On June 22, teams from the American Society of Adaptation Professionals (“ASAP”) and the Houston Advanced Research Center (“HARC”) met in Houston to officially kick-off the Leading with Equity in Adaptation Practice (LEAP) Program. ASAP’s Rachel Jacobson, Maria (Mia) Dozier, and Eliza Garcia participated in the kickoff event along with Dr. Erin Kinney and Dr. Sequoia Riley from HARC. A total of 26 community members from the Houston neighborhoods of the 3rd and 5th Wards and climate change adaptation professionals from across the United States and Canada participated in the event.
The main goal of the LEAP Program is to create a stronger and more diverse network of people preparing for the impacts of climate change in the Upper Gulf Coast. The LEAP Program centers community perspectives on the impacts of extreme weather and climate change, supporting community leaders’ efforts to make their communities safer and healthier.
Climate change disproportionately impacts the most vulnerable communities across Texas and along the Gulf Coast. Community residents within these areas have firsthand experience of how climate change affects their community’s infrastructure, public health, and overall quality of life. They also have a deeper understanding of what is happening on the ground and what is threatening community assets – the kind of knowledge that is essential for effective response, recovery, and climate preparedness. Connecting these voices to climate change adaptation professionals, who have the scientific knowledge and skills to address these issues, will help lead toward more successful and equitable climate adaptation in the Upper Gulf Coast.
The hybrid kick-off event brought together community leaders and adaptation professionals together to formally start the process of planning community-led adaptation projects in the Houston area. The community leaders and adaptation practitioners were assigned to three different preliminary projects:
- a 3rd Ward Community Garden Project
- a 3rd Ward Heat Island or Energy Resiliency Project
- a 5th Ward Resilience Hub Project
With the project teams formed, HARC and ASAP guided participants and facilitated dialogue throughout the day. They provided a wide range of information, resources, and tools to help inspire the groups to implement their adaptation projects successfully. They also provided several opportunities for project teams to build relationships with one another through hybrid discussions and group exercises. The topics which were covered included the principles of quality adaptation practice; an insightful adaptation practice case study from Teal Harrison with Adaptation International; the diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging framework for community engagement; and understanding where to find and how to use climate data in adaptation projects.
Over the next 15 months, the project teams will continue to meet to develop further and implement their projects. Next fall, the groups will present their project results and mark their accomplishments at a celebratory event with the other LEAP teams and their communities.