Photo of Richmond skylineA couple years ago, Richmond, Virginia began an initiative called RVAGreen2050 to make the city climate resilient and net zero in terms of greenhouse gas emissions by the year 2050. Their goal was to create a plan of action that is inclusive of input of all Richmond citizens regardless of race or income level. They soon realized that would be harder than it sounded.

Shortly after RVAGreen2050 began, Richmond’s Office of Sustainability reached out to its citizens through an online campaign to determine their level of understanding of the climate issues facing Richmond, which current and potential impacts of climate change concerned them the most, and what climate resiliency related topics they wanted to learn more about. While the response rate was pretty good, they noticed it skewed towards the whiter, more affluent communities, even though RVAGreen2050 workgroups and advisory panels include representation from all of Richmond’s neighborhoods. They understood that the more affluent communities are less likely to feel the impacts from climate change. They knew that they needed to improve their outreach and engagement strategy to better connect with underrepresented communities.

The City of Richmond’s Office of Sustainability brought Green Fin Studio on board in March 2021 to develop a communications strategy to enhance engagement, increase participation, build community trust, and increase awareness while being cognizant of the Office’s limited capacity in terms of staff and budget. RVAGreen2050 had identified April of 2021 to be a month of outreach, the second such campaign of the project. So, time was short and the to-do list long.

"34% more people participated across their social, virtual, and in person engagement activities."We hit the ground running, by conducting interviews with many RVAGreen2050 stakeholders. Information from these interviews informed a strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats (SWOT) analysis and the eventual communications strategy. We worked with Office of Sustainability staff to better understand and connect with their target audiences. The end result is a communications strategy that details eight specific suggested engagement strategies, advice about how to take action from the SWOT analysis, and an audit of their website.

The Office of Sustainability indicated that engagement from their April campaign increased significantly. As they have time to implement some of the longer term recommendations such as updates to their website and development of outreach materials, the level of engagement will continue to increase. We were honored to be able to help Richmond’s Office of Sustainability and are happy to know the City is in such capable hands!