Institutional announcements

Climate champion Alison Shaw to lead SFU's community-centred climate innovation

May 16, 2023

Simon Fraser University (SFU) has named Alison Shaw the inaugural executive director of community-centred climate innovation.

A leading sustainability and climate change scholar and practitioner, Shaw has over two decades of experience in pioneering innovative research-to-practice approaches across all sectors. She takes on this inaugural role, continuing to lead ACT – Action on Climate Team at SFU. ACT is the first and only university-based think tank initiative in North America dedicated to low carbon resilience (LCR) and nature-based solutions (NbS).

The team will continue to work closely with institutions, organizations and communities to build and nurture partnerships, advancing the co-design of more systemic and effective climate action solutions and sustainability pathways forward.

ACT’s integrated climate action—or LCR approach—promotes systemic thinking and strategies aiming to reduce climate risk and emissions, while also advancing multiple social, environmental and economic sustainability goals. NbS are a flagship LCR strategy, minimizing climate risks such as flood, heat and sea level rise, while sequestering carbon and advancing healthy and resilient communities. This work provides the foundation for community-centered climate innovation, a critical research priority at SFU.

As climate change intensifies, communities, businesses, and diverse sectors are on the frontlines of trying to anticipate and respond to projected climate impacts, while also being responsible for rapidly decarbonizing and reducing emissions. It is imperative that diverse knowledges and perspectives help frame and guide communities forward.

Community-centred climate innovation is designed to co-create with community partners, promote Indigenous leadership and knowledges and ensure that innovative solutions are framed and implemented in an equitable manner. It is a priority area in SFU’s strategic research plan, an action item in the strategic sustainability and climate action plan and—as part of What's Next: The SFU Strategy—contributes to how the university engages in global challenges.

Alison Shaw will continue to lead ACT – Action on Climate Team as she takes on the inaugural role. Photo credit: Michelle Lavender Grace, Okanagan Photography.

Shaw shares how she looks forward to leading community-centred climate innovation and what it means to her.

“It is time that climate is viewed not as an environmental problem, but as a social design challenge. The ways we plan and build our communities, the ways we move people, the ways we consume, and the ways we manage our dwindling natural areas, all either increase or decrease impacts on the climate and inevitably, on our communities.

Addressing community-centred climate innovation in a systemic manner is an opportunity to advance community health, resilience, livability and sustainability over time. I look forward to embedding the United Nations’ sustainable development goals (SDGs) into this work. Our goal is to find those innovative solutions that buffer against projected climate impacts and decarbonize, while also advancing equity, biodiversity and other social, environmental and economic objectives.”

She adds how passionate she is about helping partners integrate climate action into everything they do.

“It is important to recognize that different communities require different approaches to managing the climate crisis—there is no one-size-fits-all solution. My work focuses on helping a variety of diverse stakeholders co-create climate action solutions, that build overall resilience and sustainability.

In addition, responses to climate change present a crucial opportunity to learn from Indigenous worldview and knowledge and to support Indigenous leadership in that response, which is what we will aim to do. To me, a community-centred approach is critical for advancing practical and effective climate action that reorients our relationships with nature—and with one another—as we aim to build resilience and integrity in our communities, organizations and institutions moving forward. I cannot wait to roll up my sleeves.”

Join us in developing co-created, community-based solutions and innovations to address the impacts of climate change. Learn more.