cities particularly in the Northeast, and it is hard to ignore the oppressive heat wave that is hitting the country (and, heck, the whole world) right now.

Meanwhile here in Massachusetts, about 70 cities and towns have just completed and sent in their final reports for a new state program called the Municipal Vulnerability Preparedness (MVP) program. Through the MVP process, cities and towns are engaging key stakeholders and the public to identify four key hazards, the assets that will be impacted by these hazards, and the solutions that can enhance their resilience to these hazards.

And right now one of those hazards is hard to escape: the heat. 

While conversations and news coverage of climate change impacts often focus on sea level rise or flooding due to more intense storm events, it is the sustained temperature increases that is our biggest enemy at this moment in time.

Read More

Topics: sustainability, climate change, heat waves

Recycling: Perspectives from Austin (New Podcast)

Posted by Kim Lundgren on Jun 26, 2018 9:03:11 PM

Recycling. It has been called the “gateway to sustainability” for cities. It’s one of the first things individuals and businesses think of when you ask them what it means to be “green.” And it’s making all sorts of news headlines these days.

Recycling, waste reduction in general and plastics pollution have been in the news recently in part because China announced a ban on some imports of waste and recyclables.

When the KLA team sat down to identify who would be the best local governments to talk to on the subject for our podcast, Austin, Texas, came to mind. A lot of folks in our field have heard about Austin’s zero waste goal (by 2040) which has been around more than a decade (there’s a good EPA case study on this) and calls for the City to 75% diversion by 2020 and 90% by 2030.

Read More

Topics: sustainability, cities, recycling, zerowaste

The State of Climate Adaptation: Guest Post + Podcast with Joyce Coffee

Posted by Kim Lundgren on May 30, 2018 10:06:42 AM

Guest Post by Joyce Coffee of Climate Resilience Consulting.

Even as we work tirelessly and in the face of great obstacles to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions, humans have already set in motion impacts from climate change -- many of which we’re witnessing in real time: more frequent and intense storms, flooding, sea level rise, drought and extreme weather events. Thus, communities around the world are embracing climate adaptation measures and plans to be resilient to what the future will bring -- and what the present is already delivering.

Read More

Topics: sustainability, adaptation, resilience, cities

Participatory Budgeting: How to Put the People in Public Works (APWA)

Posted by Kim Lundgren on May 17, 2018 11:03:35 AM

This article originally appeared in the American Public Works Association (APWA) publication The Reporter's May 2018 issue.  

By: Kim Lundgren of Kim Lundgren Associates and the APWA Center for Sustainability (C4S) and Jennifer Godzeno, Deputy Director at the Participatory Budgeting Project

Listen to a podcast on the topic of Participatory Budgeting with Kim and Jen. 

In Public Works, we often struggle to tell our stories and effectively engage the public, particularly given the fast pace of our day to day. We are busy answering calls when people have thoughts about potholes, water/sewer service issues, road closures, trees that need to be trimmed, new playground and park equipment and everything in between. Most people in our communities don’t grasp what it takes to deliver all of these services every day, ensure public safety is always the top priority, and fund all of these activities. And if we don’t effectively communicate with and engage the public, we can’t expect them to understand.

But what if we could give everyone the opportunity to look behind that curtain -- to participate in helping make the tough decisions about what will get funded and what won’t. At a minimum they could appreciate the delicate balancing act we play. And that transparency could help forge a working partnership with constituents as we work together to make our communities better places to live.

That’s where Participatory Budgeting (“PB”) comes in. PB is an open, democratic process through which community members directly decide how to spend part of a public budget. Participatory Budgeting gives ordinary people real power over real money.

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.

From the point at which a local government thinks “hey, this could work for us” through to actual implementation can feel like an eternity. The planning stage can take 3-6 months followed by 5-8 months for the implementation stages. It involves getting buy-in among the right players and departments internally and externally, determining the budget and scope, identifying a budget and securing funding, and a significant amount of prep work.

So is it worth it?

No longer an experiment, PB is a proven method globally that has been in the US less than a decade and is already showing results. Research by Public Agenda found that “46 jurisdictions across 13 cities in the U.S. and Canada undertook PB between July 2014 and June 2015. During that time, public officials allocated nearly $50 million to PB projects. 73,381 residents voted on 892 projects, and 360 projects won public funding.”

Oakland, California, used PB to help low- to moderate-income communities decide how to to spend almost $800,000 in federally administered HUD Community Development Block Grants. These grants require public participation in deciding how to use the funds, but without PB can be ineffective. In 2017 more than 1,200 Oakland residents voted for projects including meals, mobile showers, and health services for the homeless, housing counseling and legal advice for tenants at risk of eviction, life-skills classes and other support for immigrants and seniors who speak English as a second language, and internship and apprenticeship placement and career counseling for youth.

Greensboro, North Carolina, was the first city in the South to give PB a test run back in 2015-2016. They completed the second PB cycle for 2018-2019 FY funding and are planning a third round. Here are some fast facts from the first PB exercise in Greensboro:

  • City Council set aside $500,000 for PB projects, up to $100,000 for each of the five City Council districts
  • 1,098 residents engaged, 675 ideas generated online and at over 25 events
  • 40 Volunteer budget delegates and facilitators, 28 committee meetings, 2 staff meetings, 1 open house, 10-15 staff reviewers, 75 initial project proposals.
  • 200 residents attended 10 Community Expo events; 46 projects for the ballot.
  • 1,100 voted at 10 locations and selected 26 winning projects, including murals, crosswalks, road and sidewalk safety features, playground and pool equipment

Indeed, many of the projects that are funded through PB fall under the Public Works umbrella. In the most recent cycle of PB in New York City, about 40% of the projects funded were for infrastructure improvements and most of the remaining going to schools. Examples abound from coast to coast of PB-funded bike lanes, community gardens, transit upgrades (like bus station shelters or benches), playground equipment, street lights and composting facilities.


You can easily integrate Participatory Budgeting into your current planning and budget processes.

A Few Ground Rules for Participatory Budgeting 

  1. With intentionality, PB advances equity. PB can offer community members something other meeting and engagement processes cannot: a guarantee that your voice will count. The binding vote ensures people will see tangible results, which inspires a more diverse constituency to participate. There are also opportunities at the design, brainstorming and development points of the PB process when community based organizations can be involved and that go beyond a typical advisory role. When cities allow grassroots organizers to play a meaningful role in designing and implementing PB, they can bring in underresourced communities and get diverse perspectives. Indeed, a study by Public Agenda found that PB is reaching historically disenfranchised populations.
  2. The stakes have to be high enough to matter. PB can be used at the city, county, state or even national scale, but you can also use it at the department level at your city or even a school level. You want to make sure that the money is enough for the stakes to matter and to inspire participation. PBP’s basic rule of thumb is $1M per 100,000 population or 1%-15% of budget.
  3. Real youth engagement. New York City has successfully incorporated PB for a variety of budgeting processes, and they are making a concerted effort to bring in the youth voice. Mayor DeBlasio has pledged to ramp up civics education in schools, including a new pot of funds to expand PB to every public high school as part of an action civics initiative. Harvard University led a study of Boston’s pilot year of the ongoing “Youth Lead the Change” PB process that focuses exclusively on youth 12-25 and found, among other benefits, the empowerment factor and the model of “Change Agent” volunteers. Youth engagement in PB is both valuable -- fresh perspectives, no hidden agendas, and a sense of ownership -- and transformative. If at a young age you learn the skills to engage and see your participation as expected, your community involvement will last a lifetime.
  4. You can’t assign this to an intern. The good news is, you can integrate PB into your current planning and budget processes. PB can streamline the civic engagement work that agencies are and lighten this burden for government staff. But it’s not something you can then offload to an intern -- or even to just one person. Some combination of staff (it is recommended to have the equivalent of 2 full time staff), a volunteer steering committee and community partners much take ownership for the following PB elements: a) Community Outreach & Partnerships b) Group Facilitation & Training c) Volunteer Recruitment & Coordination d) Administrative & Logistical Support e) Budgeting & Technical Support f) Communications & Promotion g) Digital Technology Coordination h.) Research & Evaluation
Participatory budgeting won’t change the fact that Public Works departments have to juggle immediate -- often emergency response -- needs, city priorities and community member desires -- all on a constrained budget. Some projects will get funded and others will have to wait in line. But with PB, those decisions are made together with community input and in a manner that fosters a mutual appreciation and understanding.

Additional Resources:

Read More

Topics: sustainability, public works, cities, participatory budgeting