Note: By clicking the icon , readers will arrive at the Master Checklist that corresponds to each point of the timeline.

Five months before event

First Planning Meeting 

Planning Committee & Event Chair

The first step in hosting a cross-sector climate forum is forming a core team, or planning committee. In the past, these planning committees have consisted of representatives from the Office of the President/Chancellor, Office of Sustainability, and faculty departments and research institutes that are dedicated to climate change, environmental, and sustainability education. Colleges and universities are also encouraged to consider inviting staff from the Office of Marketing and Communications, the Office of Diversity and Inclusion, and the Office of Community and/or Civic Engagement, as these offices possess valuable perspectives, skills, and resources that can aid in the planning process and ensure that the forum is inclusive of underrepresented groups. 

In the early stages of planning, conveners may also want to approach possible cross-sector partners and/or community leaders to discuss potential opportunities for co-organizing the event. In the past, UC3 and Climate Leadership Network members have worked with other regional universities, city governments, and non-profit organizations that have helped provide additional expertise, credibility, and sources of funding as members of the planning committee. 

The committee should also consider electing a competent and passionate leader to serve as chair of the committee. The chair’s role should include overseeing and guiding the work of the committee, and ultimately, the execution of the event itself. More specifically, they may also be responsible for setting meeting agendas, facilitating committee meetings, and spearheading the forum’s program/agenda development, among other tasks.

Deciding on a Cross-functional Collaboration Platform for Use by the Planning Committee

If organizers are expected to partner with different universities, organizations, and other entities, it is important to deliberate and decide on an accessible workspace platform. Applications such as Google Suite, Microsoft 365, and/or Slack may be considered and enable real-time collaboration and immediate access to shared documents and resources. 

Developing the Framework of the Forum 

In the first planning committee meeting, the committee should lay out the framework of the cross-sector climate forum. Outcomes of the meeting should include:

  • Defining a forum goal and purpose statement
  • Identifying potential dates for the forum
  • Drafting a working title for the forum
  • Identifying the target audience and key cross-sector stakeholders
  • Outlining potential topics of discussion and focus areas
  • Exploring possible venues for hosting the forum

Brainstorming Climate-Related Community Issues

The event chair may begin the meeting with identifying potential overarching themes and focus areas for the cross-sector climate forum. In turn, this will influence the framework of the forum, such as defining a purpose statement, drafting a working title, and identifying target audience and key stakeholders. 

Ideally, the forum will focus on a climate-related issue that is currently facing the community, which requires localized actions and place-based solutions. Pressing needs could include the development of a climate action plan, a cross-sector carbon mitigation initiative, or other climate-related initiatives. While the final theme may not be confirmed at this stage in the planning process, taking the time to brainstorm around potential themes and topics of discussion can help shape the purpose statement of the forum. 

Writing the Purpose Statement for the Forum

Cross-sector climate forums are focused on creating and strengthening partnerships in the community to foster place-based climate action solutions that reduce GHG emissions and build community resilience. This is often articulated in the purpose statement and goals established by the planning committee. For example: 

  • Queen’s University’s “Innovating and Partnering for Climate Action Impact”

Develop a shared understanding of the current state of climate action in our community and create connections and opportunities to support each other in our climate action goals.

  • University of California’s “California Collaborative for Climate Change Solutions”

To ignite dialogue on questions related to core elements of effective models of collaboration and among academia, private industry, and government, with special focus on accelerating and scaling climate solutions in the 21st century. Key ideas related to best business practices, models of transparency, criteria for demonstration projects, and stakeholder specific needs will be examined. Expert panelists will focus on opportunities for climate solutions from the perspective of academics, government, investors and private industry. The goal is to craft a white paper that speaks to the manifold opportunities for a new California climate solution collaborative for job creation, innovation, resilience and meeting the needs of disadvantaged and vulnerable communities in California and beyond.

To begin writing your personal statement, consider the intended outcome(s) of holding a cross-sector climate forum at your college/university. Below are some guiding questions that may help you identify intended outcomes:

  • Is the primary goal of your forum to increase climate literacy and awareness among individuals within the community? 
  • Is it to learn more about what your community needs to become resilient against the impacts of climate change? 
  • How would you encourage cross-sector engagement and other community members to participate in the forum?
  • Are you looking to gather leaders across all sectors to pool resources and work collaboratively towards driving down carbon emissions or developing climate resilience solutions in your city, state, or region?
  • Is it to develop a set of actionable solutions to the goals and targets of your community’s climate action plans with the help of cross-sector partners?

An important factor to consider in organizing a cross-sector climate forum is where your community stands in terms of: 

  1. Its awareness and identification of specific climate challenges and goals and 
  2. How prepared it is to address these challenges and meet their goals. 

Answering these questions can also be useful in identifying target audiences and key stakeholders that will benefit from the forum, as well as the format that would be most appropriate for delivering on your stated objectives. 

Determining the Forum Format and Target Audience

In the past, Climate Leadership Network and UC3 college and universities have organized cross-sector climate forums as roundtable discussions, conferences, symposiums, and/or workshops. The forum format often depends on the target audience and intended outcomes. As noted in the Lessons Learned From Previous Cross-Sector Climate Forum web page, it is a best practice to align the intended objectives of a forum to an appropriate forum format. Where the intended outcomes are to promote dialogue and encourage brainstorming among attendees, it may be more appropriate to incorporate roundtable discussions and workshop sessions. If the forum is intended to have an informational component, organizers may decide to incorporate panel discussions and talks by members of the community.

When it comes to the target audience, conveners should not only consider the number of expected/desired participants, but also who they would like to participate in the forum. Having this in mind can also help shape the program agenda and guide the logistical considerations during the planning process. 

Considering Potential Dates and a Venue for the Forum

Early in the planning process, it is crucial for conveners to decide on a list of potential dates and possible venues for hosting the forum. These factors are time-sensitive, as they may affect forum turnout and the availability of speakers and facilities. Keep in mind, it is best to avoid holding the forum on dates that are near or on major local, state, or national holidays or coinciding with other major university events, unless there are clear linkages and advantages to hosting the events concurrently. Also important to keep in mind is the fact that the venue must be able to accommodate the expected number of participants and should be factored into the search for a suitable on-campus or off-campus venue for the forum. 

Drafting a “Master Plan”

At the conclusion of the first meeting, the planning committee should ideally begin drafting its “master plan” that includes the framework of the forum. This can serve as an important guiding document throughout the planning process. The document should be shared with the planning committee and is expected to be updated regularly after every meeting to reflect new information and ideas pertaining to the planning and execution of the forum.