Step Three: Identify Priorities in Your Community

"Adaptation planning processes can rarely look at every aspect of adaptation. It is important to have a clear understanding of what is most important in your community and focus as much as possible on that." - Coordinator for the Communities Adapting to Climate Change Initiative, Phase 1 and 2

What You Need To Do

Tony Frary, a member of Kaslo's Steering Committee, votes on priority issue areas for his community.Determining priority impact areas in your community is a multi-step process that can occur in many ways. It involves the following three steps that can be done sequentially or concurrently.

  1. Identify the range of potential priority impact areas
  2. Identify priority impact areas
  3. Confirm priority impact areas for further investigation

The key to this step is to start broad and do a scan of potential impacts areas and then hone down on your focus and select priority impact areas.

1. Identify the Range of Potential Priority Impact Areas

It is expected that a community will have some possible impact areas in mind before they even begin the process. Developing a list of potential priority impact areas, and then exploring these with community members through a variety of techniques is the first step in identifying priority impact areas. This can be done by the local coordinator in collaboration with the steering committee, or with more extensive public involvement through workshops or surveys.

Four helpful techniques in determining and exploring potential priority impact areas include:

  • Scanning existing planning documents
  • Community surveys
  • Impact mapping
  • Scenario planning

Scanning existing planning documents in your community is a helpful first step in identifying potential priority areas. Planning documents, such as the Official Community Plan, Sustainability Plan, Emergency Evacuation Plan and Wildfire Plan will help to identify preexisting community priorities, many of which will likely have climate change adaptation implications. 

Community surveys are a method of doing an initial scan of community priorities. Community members can be asked to highlight issues of importance to them through paper surveys, on-line surveys or booths at local malls or grocery stores. The City of Kimberley and the District of Elkford utilized this approach to identify potential impact areas.

Community Example: District of Elkford Community Survey to Begin the Climate Change Conversations and to Identify Priorities

Impact mapping is a great exercise for a community to understand the potential impacts of climate change. Impact Mapping visually shows the web of connected impacts, opportunities and consequences that stem from the possible effects of climate change. Impact maps focus on, for example, how a change in temperature can lead to changes in the ecosystem or community. Impact mapping helps build people's capacity to understand the possible impacts that temperature and precipitation changes may bring.

Impact mapping can be done in a group setting or by an individual through research. If impact mapping is done in a group setting, it is important to have a wide range of stakeholders present, including local government staff, to ensure that all the key impacts are identified. If some key stakeholders cannot be present during an impact mapping session, it would be helpful to have them review the maps later to ensure that important elements were not missed.

Impact mapping is an excellent way to engage community stakeholders in thinking about climate change impacts specific to their community while at the same time providing potentially valuable information and priorities to consider in the planning process.

Community Examples: Impact Maps from Phase 1 and 2 communities

Scenario planning is a method used to explore alternative futures by examining the nature and possible range of impacts of important driving forces affecting our world. It works on the basis of crafting a number of plausible scenarios (or stories) by extrapolating key trends and driving forces. Shell Corporation has created a number of potential scenarios for energy futures on a global scale. You can do the same for your community to help promote understanding of potential impacts.

Start by asking how changes in temperature and precipitation will impact different parts of your community, such as forests, firest, flooding, recreation and emergency response and create scenarios for your community for 2050 or some other date. The City of Kimberley had the benefit of being able to create visual scenarios through their work with the Collaborative for Advanced Landscape Planning (CALP) at UBC.

"Use of scenarios can help bridge the gap between science and uncertainty." - Ingrid Liepa, Local Coordinator for the City of Kimberley's Project

Resource: Shell Corporation Scenario Planning

Community Example: Presentation to the City of Kimberley on Climate Impacts Visualizations

2. Identify Priority Impact Areas

Once a list of potential priority impact areas has been identified, it is helpful to narrow this down to two to four priority impact areas to focus the planning process.  

Some key issues to keep in mind when prioritizing impact areas include:

  • Looking at long and short term priorities
  • Considering both risks and opportunities
  • Avoiding overlooking important but less popular priorities (i.e. drought) in favour of issues more in vogue (i.e. fires)
  • Considering if this is an area where local government has influence (for example, a local issue versus a regional issue)
  • Considering what might or will likely be addressed by other agencies – for example wildfire is an issue for most communities, and there are some resources in place to address wildfire

The City of Rossland hosted a public priority setting event that included dot voting. The approach and degree of public involvement to identify priority areas can vary significantly from community to community. Phase 1 and 2 communities used a variety of methods to determine community priorities including:

  • Community surveys
  • Workshops  
  • Public events with dot voting
  • Discussions with local government staff
  • Kitchen table meetings 
  • Advice from the CBT Advisory Committee and Learning Network

The City of Kimberley undertook two community workshops, a community survey and submissions to the local newspaper at this stage in the process to identify the range of impact areas and prioritize impacts. Kimberley also had separate workshops for elected officials, City staff and key stakeholders and one for the general public. In contrast, the City of Rossland and the RDCK Area D/Village of Kaslo undertook one public workshop to prioritize the potential impact areas and completed the other components of this step with input from only their steering committees. The District of Elkford did a community survey and presented community survey results and impact maps in two open houses.

Resource: Guidelines for delivering Workshops to Identify Priority Impact Areas


3. Confirm Priority Impact Areas for Further Investigation

It is important to confirm priority impact areas before continuing with step four. This can be a simple check in to address the following questions.

  • Do these priority impact areas make sense?  
  • Do they fit with what our community views as important?

This check in make it easier to move ahead with the vulnerability and risk assessments, and eventually the adaptation actions. This confirmation can be done with the steering committee or, if desired, the larger community.