Community Resilience Toolkits: Equipping the Movement

by Kirsten Andrews-Schwind, Co-founder and Program Director

Bay Localize launched the Community Resilience Toolkit to a packed house at San Francisco’s Women’s Building in 2009.

Bay Localize sparked a movement for community resilience rooted in social equity. To help organizers and communities meet the challenge of cutting their dependence on fossil fuels and preparing for climate change, we created powerful tools offering step-by-step strategies and practical ideas for making a difference from the local to global level. Bay Localize’s two editions of the Community Resilience Toolkit provided simple tools for community planning through the lens of building local economic resilience. The key was not to provide answers, but rather to help communities ask the questions that would lead them to solutions best suited for their own environment. For this reason the toolkits were popular around the globe, and were downloaded in at least 40 states and nearly two dozen countries and translated by local volunteers into Spanish and Italian.

Community Resilience Toolkit First Edition

Kirsten Schwind and the Bay Localize team authored the first edition of the Community Resilience Toolkit in 2009 that introduced a simple framework to understand resilience in your own community. In partnership with a broad cross-section of organizations, we hosted a launch party called “Growing Resilience” at the Women’s Building in San Francisco that included presentations by local activists, live performances, and interactive sessions on how we can build stronger, more resilient communities in the face worsening economic, energy and climate crises (see video above).

Premised on the United Nations International Declaration of Human Rights, the Community Resilience Toolkit included a chapter on each major social sector that meets basic human needs:

  • Food
  • Water
  • Energy
  • Transportation and Housing
  • Jobs and Economy
  • Social Services and Civic Preparedness

Each chapter contains materials and workshop activities covering each sector. Toolkit users were encouraged to assess the resilience of each of these local systems based on four simple criteria:

1. Equity. For example, the chapter on food systems asked does everyone in your community have enough healthy food to eat, even in the best of times?

2. Quality. For instance, the chapter on social services asked participants to rate the quality of access to local health care.

3. Sustainability. The energy chapter asked how much of your energy comes from local renewable sources?

4. Ownership. The chapter on water asked the critical question does your community have public ownership over your water supply?

Community resilience workshop led by Kirsten Schwind (at right) as part of the “Get Down and Dirty 10/10/10” event at Laney College in Oakland, California.

Participants were then asked to assess these systems in a state of emergency. Would they hold up? How do they need to be strengthened? Each chapter also included fact sheets on understanding each system, and a list of range of action steps organized from easy – resources to learn more – to more systemic organizing to change state or federal policy.

The final chapter outlined basic steps in designing a strategic action plan: setting your vision, analyzing community needs and assets, establishing targeted goals, and designing effective strategies.

Community Resilience Toolkit 2.0

In 2012, Bay Localize embarked on a project to expand upon the initial offerings of the Toolkit. To ensure the update would provide useful new tools and resources, we sent an e-mail poll to users around the world asking questions like: How do you use these resources? What improvements would you like to see? The response was clear: our audience of community organizers wanted short, discrete modules that could be used directly in facilitating highly participatory community workshops.

In response, Kirsten and Bay Localize intern Sasha Goodall honed four interactive workshop modules by testing and revising them in dozens of trainings across diverse community settings:

The Local Resilience Assessment expanded on the assessment strategy of the first edition of the toolkit by adding two additional criteria: diversity and self-reliance. The tool leads individuals or groups through rating the resilience of each major community system, and sparks especially powerful conversations about social equity in access to basic needs.

The Climate Risk and Job Opportunity Assessment helps communities understand how they are at risk from the major impacts of climate change including flooding, extreme storms, sea level rise, drought, and wildfires, as well as more subtle economic impacts. However the assessment also identifies an upside: jobs and economic opportunity that could be created by investing in building local resilience. The assessment culminates in outlining the basic elements of a local climate adaptation plan.