A Seat at the Table: Training for Whole-Community Climate Resilience Planning


PLANNING FOR THE WHOLE COMMUNITY
Part Two: Opportunities to address social vulnerability in the Resilient New Jersey Planning Framework

From Planning to Action

whole community resilience planning
Figure 2: Resilient NJ Planning to Action Framework
To get a better understanding of how to incorporate a whole-community approach into resilience planning, let’s take a step-by-step look at the Resilient NJ Planning to Action Framework to identify where and how to address social vulnerability.

Resilient NJ is a long-range regional planning program that is conducted “through a resilience lens.” It includes an inclusive process to reach underrepresented and socially vulnerable populations and has a strong focus on enhancement of ecosystems and social networks.

The steps outlined in Planning to Action are fairly well established in the field. Similar approaches can be found in the U.S. Climate Resilience Toolkit (NOAA), Getting to Resilience planning tool (NJDEP and JCNEER), and resilience planning process developed by the National Institute of Standards and Technology in the U.S Department of Commerce.

The outline below is a summary of each step in Planning to Action followed by notes on how to address social vulnerability within that step.

A robust whole-community resilience plan should represent the interests and input from all community stakeholders. Participants can include elected and professional local officials, such as municipal engineers, floodplain managers, public health officers, community planners, and others. The team can also benefit from collaboration with community leaders, businesses, public and private stakeholders, anchor institutions, and other interested community members.

Opportunities to address social vulnerability:
  • When creating the team, resilience planners should ensure that all community stakeholders have a voice in the resilience planning process and not just those who step forward; a proactive effort is likely needed to seek out involvement of socially vulnerable populations.
    • Use the tools from Unit 3 in this training to understand the profile of social vulnerability in your community and ensure that socially vulnerable populations are sufficiently represented on the planning team.
    • Historically, some socially vulnerable populations have been excluded from formal community decision-making processes. They may feel unwelcome or lack trust in processes they are unfamiliar with or that they feel have failed them previously. Unit 4 in this training provides more detail on effective processes to engage socially vulnerable communities in resilience planning.
    • To identify participants from socially vulnerable populations and communities, resilience planners may need to proactively reach out to organizations in the local community that are trusted by socially vulnerable populations.
    • Some socially vulnerable populations may not have adequate time to devote to participation in a resilience planning team. Additionally, some socially vulnerable populations, such as members of immigrant communities, may not be willing to participate in official public meetings. In these situations, resilience planners may need to, instead, seek out representatives of organizations that support, engage, serve, and/or represent socially vulnerable populations.
    • Do not assume that having a representative of one socially vulnerable population adequately speaks for other populations.
  • Resilience planners should ensure that their efforts to populate the team reflect both diversity and inclusion.
    • It’s one thing to check a box and invite the participation of socially vulnerable populations who may not traditionally be engaged in civic activities. It’s a very different effort to ensure that measures are put into place, including budgetary measures, to ensure that those participants feel welcome and have the full capacity they need to participate meaningfully in the team’s work. Resilience planners should ask themselves questions such as:
    • Is the time, location, and logistics of team meetings convenient for all participants?
    • Are language translation services needed?
    • Are childcare services needed?
    • Is transportation support needed?
    • Is financial support needed?
    • Is training and technical assistance needed to ensure that socially vulnerable participants have adequate background on topics under deliberation?
  • Inviting representatives of socially vulnerable populations and/or the organizations that serve, represent, and/or engage them to offer “expert” consultation as part of a resilience planning process may necessitate compensation as would any other type of expert consultation. Budgeting for such services may be warranted.

During the data gathering phase of resilience planning, critical sets of information are collected to identify potential hazards, risks, and vulnerabilities as well as assets throughout the community. The types of data that are typically collected include:

  • Demographic trends and projections;
  • Environmental and climate trends and projected conditions;
  • Assets such as critical facilities, cultural and historic resources, natural resources, and built environment (e.g., transportation, water, stormwater and wastewater, energy);
  • Potential natural and man-made hazards;
  • Land use, land cover, and other existing conditions; and
  • Status of existing local plans and standards.

Opportunities to address social vulnerability:

  • Identifying socially vulnerable populations and communities is a critical element of whole-community coastal climate resilience planning. Review Unit 3 in this training for input on how to characterize the nature of social vulnerability in the community.
  • Development of a resilience plan can benefit from identifying trusted sources of information and services for socially vulnerable populations. Understanding where socially vulnerable people receive information can be important in identifying opportunities for two-way communication. Create a list of communication portals to and from socially vulnerable populations throughout the community.
  • Identifying local organizations (such as faith-based organizations, social service agencies, Family Success Centers, nonprofit community organizations, community development corporations, education and training centers, etc.) that serve and engage socially vulnerable populations is an important mechanism to ensure that development of the community resilience plan is comprehensively meeting the needs of socially vulnerable populations. An initial set of such organizations can be downloaded here, but planners are encouraged to add to this list through local sources.
  • Sharing the information gathered during the data collection phase with organizations that serve, engage, and represent socially vulnerable populations can help to ensure that the gathered information represents the perspectives of all stakeholders. For example, cultural assets in the community that are valued by socially vulnerable populations may not necessarily be identified by other members of the resilience planning team.

Six Key Concepts
Download Getting Started on a Checklist
The next step in the whole-community coastal climate resilience planning process is to build a shared vision for the future of the community. Building a vision involves identifying and agreeing on long-term community goals. These goals become the foundation for determining possible scenarios and actions for the community resilience plan. Goals and objectives set by the team should be measurable, consider any requirements that apply, and be monitored and updated as appropriate.

Opportunities to address social vulnerability:

  • Create an inventory of pre-existing social, economic, and physical challenges in the community that socially vulnerable populations face. This should be a list of pre-existing challenges that may be exacerbated by changing climate conditions, such as flooding or storms.
    • Creating this inventory can help identify existing conditions that should be priorities to be addressed as part of the community's resilience plan.
    • To develop the inventory, the resilience planning team should consult with members of socially vulnerable populations and with organizations that represent, serve, and engage them.
    • As part of developing this inventory, the resilience planning team is urged to consider any local policies that may contribute to conditions in the inventory such as ordinances, zoning, building codes, etc. The team can also consider the extent to which socially vulnerable populations have been involved in inclusive decision-making processes pertaining to relevant policies.
    • To maximize the extent to which the inventory is practically used in the community visioning process, the resilience planning team is encouraged to write a summary. The written inventory does not have to be quantitative or exhaustive. It can be a simple checklist of challenges to help inform the planning process.
    • Getting input from socially vulnerable populations on the inventory will ensure its completeness.
    • Some examples for identifying pre-existing community challenges to socially vulnerable populations are in the downloadable handout to help you get started.
  • Six Key Concepts
    Download Examples of Indicators of a Climate Resilient Community
    The Resilient NJ Planning to Action Framework identifies a set of resilience indicators:
    • Alignment with vision
    • Risk reduction
    • Cost efficiency
    • Regional capacity
    • Environmental enhancement
    • Adaptability over time
    • Community support
    • Social, cultural, and economic enhancement
  • Are there other indicators that the resilience planning team should consider to ensure the community vision reflects an equitable whole-community approach inclusive of the needs of socially vulnerable populations?
  • Members of the resilience planning team may find that organizations in which they are involved, such as public health and planning associations, have resources that can support this effort.
  • A set of resources that the resilience planning team can consult are in the sidebar.
  • “Community support” is listed as a resilience indicator in the Resilient NJ Planning to Action Framework. When assessing the extent to which the community supports the resilience plan, the team is encouraged to ask itself this question: “Does community support extend to all segments of our community, including populations that are most affected by changing climate conditions and populations that are historically underrepresented in civic processes?”
  • Building a vision for the resilient future of a community offers tremendous opportunities to create conditions in which all residents have access to the services, conditions, and systems that allow them to be inherently resilient.
    • One way to ensure maximum consideration of social vulnerability is to write a strategy with two components:
      1. A plan to engage socially vulnerable populations in the development of the resilience plan. Writing a plan can focus the resilience planning team on its efforts to engage socially vulnerable populations. Consult techniques outlined in Unit 4 of this training.
      2. A checklist designed to assess the extent to which scenarios and actions being considered in the resilience plan:
        • incorporate provisions to address the needs of socially vulnerable populations;
        • will have an impact – positively or negatively – on socially vulnerable populations; and/or
        • will affect – positively or negatively – the pre-existing social, economic, and physical challenges facing socially vulnerable populations in the community.

The resilience planning team will use this checklist later in Step 4 of the resilience planning process when it is considering scenarios and actions. See the sidebar for ideas to get started.

Resources for inventory of pre-existing conditions


The resilience planning team is encouraged to develop an inventory of pre-existing social, economic, and physical conditions in the community that may present challenges to socially vulnerable populations that can be exacerbated during coastal hazard and climate events. Here are some sources that may be helpful in developing the inventory:

8 to 80 “Doable City Reader”

AARP Network of Age-friendly States and Communities

All-in Cities Policy Toolkit (initiative of PolicyLink)

American Academy of Social Work & Social Welfare: Strengthening the Social Response to the Human Impacts of Environmental Change

American Planning Association (APA) Policy Guides

Climate Change, Health, and Equity: A Guide for Local Health Departments

Emergency Preparedness & Vulnerable Populations: Planning for Those Most at Risk

EPA: Climate Change, Health, and Environmental Justice

As part of the Resilient NJ Planning to Action Framework, the planning team undertakes a vulnerability assessment. This effort is intended to determine risks under various flooding conditions, including storm surge, sea level rise, increases in rainfall, and nuisance flooding. The assessment includes analyses of impacts on assets such as critical facilities; natural, cultural, and economic resources; housing; infrastructure; and health-based assets.

Six Key Concepts
Opportunities to address social vulnerability:

  • How are hazards, exposure, vulnerability, and risks related?
    • Hazard is a factor that has the potential to cause harm;
    • Exposure is the extent to which a population comes into contact with a hazard;
    • Vulnerability is the characteristics of a population or community that make it more or less susceptible to a hazard;
      For example, coastal flooding is a potential hazard, and exposure is the extent to which people may experience coastal flooding. Vulnerability is the extent to which people may be harmed by that hazard.
      Some people may be more vulnerable than others. For instance, a person who has the ability to telecommute and who lives in an elevated home with a well-stocked refrigerator and generator may be less vulnerable to a coastal flooding incident than a person who lives in a rented basement apartment in a low-lying area with no generator, a limited food supply, and no car, and who works an hourly wage job.
    • Risk, therefore, is a factor of all three conditions: hazard + exposure + vulnerability (figure 3).
  • Underlying causes of vulnerability – Whole-community climate resilience planning is an opportunity for communities to consider underlying social causes of vulnerability. These underlying causes often translate to health outcomes that are not equally distributed across populations.
    • As part of its vulnerability assessment, the resilience planning team is charged with determining the risks facing various community assets under different flooding conditions.
  • The team is encouraged to recognize that risk is not equally distributed across the community because some populations are more vulnerable than others.
  • As such, the vulnerability assessment is an opportunity for the planning team to consider:
    1. Whether socially vulnerable populations are affected differently or more significantly as a result of a risk facing the whole community; and
    2. Whether there are additional, different risks facing socially vulnerable populations that might not affect other populations in the community.
  • More significant vulnerability – As the planning team develops its vulnerability assessment, it can consider whether the impacts of storm surge, sea level rise, increases in rainfall, and nuisance flooding on specific identified assets will have different or greater impacts for socially vulnerable populations.
    • One approach that the planning team can take is to add a feature to its vulnerability assessment that lists the different or increased risks of each identified hazard faced by socially vulnerable populations.
    • The addition of such risks can include secondary or “cascading” impacts of climate events that may disproportionately affect socially vulnerable populations. For example, a flood event may prevent all residents from getting to work on time, but cascading impacts on a socially vulnerable population might include loss of wages for hourly workers, inability to access transportation services for a family that does not own a car, and potential increased exposures to pollutants for individuals in highly polluted areas.
  • Additional assets - There may be additional assets to consider in the vulnerability assessment that are important to socially vulnerable populations.
    • As part of its effort to assess community risks, the resilience planning team is encouraged to broaden its view of community assets to include underlying social, economic, and physical determinants of health that can be exacerbated by changing climate conditions, increasing risk to certain populations.
    • Consulting with socially vulnerable populations to identify the assets to include in the vulnerability assessment is a critical step. For example, inclusion of community health and social service operations may not be assets that would have been identified by the resilience planning team without consulting socially vulnerable populations.
    • The resilience planning team should consider conducting a survey or a series of focus-group-type meetings with socially vulnerable populations to better understand critical assets in the community.

The Resilient NJ Planning to Action Framework outlines several steps that the resilience planning team will lead as part of its consideration of options to guide the development of a final whole-community climate resilience plan:

  • Develop scenarios. The resilience planning team will develop three resilience and adaptation scenarios for the community that consider future flood risk and time horizons. These will be compared to a “no action” scenario.
  • Develop actions. The resilience planning team will develop specific actions to achieve the scenarios. The actions will include physical and non-physical solutions such as nature-based solutions, land use and zoning changes, building and infrastructure improvements, and policy changes. These actions may include consideration of impacts on socially vulnerable populations, existing regional projects, and repetitive loss properties. The team is encouraged to consider innovative solutions with multiple benefits.
  • Evaluate scenarios. The team uses an evaluation system to determine the success of each scenario based upon multiple resilience factors and chooses its preferred scenario for implementation.

Opportunities to address social vulnerability:

All three steps of this component of Planning to Action have tremendous opportunities to address social vulnerability.

  • In Step 2 of Planning to Action, “Build the Vision,” the resilience planning team developed an inventory of pre-existing social, economic, and physical challenges faced by socially vulnerable populations in the community. Now the team can use that inventory to inform its consideration of options by setting priorities that address existing challenges facing socially vulnerable populations.
  • Also in Step 2, the resilience planning team wrote a checklist that can be used to assess the extent to which the scenarios and actions developed here in Step 4:
    • Incorporate provisions to address the needs of socially vulnerable populations;
    • Will have an impact – positively or negatively – on socially vulnerable populations; and/or
    • Will affect – positively or negatively – the pre-existing challenging conditions.
  • The resilience planning team is reminded to continue to proactively engage socially vulnerable populations in this and every phase of the resilience planning process. Use the strategies outlined in Unit 4 to enhance the team’s efforts to foster participatory engagement strategies.

The last task of the Resilient NJ Planning to Action Framework is the final preparation of the resilience plan.

Opportunities to address social vulnerability:

  • Adoption of the plan is intended to reflect community support.
    • The resilience planning team will want to ensure that community support reflects the diversity of the community’s socially vulnerable populations.
    • Dedicated listening sessions on the draft plan to get input from socially vulnerable populations and the organizations that serve, engage, and represent them can be a strategy to get helpful input, build support, and identify implementation mechanisms.
  • Ensure that socially vulnerable populations can access the plan.
    • Given the profile of social vulnerability that the resilience planning team conducted for the community, the team is encouraged to ask itself:
      1. Does the plan need to be translated into other languages? Does a version need to be prepared for visually or hearing impaired individuals?
      2. If the plan uses images, do the images reflect the diversity of social vulnerability in the community?
      3. Are there members of the community who do not have access to electronic resources and will need to have hard copies?
      4. In Step 1 of Planning to Action, “Create a Team & Gather Data,” the resilience planning team is encouraged to identify organizations in the community that serve, represent, and engage socially vulnerable populations as well as portals of two-way communication with socially vulnerable populations throughout the community. Now is the time for the resilience planning team to work with those contacts to distribute the final plan.
  • To maximize impact, the resilience planning team can look for opportunities to integrate implementation of the whole-community resilience plan into existing plans that are intended to support the needs of socially vulnerable populations (such as the local Community Health Needs Assessment).