The Strategy & Timeline Module includes guidance, prompts, tips, and resources for the following CNA components.
Strategy & Timeline Module
Creating a menu of potential solutions that could be implemented to build community and ecosystem capacity, address community needs, and advance your community’s vision.
Identifying your top priority solution and conducting an analysis of strengths, opportunities, and potential pitfalls.
Creating a clear, actionable game plan for the priority solution to build capacity and catalyze collective action to implement solutions and work towards your community’s vision for social equity and climate resilience.
- Built Infrastructure: Projects that result in new infrastructure or modifications to existing infrastructure such as microgrids, community solar, energy efficiency, building electrification, battery storage, bike lanes, sidewalks, public transit stops, electric vehicle charging stations, ZEV car share programs, street conversions, cooling centers, and healthcare facilities.
- Natural Infrastructure: Projects that utilize nature-based solutions and/or preserve and restore natural or modified ecosystems such as habitat restoration, forest and watershed management, meadow restoration, urban forestry and greening, green roofs and walls, living shorelines, healthy soils, community gardens, parks, and composting.
- Community Prosperity: New or improved programs that seek to address underlying socio-economic challenges while advancing climate equity solutions such as green workforce development, high-road economic development, minority-owned business incubators, incentives for technology adoption, financial literacy and intervention programs, food recovery to security networks.
- System Improvements: Efforts that seek to create new or improve existing systems such as processes and mechanisms for community engagement, emergency communications, evacuations, resource access, financial services, healthcare services, governance and decision-making, goods movement, food sourcing and transport, and waste management.
- Capacity Building: Initiatives to expand the skills, knowledge and resources of individuals, organizations, and networks to enact positive change such as those focused on education, network development, information sharing, collaboration, civic engagement, citizen science, leadership development, community organizing, and more.
The above list is not exhaustive and these solution types should not be seen as mutually exclusive. There may be other types of solutions to consider and stacking different types of solutions can generate more positive outcomes for your community.
Identify focus areas for solutions.
Before building your menu of possible solutions, reflect on previous sections of your CNA to identify a few areas that you and your community are most interested in addressing or concentrating on. This can help to narrow the focus of your solutions menu and subsequent CNA development steps to prioritize solutions (section 9) and develop a solution game plan (section 10).
Your focus areas do not need to be explicitly compatible or related to one another. They can be a mix of different community needs, equity issues, sectors, and/or climate impacts (e.g. extreme heat, transportation, and jobs; arts/culture and clean energy; or habitats/biodiversity and public health). The solutions you ultimately identify may not address all of your focus areas, but they could each serve as a base for solution stacking. Conversely, you may discover hidden interconnections that could be leveraged to develop more comprehensive solutions for your community.
If you already have a specific solution in mind (e.g. a community microgrid or a community resilience hub), you may not need to identify additional focus areas. On the other hand, if it is too difficult to hone in on your focus areas at this stage, you can build a broader solutions menu and follow the guidance provided in Section 9 to prioritize your solutions.
A few key sections to revisit in your CNA to identify focus areas include the following:
Focus Area #1
Focus Area #2
Focus Area #3
E.g. Extreme Heat
Note: the focus areas you identify do not need to be in order of priority at this stage. You may also decide to identify more than 3 areas to focus on; however, this could make the following steps more challenging.
Compile existing projects, programs, and initiatives and identify other potential solutions.
Next, begin to build your solutions menu by identifying your organization’s existing or planned initiatives related to your focus area(s), as well as exploring other potential solutions. You could also include other initiatives that you participate in or are aware of, such as those led by your partners.
It’s important to note that the solutions you ultimately prioritize (in section 9) do not need to be entirely new solutions; they could be focused on expanding or improving existing programs. Alternatively, by compiling a list of existing initiatives, you may also find gaps to address or draw inspiration from your organization’s previous or ongoing work.
A helpful place to start could be by revisiting the following CNA sections. As you were crafting your community’s vision and assessing your community’s needs, did you jot down any ideas for solutions that came to mind?
- 2.1. Evaluate your community’s racial equity issues;
- 4.2. Draft your community’s vision for social equity and climate resilience;
- 5.1. Identify existing community assets;
- 5.3. Assess opportunities to lift up community assets and address any gaps;
- 6.1. Assess your community’s exposure to climate change impacts;
- 6.2. Assess your community’s adaptive capacity; and
- 6.3. Evaluate how existing inequities will be exacerbated by climate impacts and pollution.
You can also look to other resources to generate additional ideas for solutions, such as:
- Adaptation Clearinghouse Case Studies: OPR’s Adaptation Clearinghouse includes case studies of adaptation initiatives, which can be filtered by climate impact, region, and more.
- Additionally, Georgetown Climate Center’s Adaptation Clearinghouse features an Adaptation Equity Portal that features resources, reports, and case studies.
- California Climate Investments (CCI) 2021 Project Profiles: A sampling of projects funded through CCI programs – from affordable housing to forest health projects and more.
- Mayors’ Commission on Climate Change Technical Report: This report highlights strategies to advance equity, reduce GHG emissions, and increase community health and resilience, identified through a stakeholder-driven process for Sacramento and West Sacramento.
- Project Drawdown: This table highlights climate action solutions, focused on reducing GHG emissions across a range of different sectors.
As a reminder, this section is focused on identifying both existing and potential solutions without any limits. This is a time to be creative and think boldly; further analysis, prioritization, and road-mapping will take place in sections 9 and 10.
The template solution menu tables provided in the following pages can be customized to better suit your needs. Again, if you already have a single focus area in mind, you do not need to create solutions menus for additional focus areas. The tables include the following columns:
- Type: Categorize the solution to help you navigate the menu. Following the typology offered in the section introduction, this could include the following options:
- Built Infrastructure Project
- Natural Infrastructure Project
- Community Prosperity Program
- System Improvement Program
- Capacity Building Program
- Hybrid (Name it)
- Status: What is the current status of this solution, such as:
- Existing or Ongoing (by your organization or a partner)
- Modification to an Existing Initiative
- Planned or Under Development
- New Idea
- Solution: For existing initiatives, you can add the project or program name. For new ideas, give the potential solution a brief title that can help you navigate your menu.
- Brief Description: Add a brief description for the solution and include any helpful links that you can reference in the future.
We offer a few sample solutions below to demonstrate how you might build out your own menu.
Natural Infrastructure Project
NeighborWoods Program (Sacramento Tree Foundation)
Built Infrastructure Project
Community Resilience Hub
Retrofit a community center to serve as a cooling center. Meet other community needs by using the hub for emergency shelters, disaster preparedness coordination, food distribution, and job training.
Arts and Culture
Community Prosperity Program
Artist in Residence (AIR) Program (Pacoima Beautiful)
Capacity Building Program
Youth Art Advocacy Program
Create a program to connect youth artists with environmental and social equity activists (through paid contracts) to create visual, digital, spoken, and written art that support advocacy campaigns.
Systems Improvement Program
Community Food Bank (Wuksachi Indian Tribe)
Natural Infrastructure Project
Establish a community garden and provide free plots, seeds, and plants to low-income households to grow their own produce.
Capacity Building Program
Safe Routes to School East Los Angeles Project (ActiveSGV)
ActiveSGV, in partnership with LA County Department of Public Works, is conducting student safety workshops, bilingual parent training, and Walk / Bike to School Days at 19 LAUSD & MUSD schools.
Community Prosperity Program
Shared Mobility Incubator
Create a small, minority-owned business incubator to bring adaptive bikes and scooters to areas that do not have nearby bus stops or transit stations.
Template solutions menu tables, separated by focus area, are provided below.
<<Focus Area #1>>
<<Focus Area #2>> (optional)
<<Focus Area #3>> (optional)
Identify your priority solution.
This first step in this process is to identify your single highest priority solution to focus your efforts on in the near-term. This CNA development process asks you to identify one solution to further explore since, as a community leader, you are likely involved in many other initiatives that need to be sustained and other issues facing your community may arise that demand your attention. Identifying one solution can help you remain responsive to community needs while protecting your own time and capacity. When you are ready to launch additional initiatives, step 9.2 and section 10 of the CNA Toolkit can guide you through the process of refining your solution and developing a clear, actionable game plan.
Process Instructions: Whether your menu includes 5 or 20 potential solutions, the guidance provided in this section aims to help you identify the single most desirable, feasible, and viable solution to pursue.
- A set of filtering questions are offered to help you narrow in on your priority solution.
- In short, if the answer to the question is “yes,” the solution stays in the running
- If the answer is “no,” the solution is removed from the list. In some instances, there are sub-questions posed for “no” answers as some solutions are much more nuanced and complex where a simple yes/no answer would not suffice.
- The simplest way to follow this exercise can be by printing your solutions menu and crossing off options as you work through the questions. You can also follow this approach digitally: copy your solutions menu onto another document and use the delete function.
- You can choose to go question-by-question or solution-by-solution.
- Question-by-question: Review your solutions menu with consideration to the first question, crossing off solutions along the way that do not meet the condition. Repeat this process for each question.
- Solution-by-solution: Focus on the first solution in your menu and run through the list of questions in order; when a condition is not met, cross the solution off your list and move to the next one. Repeat this process for each solution.
- Consider consulting your peers and partners to get their input as you narrow in on your top priority solution.
Filtering Questions: The following filtering questions considers three key lenses – desirability, feasibility, and viability, in that order. Together, these make up a value-centered design approach, which ultimately aims to intentionally design solutions to address community needs, leverage your unique strengths, and contribute to a larger vision that can be sustained over time.
Review your potential solutions with consideration to the following questions to narrow your menu of potentials to priorities.
Desirability: Solutions that address community needs and improve community wellbeing.
- Does it align with your community’s self-identified values and priorities?
- Does it address your community’s needs, whether they be immediate needs and/or the root causes of racial, social, health, and environmental inequities?
- Does it prepare your community for the impacts of climate change and/or address the sources or impacts of pollution?
Feasibility: Solutions that build upon your current operational capabilities and strengths.
- Does it align with your organization’s mission and existing capabilities?
- If not, are there opportunities to build organizational capacity or form partnerships to make the solution feasible?
- Does your organization’s leadership and staff support the solution?
- If not, do you see potential pathways for increasing their buy-in and support?
- Is it technically feasible and supported by science and research?
- If not, are you aware of any pilot projects in other communities that demonstrate feasibility?
Viability: Solutions that are sustainable and can produce lasting results.
- Are there funding opportunities available to implement the solution?
- If not, do you see pathways for creatively acquiring the resources needed to support your solution?
- Is it aligned with State and local policy priorities?
- If not, are there opportunities for advocacy to create a more supportive policy environment?
- Do you have allies who can help to implement and sustain the solution?
- If not, are there new partnerships that could be formed?
After reviewing your solutions menu with these filtering questions, you should have a shorter list of potential solutions that pass the desirability, feasibility, and viability criteria. If you are having difficulty identifying your single priority solution, consider the following next steps:
- Consult your colleagues, partners, and/or community members to gauge their level of interest in each of the remaining solutions.
- Consider the urgency of each solution based on climate change projections.
- Use a ranking system to reconsider the filtering questions for each solution. For example, you could use a numbered 1-5 rating system for each of the nine questions, with 1 meaning low and 5 meaning high, and select the solution that receives the highest total score.
Assess opportunities and potential pitfalls for implementation.
Now that you have your single top priority solution identified, assess opportunities and potential pitfalls that can inform your solution game plan. There are many alternatives to a traditional SWOT Analysis (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats), which many have found to be limited in scope or problematic as it can imply inherent inadequacy. Select one of the following alternative analysis frameworks, or use a different one that you are familiar with, to analyze your solution.
SOAR Analysis: Strengths, Opportunities, Aspirations, and Results
Your organization’s key strengths, assets, resources, capabilities, and accomplishments.
Circumstances that could be leveraged to successfully implement the solution.
A vision of what you and your organization want to be and achieve in the future.
Tangible goals and outcomes that you expect to achieve by implementing the solution.
SCOPE Analysis: Situation, Core Competencies, Obstacles, Prospects, and Expectations
Rear-view analysis of internal and external conditions that are relevant to the solution.
Your organization’s unique strengths and abilities that can be leveraged to implement the solution.
Potential issues that could jeopardize the implementation of the solution.
Possibilities and opportunities that can support the solution.
Future-view analysis of expected results and outcomes.
NOISE Analysis: Needs, Opportunities, Improvements, Strengths, and Exceptions
What needs to be present for the solution to be implemented?
What external factors can be leveraged in support of the solution?
How does your organization need to change or increase capacity to implement the solution?
What are your organization’s core strengths, assets, resources, and abilities?
Which of the above needs, opportunities, and improvements are already present, occurring, or being addressed?
Refine your priority solution to consider multiple benefits.
First, describe your priority solution to ensure it remains in clear view.
What is your solution? For example: community resilience center, youth development program, community microgrid, bus shelter, climate equity advocacy coalition, community garden.
Where will your solution be implemented?
Who does your solution serve?
Why is this solution needed? What is the primary purpose of your solution?
How will this solution be implemented? Will it involve, for example, research, advocacy, education, planning, communication campaigns, construction, or equipment purchases?
Next, consider the benefits that your solution will provide once implemented. Some benefits may be more obvious, particularly those directly related to the primary purpose of your solution. Others may not be immediately visible; by looking at your solution through different lenses, you will likely reveal the multiple benefits of your priority solution.
Note: The term “co-benefits” is typically defined as the positive benefits related specifically to the reduction of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. For example, “health co-benefits” would be the positive benefits for public health as a result of reducing GHG emissions. Solutions that are not primarily focused on reducing GHGs and produce additional benefits are often referred to as “multi-benefit solutions.”
Identifying the full breadth of benefits that your solution can provide can help to unlock additional funding opportunities. For example, the multiple benefits of urban forestry could make these types of solutions eligible for funding focused on:
- Active transportation (shade trees for sidewalks and bike lanes can make walking, biking, and other modes of active transportation more enjoyable and safe);
- Energy efficiency (shade trees for buildings, particularly homes in lower-income neighborhoods, and reducing energy consumption for air conditioning);
- GHG emissions reduction (carbon sequestration);
- Public health (air quality improvements);
- Public safety (tree-lined streets can promote traffic calming and reduced speeds);
- Economy revitalization (tree-lined streets can increase foot traffic and local commerce);
- Water management (trees reduce stormwater runoff and promote soil permeability to facilitate groundwater recharge).
By reframing your solution to focus on the benefits that are most relevant to the funding opportunity at hand, you can access additional funding sources without compromising your vision. The table below offers a set of categories and potential benefits that your solution may provide. As you use these lenses to further explore your solution, keep the following in mind:
- Your solution should not provide benefits for all (or even a quarter) of the categories listed in the table. Focus on the benefits that are clearly linked to your solution.
- Some categories overlap with others and your response may be the same. In these instances, simply duplicate the description of benefits your solution provides.
- As you work through this table, you may identify opportunities to modify or refine your solution to produce additional benefits. In these instances, flag these ideas in a different color to review after you complete the exercise as some modifications may be beneficial while others may detract from your vision or create additional barriers to implementation.
A few sample benefits for an urban forestry project are provided in the table below as examples.
Access to Resources:
Activism & Civic Engagement:
By directly engaging community members in tree planting efforts, urban forestry can provide avenues for greater levels of activism.
Addressing Trauma & Healing:
Community Building & Empowerment:
Community members will be mobilized to work together, determine tree planting sites, and lead neighborhood greening efforts.
Diversity & Inclusion:
Training will be provided for tree ambassador positions.
The program will be conducted in multiple languages and tree planting activities will take into account participants’ work and family schedules.
Other (please specify):
Trees increase groundwater recharge to support times of drought. Additionally, drought-tolerant native tree species will be planted
Trees will provide shade and cool surrounding areas.
Trees reduce flood risk by slowing the rate of water flows and increasing ground surface permeability.
Sea Level Rise & Coastal Degradation:
Other (please specify):
Agriculture & Food Systems:
Trees improve air quality by intercepting small particles (e.g. dust, ash, pollen, and smoke) and absorbing gaseous air pollutants.
Arts & Culture:
Biodiversity & Habitat:
Native tree species will be selected to serve as habitats for local fauna.
Cultural & Historic Preservation:
Tree-lined streets have proven to increase foot traffic and local commerce.
Trees can shade buildings and reduce energy consumption for air conditioning and other cooling measures that require energy.
Parks & Recreation:
Public health will improve by improving air quality and encouraging more physical activity.
Water Quality & Supply:
Trees increase ground surface permeability and support groundwater recharge.
Other (please specify):
State Policy Priority
Conservation of Natural & Working Lands:
COVID Response & Recovery:
Trees have beneficial effects on soil by increasing soil nutrient uptake, reducing organic losses and erosion, and improving soil physical properties, including water-holding capacity.
High Road Economic Development:
Reduction of Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Emissions:
Trees sequester GHG emissions.
Reduction of Vehicle Miles Traveled (VMT):
Shade trees for sidewalks and bike lanes can make walking, biking, and other active transportation modes more enjoyable and safe, thereby reducing VMT.
Other (please specify):
Create your ask for engaging partners and decision-makers.
In order to successfully implement your priority solution, it is likely that you will need funding, buy-in from decision-makers, partnerships, and other resources. Socializing your solution is an important step towards building the momentum necessary towards implementation and the full realization of your vision. Now that you have a more comprehensive understanding of your solution, you can craft a clear description of your solution.
The description should draw from section 10.1 and speak to the what, where, who, why, and how of your solution and the most compelling benefits that will be provided. You might also consider giving your solution a name or a working title. Depending on your audience, you may find the need to create multiple versions of your solution description in the future.
Priority Solution Description
Next, begin to craft your engagement strategy by identifying the following information. Before you get started, it may be helpful to revisit the following sections of your CNA: Section 3 (Relationship Mapping), Section 7 (Power Mapping), and Section 9.2 (SWOT Analysis Alternative).
- Organizations: List the most relevant institution, ally group, and opposition group that must be engaged in order to advance your solution. The table on the next page has been created to focus on one organization for each of these categories; however, you may choose to duplicate the table to specify your engagement strategy for additional organizations.
- Your Ask: What is your specific ask to the organizations you identified? What are you hoping to accomplish or influence by engaging these groups? This could be something specific (e.g., forming a partnership or requesting funding) or to build relationships, work towards a common understanding, and ultimately get their buy-in and support.
- Conflicting Viewpoints: What are other viewpoints that conflict with yours? Understanding opposing viewpoints can equip you to advocate for your solution more effectively. These may be viewpoints that are in direct conflict with your solution or other factors that could inhibit the positive response to your ask such as competing priorities or capacity constraints.
- Counterpoint: For each conflicting viewpoint, what counterpoints can you offer to build support for your vision and solution? A brief role playing exercise may be helpful – how can you speak to their values? How can you demonstrate that your ask supports shared goals?
- Engagement Strategy: What would be the best way to begin engaging the groups identified? Are there any existing pathways, such as existing coalitions and networks, that can be pursued to advance your agenda? In addition to ongoing advocacy efforts, engaging in existing processes can often serve as effective methods for influencing decisions, such as scheduled coalition meetings, local government planning processes, public workshops, and council meetings.
Finally, reflect on the outcomes of your SWOT Analysis Alternative (Section 9.2) to determine how to sequence your engagement efforts to create an enabling and supportive environment for advancing your solution. For example, are there timely opportunities that could be leveraged? Obstacles that need to be cleared early on – or can you play to your strengths to make it easier to overcome obstacles in the future? Who do you have an existing relationship with?
Define key milestones and develop a high-level work plan.
Defining key milestones is an essential component of your Solution Game Plan. Milestones mark a significant stage in development and are often the intermediate targets that must be reached as you implement your solution. Milestones also serve as progress markers and indicators of success. The below list of sample milestones is not exhaustive nor fully applicable depending on your specific solution.
- A partnership is formally established.
- Funding is secured.
- A local ordinance or resolution is adopted.
- A meeting with a key decision-maker takes place.
- Equipment, materials, and/or supplies are purchased.
- Media coverage is obtained.
- A group comment letter is submitted.
- A program is formally launched.
- An event is hosted.
- A permit is obtained.
- A report or resource is published.
The more specific your milestone is, the easier it will be to track progress and identify actions. As you define key milestones for your solution, consider how it could be quantified, such as:
- 50% of funds needed for implementation is secured.
- A group comment letter is submitted with 50 signatures.
- An event is hosted with 100 participants.
Complete the table below, adding more rows if necessary, with the following information:
- Key Milestone: A measurable target that marks a significant stage in development and serves as an indicator of success.
- Target Date: The ideal timeframe in which you reach the milestone. This could be a specific date (e.g., June 2022) or a flexible time frame (e.g., 3 months, 6-9 months, 1-1.5 years). Organize your milestones in chronological order of expected completion.
Action Items: Identify actions that could be taken in the next 6 months (October 2021 – March 2022) to work towards the milestone. For milestones that are scheduled further into the future, you may not identify any near-term actions to take.
Action Items (First 6 Months)
Finally, building off of the previous exercise, develop a 6-month work plan. As you create this high-level work plan, consider your own capacity, as well as any resources and technical assistance that may be needed or helpful to your efforts.
Additionally, consider opportunities to build the capacity of your network partners and community members to be informed of and get involved in the implementation of your solution. Capacity building activities may be focused on education, skills-based training, relationship building, partnership development, creating or leveraging existing communications and information sharing platforms, and others.