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Article Article July 13th, 2023
Cities • Innovation

Catalyzing community-wide climate action in Moncton

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Brilliant read on how @cityofmoncton is leading the charge in catalysing community-wide climate action!🌍💚 Discover how they're engaging residents to create a sustainable and resilient future. #ClimateAction

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Inspired by @cityofmoncton's efforts to mobilise their community for climate action!🌱👏 Read to learn about their net-zero GHG target, youth engagement, and Envirofest. #Sustainability #CommunityEngagement #ClimateAction

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@cityofmoncton is committed to driving climate action at the community level!🙌🌎 Explore how they're empowering residents to build a greener future. #ClimateAction

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Partnering for Learning

We put our vision for government into practice through learning partner projects that align with our values and help reimagine government so that it works for everyone.

Partner with us

From February to December 2022, the City of Moncton, a city of almost 80,000 people, located in New Brunswick, Canada, participated in the Bloomberg Harvard City Leadership Initiative’s Innovation Track.  On-the-ground training and curriculum for city teams is delivered by the Bloomberg Center for Public Innovation at Johns Hopkins in partnership with the Centre for Public Impact. The cities that commit to the yearlong Bloomberg Harvard City Leadership Initiative —the flagship program of the Bloomberg Center for Cities at Harvard University —are equipped with new skills and management tools to tackle complex challenges and improve residents' quality of life.  Employees participating in the intensive Innovation Track build innovation capabilities as they design, test, and prototype solutions to a pressing city problem. 

Our focus: net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050

In response to the global climate crisis, in July 2022, Moncton City Council approved its first Community Energy and Emissions Plan (CEEP) and adopted a target of net-zero community greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 2050. To achieve this target, the GHG emissions of our entire city must be reduced to as close to zero as possible. Our 'wicked problem' was figuring out how to catalyze urgent, widespread community action to achieve Moncton's net zero GHG target.

Initial problem framing: are residents aware of climate change and the need for mitigation?

Team Moncton, like all Innovation Track teams, was highly interdisciplinary; it included employees from diverse departments (Environmental Planning and Management, Strategic Initiatives, Finance, Events, Fleet, GIS, Engineering, Communications, Planning, and Legal) and one external member (the Director of the Moncton Public Library). Everyone had varying familiarity with the topic. Based on our own experience, the team began with the problem frame, "How aware are Moncton residents about climate change, our lifestyles' impact on it, and how to achieve net zero GHG emissions?" We expected that without awareness, there would be little-to-no buy-in, reducing the impact of climate change mitigation actions. 

Stories from the field

During the "Understand the Problem" phase on the Path to Innovation, we engaged our community through our problem statement lens, developing a deeper understanding of our topic and testing our initial framing. 

In four weeks, Team Moncton engaged with over 25 residents across 16 interviews and eight field-based observations and conducted ten literature reviews and an auto-ethnography. We immersed ourselves in research, getting out of City Hall to gain a holistic understanding of climate change mitigation in the community. Team members took the bus to work, drove an electric car, toured the regional waste management facility, visited the province's first utility-scale ground-mount solar farm, shadowed a home energy audit, and joined residents in their homes to learn how they approach energy conservation and environmental issues. Observations gathered during the research sprint broadened our team's view of what qualifies as data; we collected over a thousand data points and learned how to synthesize them into overarching insights.  

Reframing our problem: we need a catalyst to ignite action!

Reflecting on what we learned, Team Moncton realized that residents are doing more than we originally anticipated, and they are aware that action needs to be taken. However, they are struggling with prioritizing information and finding information about incentives that will help them make the biggest impact with their resources. We reframed our problem, away from a lack of resident awareness to the need for a catalyst: "The problem is Moncton does not have a catalyst to ignite concerted action across the community to substantially reduce emissions and maximize collective impact to achieve our net zero GHG emissions by 2050 goal".  

The revised problem statement focused on the need for a catalyst and addressed the desire for leadership, ownership, large-scale action, and urgent speed to meet Moncton's ambitious and necessary GHG emissions reduction target. Our problem framing shifted from one based on assumptions to one based on new knowledge learned from interviews and observations. 

Moncton's youth develop a new idea

During the next phase, "Generate and Test New Ideas," Team Moncton participated in the Innovation Track Ideation Camp with other cohort cities and facilitated five resident-centered co-design sessions, generating 163 ideas on how to address our problem. We held one of these workshops at the Moncton Public Library with a group of young women, all high school and university students.  

To get the ball rolling, Team Moncton introduced a few example ideas to test with the students, some of which resonated and some of which fell flat (no, youth do not want to learn about climate change on TikTok!). The idea of a climate change festival focused on connecting residents with resources and information about the most impactful ways to reduce their carbon footprints, generated a lot of excitement. In one workshop, the students detailed festival design criteria, which Team Moncton carried through to implementation in our first EnviroFest

  • "It should be hands-on and interactive."

  • "It should be during the day and geared toward all ages."

  • "It should cover different interests and have booths representing relevant government departments, community groups, and companies."

  • "There could be music with environmental themes."

  • "There could be 'green' prepared food."

  • "The festival itself should be environmentally friendly."

  • "Communication is key – people need to know it's happening."

The ideas flowed easily while the students worked on this idea, and the festival became a clear front-runner as Team Moncton prioritized which ideas to test. An annual climate-change-focused festival would help elevate awareness of this issue locally each year and connect residents with resources available to support GHG emissions reduction. It would provide a fun and empowering foundation for learning, appealing to a broad range of residents, including those not typically engaged. We also recognized it combined well with other ideas we were generating and that they could be piloted at the festival in future years. 

Delivering our 'EnviroFest' pilot

Following the end of the 'guided' Innovation Track program, a subset of Team Moncton led the delivery of the EnviroFest pilot in only six months - a truly impressive timeline to plan and execute a large-scale event. 

With Moncton's Climate Action Coordinator and its Manager of Events and Marketing already a part of the team, we were especially well positioned to action the EnviroFest idea. In addition, during our Path to Innovation work, we developed a strong bond with our coach, Jon Freach, Associate Professor of Practice, Design at the University of Texas at Austin's School of Design and Creative Technologies. Jon secured approval for an additional 15 hours of coaching during our 'Deliver' phase, which provided even more structure and accountability during the early weeks of festival planning.  

During this time, we prototyped a festival deck to help explain our vision to prospective exhibitors, as well as festival branding and iconography that communicated the key sectors responsible for GHG emissions.  The speed and scale of implementing our pilot festival, EnviroFest, would never have been possible without the diverse expertise of these team members, the working relationships built through the Innovation Track experience, and our prior prototyping.  

That said, many city departments had a hand in the festival's development, going beyond the initial Team Moncton members to include nearly the whole 'Org Chart.' Its planning benefited from the work of Events, Environment, Communications, Legal, Economic Development, Parks, Engineering, and Public Works. Planning and Development, Recreation, our city-owned transportation museum Resurgo Place, and public transit operator Codiac Transpo participated as exhibitors, hosting booths with public information. Team Moncton carried forward the possibility mindset and set that tone through these many collaborations, figuring out 'how we can get to yes' when faced with planning challenges.

EnviroFest took place on June 10, 2023, the Saturday during Canadian Environment Week. On the day of the festival, there were between 500 to 1,000 attendees. We had 25 exhibitors, including a secure bicycle parking valet, free bicycle tune-up station, EV test driving, e-bike test rides, a public transit ‘open door’ bus, a low-carbon taco bar, and a net-zero kombucha stand. One attendee commented on Facebook: "We walked over to the event thanks to Moncton posting about it – We talked with so many people, we learned a lot and we were inspired by all of the positive energy from the people at the booths. City of Moncton should be proud of its first event!! Loved the ride/drive aspect as their knowledge convinced us to seriously consider an electric vehicle in the future. 😊"

Planning for the future

Within a week of our pilot EnviroFest, we emailed exhibitors asking for feedback on ways to improve the festival. We also hosted a debrief meeting with our presenting sponsor, who expressed interest in continuing to sponsor the festival in future years. Overall, comments we received were positive and constructive. Team Moncton felt this was an important step to continue building trust with participants and centre resident involvement in festival planning going forward.

Going back to the initial ideas generated at the student ideation workshop, we are also interested in exploring elements that we did not have the bandwidth to include this year. This would include greater youth engagement and school promotion and even exploring the potential for integrating student competitions or field trips to the festival. 

A final step Team Moncton took to ensure the annual, sustainable implementation of the festival was the creation of a 'Guide to EnviroFest Planning,' written so that other city staff can continue to deliver the festival in future years. This 'living' document will be updated as new connections are made and ideas tested, documenting our ongoing, cyclical journey on the Path to Innovation.

Written by:

Emily Phillips Emily Phillips, Climate Action Coordinator, City of Moncton
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