Bemidji State University has long been a leader in campus sustainability, from one of the first Environmental Studies programs started in the 1970s to consistently bringing a large contingent to ‘show up’ for Campus Sustainability conferences. Continuing this legacy, the campus signed the Presidents’ Carbon Commitment in 2008, committing to carbon neutrality by 2050. In April 2019, President Hensrud signed the Campus Climate Commitment, incorporating Resilience Planning along with Carbon Neutrality Planning and deepening planning efforts with the surrounding community.
To fulfill the requirements of the Climate Commitment, BSU engaged Precipitate to facilitate creation of a Campus & Community Resilience Plan and updated Climate Action Plan. Signing the commitment enabled the campus to secure additional resources. Funding for Precipitate’s planning as well as a geothermal feasibility study was secured through a grant from the McKnight Foundation, and a Green Corps member will assist with engagement activities. Students are playing an important role as well, completing engagement and research activities over the course of two semesters to supplement planning efforts. Elizabeth’s work teaching a community resilience capstone at the University of Minnesota has helped inform this academic engagement, coming full circle to support the ‘intersection of architecture, research, and education’ in alignment with Precipitate’s mission statement.
Resilience is defined by Second Nature as ‘the ability of a system or community to survive disruption and to anticipate, adapt, and flourish in the face of change.’ Essentially, resilience is the ability to band together to address challenges. A major outcome of this planning process is to strengthen existing relationships with community members while developing new connections. No institution is an island, and communities are stronger together when planning for resilience in the face of change. Resilience planning enables communities to plan proactively, listening to the concerns of everyone, rather than try to pick up the pieces when challenges occur. Stakeholder feedback is not just one piece of the information gathering phase as it can be with many planning processes. Relationship building is the very reason BSU is engaging in this work.
This process with BSU takes a unique approach to planning, focusing on relationship building and storytelling as a means to connecting community members around a vision of a thriving future. Unlike traditional planning where firms are hired as outside experts or removed third party observers, Precipitate recognizes our role as actively building relationships with the campus and community as part of this process. We are bringing our expertise, but we are also building our connections and in turn connecting Bemidji with our network. We are partners in the work of building a more resilient Bemidji and fully invested in the community’s success. The team has also been resilient in its planning for resilience: due to COVID-19, the many in-person stakeholder activities were re-imagined as digital touch points through online data collection and video conferencing. The project team has transformed this setback into a positive development, allowing engagement to be more inclusive and reach more people. The Resilience and Climate Action Plan is anticipated to be complete in July 2021.
Please contact Jordan Lutz if you have questions or comments about Bemidji State’s resilience planning process.