Student Fellowship

Equity in Climate Action: Establishing a Frontline Communities Advisory Panel on Climate Resilience and Mitigation

Project Area:

Climate Action


Vancouver, Washington

Reporting to:

Policy and Program Manager

The Challenge

For Vancouver, climate change is no longer a threat looming in the distance. The community is already feeling the effects of deadly heat waves, hazardous ice storms, and toxic, smoke-filled air from nearby wildfires. These disruptions pose significant threats to Vancouver residents’ health, safety, local economy, natural environments, and overall quality of life. Moreover, these impacts are most acutely felt by communities that are predisposed to greater impacts due to systemic vulnerabilities and inequities (frontline communities). Ensuring that the people most affected by the impacts of climate change have a significant voice in how the city responds to these challenges is a key council priority and crucial to the overall success of the city’s climate action efforts. 

The Vancouver City Council established the most ambitious climate goal in Washington State - carbon neutrality by 2040 - and recently adopted the City’s first Climate Action Framework (CAF) to begin moving towards that goal. One of the priority actions of CAF is to establish a Climate Community Advisory panel to provide ongoing guidance from frontline communities, particularly young people and people of color, on the equitable implementation of the CAF. The Council has pledged to engage with the community during the implementation phase of each action of the Climate Framework, and this panel will be a key mechanism for that engagement. Through this panel, city staff aim to not only create ongoing advisory capacity for the implementation of CAF, but also to develop the next generation of climate leaders within their community. The City’s Climate team has already started to engage local students to inform this effort. The Advisory panel, for example, will build upon the work started in the spring of 2022 by a group of graduate students from Portland State University, to begin identifying climate resiliency needs specific to underrepresented and frontline communities. 

The fellow, working together with the Climate team within the City Manager’s Office, will engage key community, industry, and institutional partners to better understand how an advisory panel should be structured and operated to meet Vancouver’s frontline and underrepresented communities where they are and to engage them in the city’s ongoing climate conversations more fully. They will seek to answer the following key questions: 

  • How should a community advisory panel be structured?
  • Who should be part of an advisory panel?
  • How does the city meaningfully engage underrepresented communities toward the goal of carbon neutrality?
  • How can the community advisory panel incorporate leadership development into its mission and operations?
  • What are promising structures and practices from similar advisory panels?

What You’ll Do

The major components of the fellow’s work will include making connections to and building trusting, working relationships with representatives from Vancouver’s underrepresented and frontline communities; working with community partners (non-profit education groups, environmental advocacy organizations, educational institutions, the NAACP, community organizations, and equity and justice organizations) to encourage participation from youth residents (aged approximately 15–24 years); propose a structure for the panel based on formal interviews and informal conversations and research into promising approaches other cities may have deployed, including a framework and bylaws, that ensures meaningful opportunities to participate and serves as a recruitment and retention tool in subsequent conversations with potential panelists. Key deliverables include:

  1. A portfolio of possible frameworks / structures for launching and operationalizing the Climate Community Advisory panel (i.e., bylaws, meeting cadence, member incentives, etc.) and for recommending to council why the panel should be structured a certain way.
  2. A process for applicant recruitment, application materials (outreach notifications, application forms, etc.), and guidance for applicant selection.
  3. List of potential community advisors based on outreach efforts. 
  4. A proposal for the provision of stipends or other incentives to individuals or community-based organizations participating on the panel.
  5. Presentation to the Mayor, City Manager, and City Council.
  6. Handoff process to senior leaders and team to ensure continuity and transfer of connection and goodwill built up by the summer fellow with these groups to city staff so that these newly created relationships continue to thrive after the summer fellowship ends.

What You’ll Bring

The fellow will be expected to possess the following skills:

  • Qualitative interviewing and analysis
  • Marketing
  • Design thinking
  • Human centered design
  • Writing and editing 
  • Stakeholder engagement and management

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