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Community Engagement

Hands in Circle

Local governments are able to make more informed decisions and have a positive impact on their community when they increase the frequency, diversity, and level of engagement of community members, including businesses and universities. Engaging and involving the community allows the people to develop trust and a sense of pride and ownership in their community. Furthermore, involving the community in the creation of a climate action plan increases the likelihood that projects, solutions, and actions proposed will be widely accepted and relevant to the community members.

Engaging community members is integral to climate protection work as it allows the local government the opportunity to educate the public regarding the science of global warming and local, regional and global effects of climate change, the chance to solicit opinions, thoughts, and concerns from the community members, initiate action that protects the climate, and influence public response to positive and negative, local and global developments.


Getting Started

Here are some tips for starting your community engagement process:

  • Determine what already existing engagement programs exist in your community (see Education and Outreach).

  • Design opportunities to encourage a participatory process and include opportunities for feedback, input, and comments.


Community Engagement Strategies

  • Forming citizen committees

  • Incorporating charrettes into the planning process

  • Creating block leader programs

  • Asking community members to take a pledge

  • Holding community forums and meetings where public participation encouraged

  • Encouraging the formation of neighborhood “ecoteams”


How ICLEI Can Help

ICLEI members have access to case studies, best practices, guidebooks and other resources to assist in engaging your community members.

Selected Resources:

  • Engaging your Community resources in ICLEI’s Action Center

  • National Conversation on Climate Action, ICLEI USA, Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies, Earth Day Network, America Speaks
    The National Conversation’s non-partisan citizen engagement process provides a vital tool for building broad consensus and sustained commitment to tackle this challenge at the local level. In support of the local events, ICLEI and our partners offer tools for connecting with local scientists and other experts, engaging your community in genuine action-oriented dialogue, and plugging into regional, national and international networks of local governments working for climate protection.



  • Developing Effective Citizen Engagement, The Center for Rural Pennsylvania
    This step-by-step guide outlines how to design a citizen engagement plan. It describes how to create local networks and explains how communities can make better decisions that are focused on the needs of the residents.

  • Sustainable Cities: Engage Your Community in Bold Initiatives on Climate Change, Western City Magazine.
    This article provides a checklist for how to promote community engagement on climate action.

  • Town Energy and Climate Action Guide, Vermont Climate Action Network (VECAN)
    This guide is an important resource to communities interested in establishing, or currently working on, town energy committees. The guide provides step-by-step information on how to establish an energy committee and also offers suggestions for state and local resources, funding, model bylaws and more.

  • Planning Public Forums: Questions to Guide Local Officials, Institute for Local Government
    This guide provides practical steps to help local agencies build their capacity to use public forums effectively. It provides information on selecting the type of public participation to use and guides users on how to design a public forum.



  • New Hampshire Carbon Challenge, University of New Hampshire
    The New Hampshire Carbon Challenge works to educate, inspire and support sustained reductions in residential energy consumption. The website includes listings explaining how cities and towns are participating in the carbon challenge.

  • Chevy Chase Climate Protection Pledge, Chevy Chase, MD
    The Climate Protection Committee is working to help the Town meet it's obligation to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 7% from 1990 levels by 2012.  

  • 10% Challenge, Keene, NH
    Modeled after the 10% Challenge started by the Alliance for Climate Action in Burlington, VT, this program asks participants to commit to reducing greenhouse gas emissions by at least 10%. Keene’s program focuses on businesses.

  • Gatlinburg Goes Green Program, Gatlinburg, TN
    The voluntary program recognizes Member businesses that have made a commitment to continuously improve their operations in order to reduce their environmental impact. This program allows Member businesses to evaluate their operations, set goals, and take specific actions towards environmental, social, and economic sustainability.

  • Cultivating Community Gardens, Local Government Commission, Sacramento, CA
    This fact sheet describes how to start a community garden and explains the resulting benefits.


Case Studies

  • Community Engagement, Northfield, MN
    The creation of a Energy Task Force allowed the City of Northfield, MN to work directly with the residents and make achievements towards community sustainability.

  • An Innovative Approach to Energy Conservation and Efficiency, Shutesbury, MA
    Limited budgets required the Town of Shutesbury, MA to think of unique ways to meet its climate protection goals. Learn how Shutesbury looked to outside funding, created an energy committee, and worked with residents to achieve success.

  • A Successful Comprehensive Environmental Agenda, Morgan Hill, CA
    After recognizing that many of the City’s policy goals were related to environmental sustainability, the City Council worked to create a comprehensive environmental agenda to guide the town’s progress.