Portland Talks Resilience, Community

by Thea Kindschuh, CRUX Project Coordinator, Portland Cluster

The Climate Resilient Urban Campuses and Communities (CRUX) program is well underway in Portland, as collaborations with Portland State University (PSU), Mt. Hood Community College (MHCC) and community partners move toward developing climate resilience strategies at the campus-community scale.

CRUX  is funded by a grant from the Kresge Foundation to pilot Second Nature’s climate resilience planning framework on a campus-community scale. Three clusters have been formed in Phoenix, Los Angeles and Portland. They are piloting the framework on different campuses and communities so that they can share their experiences, resources, and feedback on how to make the resilience planning process accessible for campuses nationwide. CRUX sponsors a two-year graduate student fellow to coordinate planning efforts in each cluster. As the Portland fellow, my involvement in PSU’s Masters of Urban and Regional Planning program has proven instrumental in bolstering my understanding of and efficacy in the CRUX role. Keep an eye out for updates from our other clusters in Phoenix and Los Angeles coming soon.

CRUX sponsors a two-year graduate student fellow to coordinate planning efforts in each cluster. As the fellow for the Portland cluster, my involvement in PSU’s Masters of Urban and Regional Planning program has been invaluable for my role in CRUX. Keep an eye out for updates from our other clusters in Phoenix and Los Angeles coming soon.

I am currently five months into the process and am working closely with our Portland community partners. Together, we’ve made progress on completing the resilience capacity assessments that are part of the climate resilience planning framework of Second Nature’s Climate Commitment or Resilience Commitment. We are cognizant as we create both an intentional process and a solid final strategy. We are already gaining momentum in community engagement and are identifying our priority areas and strategies for developing holistic, effective, and relevant climate resilience plans.

The Portland cluster is made up of two core task forces – one on each campus – both of which work directly with their respective cities and campus strategists. We work to determine who these campuses serve, what they need to address, and what they are able to address based on their scope. Each core task force is comprised of three to five members who are sustainability, facilities, – and planning staff, researchers, and community members. All, work together, and within their own networks, to compile existing resources and inventory them for our initial capacity assessments. We’ve been going through specific indicators that have been utilized in existing plans, namely the Multnomah County Climate Preparation Strategy, the City Resilience Index, and both campuses’ strategic planning documents. This process allows us to identify our strengths, consider gaps, and establish preliminary focus areas around our potential role and scope in broader community resilience.

The county plans and strategies offer an excellent jumping off point for both campuses, and the task forces have already established distinct and complementary processes. PSU’s existing plans and ongoing research provide the basis to build an innovative climate resilience strategy. MHCC is poised to integrate resilience into the fiber of their campus identity as a whole, while they revisit their own strategic plan. The campus-community partnership also offers the City of Gresham a way to showcase the wide breadth of ongoing resilience-related work in their community.


Community resilience definitions from all disciplines – and musical tastes

Last week we had the opportunity to take the project public at PSU’s Annual Sustainability Celebration, where we hosted our first tabling event to solicit community engagement. The materials were oriented around the CRUX project and planning process, a survey, email sign-up, and an activity where participants could write and draw what resilience meant to them. All three approaches proved successful for offering different levels of engagement with multiple survey participants. We received over a dozen email sign-ups and a fun sheet of ideas around resilience. These ideas included: “water off a duck’s back,”  “it’s all about epiphytes!”, and “I get knocked down, but I get up again, you ain’t never gonna keep me down.” The simple drawing activity offered a casual way to interact with the idea of resilience and discover how it’s approached differently within various academic disciplines. The survey followed a similar theme with a more in-depth focus on responses for resilience, centering around the social and environmental interface of resilience, and a resilient community being, “one that empowers from within and tackles problems together.” The email sign-up offered updates and opportunities to engage through events and taking the survey on their own time as well.

Students, staff, and faculty talk sustainability at PSU’s Annual Sustainability Celebration

For further community engagement, we have been working with a team of students in PSU’s Masters of Urban and Regional Planning program on developing our methodology for community engagement, identifying relevant and representative organizations and beginning initial outreach to these organizations. We are hoping to continue providing multiple levels of voluntary engagement so that we can utilize both broad concerns and contributions. We will also be identifying more invested partners for in-depth workshops and future implementation.

With thanks to all our collaborators, we are excited to continue to delve into these complex issues as an engaged and invested community and share the results with the Climate Leadership Network.