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Each year, Environmental Initiative hosts an awards ceremony to honor Minnesota’s most innovative environmental projects. After projects from across the state are nominated, 18 finalists are chosen, and one winner in each of six categories is announced at the awards ceremony. Projects based on partnership and collaboration are highly valued. We’re excited to report that this year a project initiated by IATP and the Jefferson Center, “Morris Engaged: Planning and Action for Climate Resilience,” won the Community Action category.

“Morris Engaged” started in June 2014 when IATP co-hosted the Rural Climate Dialogue in Morris, MN. The Dialogue convened 15 Morris area residents—randomly selected and stratified to reflect the demographic, political and ideological diversity of the region – to study the local impacts of climate change and create a community response to changing climate conditions and extreme weather events. IATP, the Jefferson Center and other project partners—including the University of Minnesota, Morris – worked for months prior to and after the Dialogue to collaboratively identify issues for Dialogue participants to consider, and to secure support to implement the community’s recommendations.

The Dialogue helped spur a larger movement around climate change in the Morris community. New organizations are joining the program and partners are working to implement community recommendations. Recent efforts include:

  • The University of Minnesota, Morris and the City of Morris are currently working together to develop plans for community renewable energy implementation at the residential, municipal and business scale.
  • The Morris Area High School is incorporating climate change into its curriculum.
  • The Federated Church is working with project partners and other communities of faith in the area to promote awareness and discussion of climate and extreme weather issues among their members.
  • A partnership of community churches, student groups, and area leadership development programs hosted a community education event in April featuring a deliberative discussion of community recommendations and a screening of the film “Chasing Ice.”
  • Partners have secured additional funding to continue working on recommendations throughout 2015.

“Morris Engaged” has proven itself to be a successful model for engaging community members of all different backgrounds, ages, ideologies, and beliefs around climate change in a way that focuses on local impacts and responses rather than politics. The project’s recent Environmental Initiative Award is a true testament to the success of this model of community engagement. Last month, IATP and the Jefferson Center co-hosted a second Rural Climate Dialogue in Grand Rapids, MN, and a third Dialogue is planned for southeastern Minnesota in early 2016. Our goal is to spur similar leadership from within those communities to match the impressive level of civic engagement we’ve seen in Morris.