City of Thunder Bay Development of a local Climate Change Connection Website

Situated in the City of Thunder Bay, this case study describes a project to develop a new climate change website to serve as a centralized source of tools to understand, talk about, and adapt to climate change in Thunder Bay. Thunder Bay has experienced an increase in a variety of climate impacts such as major hailstorms, high winds, and extreme flooding that in 2012 resulted in the declaration of a state of emergency. The increased frequency of major spring snowstorms and extreme cold temperatures has also stressed water utilities infrastructure. The climate change website presents several different avenues for users to engage and share and provides an accessible platform for communication about the physical and emotional impacts of climate change. The case study was authored in 2018 by ICLEI Canada. The project itself involved significant partnerships with Lakehead University, the Thunder Bay Climate Adaptation Working Group, EarthCare, and EcoSuperior.

Understanding and Assessing Impacts

The City has experienced major storms with large hail and extreme winds in 2011, extreme flooding that caused the City to declare a state of emergency in 2012, major snowstorms in the springs of 2013 and 2014, and extreme cold temperatures that have stressed water utilities during winter. In 2015, the City adopted a Climate Change Adaptation Strategy to address these impacts, called “Climate Ready City.”

A single source platform to access information about climate change impacts and actions has been highly requested in Thunder Bay. In March 2017, the City initiated the development of a new climate change website with locally relevant information to the Thunder Bay community. The website is intended to be a centralized source of tools to understand, talk about, and adapt to climate change. The project was created to fill a gap in place-based awareness-raising about climate change in the Thunder Bay community context. The website is unique in its approach to community engagement and motivation. It presents several different avenues for users to engage and share, and provides an accessible platform for communication about the physical and emotional impacts of climate change. To facilitate this, the website was built on three guiding principles: Head (connect with users at a cognitive level in understanding climate science and impacts), Heart (connect with users at an emotional level and provide the opportunity to share stories and experiences with other users), and Hands (connect with users in an action-oriented way by providing users with actions that can be taken to adapt to the impacts of climate change).

Identifying Actions

Planning for the website began in early spring of 2017. The project was originally developed as an extension of a successful Community Action Project called Photo Voice. Support for the creation of the website was secured through Council, particularly since the creation of a public engagement tool related to climate change has been identified in the City of Thunder Bay Climate Adaptation Strategy and the EarthCare Sustainability Plan. To start, the Project Lead researched websites built on similar principles to develop a framework for the new platform. Websites that developed a balance of both emotional and actionable features were helpful. The Project Lead worked primarily with their partner Lakehead University on building the framework and designing the website. The project’s success was partly due to a strong existing partnership with Lakehead University, the Thunder Bay Climate Adaptation Working Group, EarthCare, and EcoSuperior. One of the partnerships highlighted was that with Lakehead University. The University provided access to staff who had expertise in communicating climate change, and was an integral component of the website’s interactive framework. Additionally, the support of the student assistant and website designer were key to the creation of the website and populating it with up-to-date, locally relevant information.

Implementation

The photo message portion of the website was launched in early Fall of 2017. The full website launched in Spring of 2018. Support for the creation of the website was secured through Council, particularly since the creation of a public engagement tool related to climate change has been identified in the City of Thunder Bay Climate Adaptation Strategy and the EarthCare Sustainability Plan. Once the platform was designed, two students from Lakehead University were employed to research and populate website content, specifically local climate change resources. The existing EarthCare Climate Adaptation working group was also engaged to contribute photo messages for the interactive portion of the website. The final evaluation and selection of resource links was completed by the Project Lead and the Lakehead University partner. Collaboration with the Corporate Communications team was necessary to ensure streamlining of the new website with the existing EarthCare Thunder Bay web page, which housed limited climate-related information prior to the creation of the new website. The photo message portion of the website was launched in early Fall of 2017. The full website was launched on April 22, 2018 (Earth Day). A promotional campaign was also developed, including a media strategy, press release, media advisory, notices in Thunder Bay and EarthCare newsletters, as well as inclusion in a municipal magazine that is delivered to residents. To facilitate the spread and uptake of the new website, the City has set up a variety of opportunities to showcase the project.

Outcomes and Monitoring Progress

The positive outcomes associated with the project are threefold:

  1. Partnership with university: The City of Thunder Bay benefited from and strengthened its partnership with Lakehead University. The University’s knowledge and expertise in climate change communication and community empowerment is a resource that the City can continue to draw from for future climate change initiatives.
  2. Engagement of community: The goal of the website was to start a dialogue about climate change within the Thunder Bay community. The sharing of stories and photos, as well as the wealth of climate change information that is available through the website, has the potential to significantly impact community resilience. In addition to providing users with practical, actionable ideas for improving resilience, the website will hopefully inspire the community within Thunder Bay to become more passionate, engaged, and motivated on the issue of climate change.
  3. Collection and awareness of local resources: The process of researching and populating the website with locally-relevant climate data, actions, and information will be beneficial for Thunder Bay residents, EarthCare, and City staff alike. The website can foster more comprehensive understanding of climate impacts facing Thunder Bay, and what options are available to address them. It provides ease of accessibility through a centralized, organized location and makes climate action much more accessible to those who are only beginning to investigate the topic in their work or personal lives.

The success of the website will be measured in multiple ways. To evaluate the effectiveness of the City’s promotional efforts, the number of events and publications where the project is promoted will be tracked and measured annually. The number of partners involved in the project will also be tracked, as the City hopes to continue to engage different groups with contribution and promotion of the website. To observe the community’s contribution to the website, the number of new photo messages submitted to the website and shared via social media will be monitored. Additionally, monthly website visits will be tracked through backend analytics. Three key challenges were encountered during the creation of the website, and include concerns related to time and money, coordination, and engagement.

Next Steps

The City of Thunder Bay will focus on the launch and media campaign surrounding the website throughout 2018. In order to reach as many community users as possible, the Project Lead will continue to identify opportunities such as events and publications through which the platform can be promoted. As the platform continues to spread through the community, it will evolve through community contributions in the form of photo messages and updating of content resource links. With continued engagement from youth, Thunder Bay residents, and through municipal events, the platform can become deeply integrated into the community’s social and informational networks. As of 2021, the website is still in operation.

Resources


Understanding and Assessing Impacts

The City has experienced major storms with large hail and extreme winds in 2011, extreme flooding that caused the City to declare a state of emergency in 2012, major snowstorms in the springs of 2013 and 2014, and extreme cold temperatures that have stressed water utilities during winter. In 2015, the City adopted a Climate Change Adaptation Strategy to address these impacts, called “Climate Ready City.”

A single source platform to access information about climate change impacts and actions has been highly requested in Thunder Bay. In March 2017, the City initiated the development of a new climate change website with locally relevant information to the Thunder Bay community. The website is intended to be a centralized source of tools to understand, talk about, and adapt to climate change. The project was created to fill a gap in place-based awareness-raising about climate change in the Thunder Bay community context. The website is unique in its approach to community engagement and motivation. It presents several different avenues for users to engage and share, and provides an accessible platform for communication about the physical and emotional impacts of climate change. To facilitate this, the website was built on three guiding principles: Head (connect with users at a cognitive level in understanding climate science and impacts), Heart (connect with users at an emotional level and provide the opportunity to share stories and experiences with other users), and Hands (connect with users in an action-oriented way by providing users with actions that can be taken to adapt to the impacts of climate change).

Identifying Actions

Planning for the website began in early spring of 2017. The project was originally developed as an extension of a successful Community Action Project called Photo Voice. Support for the creation of the website was secured through Council, particularly since the creation of a public engagement tool related to climate change has been identified in the City of Thunder Bay Climate Adaptation Strategy and the EarthCare Sustainability Plan. To start, the Project Lead researched websites built on similar principles to develop a framework for the new platform. Websites that developed a balance of both emotional and actionable features were helpful. The Project Lead worked primarily with their partner Lakehead University on building the framework and designing the website. The project’s success was partly due to a strong existing partnership with Lakehead University, the Thunder Bay Climate Adaptation Working Group, EarthCare, and EcoSuperior. One of the partnerships highlighted was that with Lakehead University. The University provided access to staff who had expertise in communicating climate change, and was an integral component of the website’s interactive framework. Additionally, the support of the student assistant and website designer were key to the creation of the website and populating it with up-to-date, locally relevant information.

Implementation

The photo message portion of the website was launched in early Fall of 2017. The full website launched in Spring of 2018. Support for the creation of the website was secured through Council, particularly since the creation of a public engagement tool related to climate change has been identified in the City of Thunder Bay Climate Adaptation Strategy and the EarthCare Sustainability Plan. Once the platform was designed, two students from Lakehead University were employed to research and populate website content, specifically local climate change resources. The existing EarthCare Climate Adaptation working group was also engaged to contribute photo messages for the interactive portion of the website. The final evaluation and selection of resource links was completed by the Project Lead and the Lakehead University partner. Collaboration with the Corporate Communications team was necessary to ensure streamlining of the new website with the existing EarthCare Thunder Bay web page, which housed limited climate-related information prior to the creation of the new website. The photo message portion of the website was launched in early Fall of 2017. The full website was launched on April 22, 2018 (Earth Day). A promotional campaign was also developed, including a media strategy, press release, media advisory, notices in Thunder Bay and EarthCare newsletters, as well as inclusion in a municipal magazine that is delivered to residents. To facilitate the spread and uptake of the new website, the City has set up a variety of opportunities to showcase the project.

Outcomes and Monitoring Progress

The positive outcomes associated with the project are threefold:

  1. Partnership with university: The City of Thunder Bay benefited from and strengthened its partnership with Lakehead University. The University’s knowledge and expertise in climate change communication and community empowerment is a resource that the City can continue to draw from for future climate change initiatives.
  2. Engagement of community: The goal of the website was to start a dialogue about climate change within the Thunder Bay community. The sharing of stories and photos, as well as the wealth of climate change information that is available through the website, has the potential to significantly impact community resilience. In addition to providing users with practical, actionable ideas for improving resilience, the website will hopefully inspire the community within Thunder Bay to become more passionate, engaged, and motivated on the issue of climate change.
  3. Collection and awareness of local resources: The process of researching and populating the website with locally-relevant climate data, actions, and information will be beneficial for Thunder Bay residents, EarthCare, and City staff alike. The website can foster more comprehensive understanding of climate impacts facing Thunder Bay, and what options are available to address them. It provides ease of accessibility through a centralized, organized location and makes climate action much more accessible to those who are only beginning to investigate the topic in their work or personal lives.

The success of the website will be measured in multiple ways. To evaluate the effectiveness of the City’s promotional efforts, the number of events and publications where the project is promoted will be tracked and measured annually. The number of partners involved in the project will also be tracked, as the City hopes to continue to engage different groups with contribution and promotion of the website. To observe the community’s contribution to the website, the number of new photo messages submitted to the website and shared via social media will be monitored. Additionally, monthly website visits will be tracked through backend analytics. Three key challenges were encountered during the creation of the website, and include concerns related to time and money, coordination, and engagement.

Next Steps

The City of Thunder Bay will focus on the launch and media campaign surrounding the website throughout 2018. In order to reach as many community users as possible, the Project Lead will continue to identify opportunities such as events and publications through which the platform can be promoted. As the platform continues to spread through the community, it will evolve through community contributions in the form of photo messages and updating of content resource links. With continued engagement from youth, Thunder Bay residents, and through municipal events, the platform can become deeply integrated into the community’s social and informational networks. As of 2021, the website is still in operation.

Resources