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The Sustainable Communities Leadership Academy (SCLA) builds the capacity of communities – cities, towns, counties, metropolitan regions and rural areas – to advance, accelerate and scale-up local solutions to the global challenges of climate protection and sustainable development.
Our approach consists of three interrelated and mutually supporting elements:
- We design and deliver intensive peer-learning and training workshops that create a safe and productive space for practitioners from different communities to share with, and learn from each other – as well as from a carefully selected cadre of leading experts. These workshops have served more than 1,000 practitioners from more than 300 communities and 40 states.
- We develop, and provide efficient access to, high-caliber information on the most promising practices underway and the most potentially useful tools, frameworks and resources available, offering practitioners an antidote to information overload, and a shortcut to success. This includes more than 100 carefully researched case studies on innovative local climate and sustainability solutions that illuminate success factors, lessons learned and "tricks-of-the-trade".
- We offer on-going support and direct, customized assistance to participating communities through a mix of virtual and in-person services, including this website, webinars and on-site technical and strategic assistance to help communities design solutions and overcome implementation barriers.
Four features of the SCLA approach that participants tell us make it distinctive and effective are:
- Community-centric: We believe that effective local action is vital for meeting the urgent global challenges of climate protection and sustainable development. Stronger national policies and international agreements are critical as well, but local solutions are a necessary, and often underestimated, ingredient. The SCLA is designed to help key leaders and practitioners at the community scale – sustainability directors; transportation, land use planning and public works officials; economic development professionals, emergency preparedness specialists, elected officials and others – take more, and more effective local action to increase resource efficiency, reduce climate pollution and bolster community preparedness and resilience in ways that advance social equity and economic prosperity.
- Solutions-oriented: We help local leaders and practitioners develop and implement practical and cost-effective climate and sustainability solutions – from large-scale building energy retrofitting initiatives to low-carbon transportation and development programs to climate preparedness and resilience strategies that are integrated into fundamental on-going efforts such as transportation and land-use plans, economic development strategies, capital improvement projects and emergency preparedness programs. These solutions produce multiple benefits for communities, including economic advantages (e.g. cost-savings to homeowners, businesses and government agencies as well as new business development opportunities and jobs), environmental and public health improvements (e.g. reduced air and climate pollution, increased physical fitness, etc.) and social gains (e.g. reduced economic disparities).
- Collaboration-focused: We believe that the institutional barriers that practitioners typically face are at least as important, and difficult, to overcome as the technical complexities. Integration of economic, environmental and social goals and actions is at the heart of sustainable development, and yet few communities are able to achieve the much higher degrees of collaboration that is necessary to achieve truly integrated solutions. The SCLA places a heavy emphasis on building the skills practitioners need to develop effective, integrated solutions, including systems thinking, collaboration and consensus-building, partnership-building and effective communications.
- Customer-driven: We focus on the climate protection and sustainable development challenges and opportunities that local practitioners themselves tell us are their highest priorities for advancement. Our workshops and resources are designed and developed in close consultation with the participants, so that our programs are fully rooted in, and responsive to, on-the-ground realities. In addition, our program team consists, in large part, of former senior sustainability staff from local and state governments, further ensuring that the SCLA is created "of, for and by" the practitioners that it serves.