Including 25% of Residents in Community Energy and Emissions Planning
When the Northern Ontario Township of Billings and the Municipality of Central Manitoulin Island set out to create their Community Energy and Emissions Plans (CEEP), they wanted to hear from as many residents as possible to inform their plans. Under the leadership of Climate Change Coordinator Kim Neale, the two municipalities partnered with Ethelo to deliver an educational and action-oriented online engagement. While some people involved were concerned that an online engagement wouldn’t reach enough people, the results showed that an average of 25 percent of residents participated. And data from Ethelo’s algorithm revealed community-wide consensus for a target of 50 percent greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction by 2030 with a low difficulty score. This gave Neale’s team confidence to bring more ambitious plans to the councils.
Climate Change Coordinator
Manitoulin Island + Billings, ON
When the Northern Ontario Township of Billings and the Municipality of Central Manitoulin Island set out to create their respective Community Energy and Emissions Plans (CEEP), they wanted to hear from as many residents as possible to inform their plans.
When Kim Neale took on the role of Climate Change Coordinator for the two local governments, she wanted to build on the engagement work done by the communities and her predecessor in the role.
“I looked at what had been supported and what things people wanted to dig deeper into for this planning process,” Neale says. “Then we tried to frame our engagement strategy moving forward around that and build on some things we wanted to know more about in our community.”
Neale felt some stakeholders were missing at the table and that an online approach would help bring them in more effectively. Once the COVID 19 pandemic began, executing the in-person stakeholder engagement strategy became impossible. So she started running some webinars that yielded good results and then learned about Ethelo when she saw Salt Spring Island’s carbon budget engagement results.
She knew Ethelo was the solution she needed and immediately started working with the councils to seek approval for jointly proceeding with an online engagement strategy to complete the climate change planning project.
The Ethelo platform let residents use a sliding scale of 0 to 100 percent to vote on how large a greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction they thought the community should work towards, while also ensuring the reduction target was reasonable to hit over the next ten years.
Along with providing a user-friendly engagement platform that both educated residents about carbon budgeting and included them in the process, Ethelo gave Neale added capacity that helped her surpass her engagement goals and create a community-driven plan.
Ethelo’s sister organization, the eDemocracy Network, provided support with participant recruitment, which included: postering, community-wide mailouts, a phone campaign and digital advertising.
And because the communities had issues with internet access and seniors populations who might not be comfortable with technology, Ethelo offered a telephone participation option. People could call in and have someone enter their responses into the online platform.
“Implementing projects like this and doing surveys or engagements is a lot of work on top of some of the other things municipal staff have to do,” Neale explains. “I was super focused on the content of our survey, emphasizing local issues that are meaningful to our small community and making sure all our research about community specific climate change issues we had been compiling for the past two years was engaged with meaningfully. Ethelo was able to put in all the support around the content to create a successful community engagement process.”
An ambitious plan with broad community support
These efforts resulted in a high level of participation from across the community and an ambitious plan with broad support.
“With 25% of our permanent residents participating in the Ethelo survey, I think it was a tremendous success, with a level of engagement far beyond my wildest dreams,” Neale notes.
And the Ethelo data showed community-wide support for a plan to reduce GHG emissions by 50 percent by 2030, for a total reduction of 5,069 tonnes of GHGs.
Neale and the councillors for both municipalities also learned from the data that half the participants plan to do energy retrofits in the next five to ten years.
“As a leader, you can step back and say that if 50 percent of the people participating are considering taking individual steps, then you can think that a 50 percent greenhouse gas reduction target for our community is reasonable,” Neale explains. “And they’re going to appreciate when the municipal government makes a plan to help them apply for incentives and programs to get this work done.”
What’s more, Neale got some great feedback from participants about their experience using the Ethelo platform.
As one Central Manitoulin resident shared: “I’m impressed with the survey and software. I like how participants have the info at the top, and the “how achievable is my target” on the right. Super cool!”