RISEstories: Adaptation through storytelling


The most significant barrier to adaptation is not design. Rather, it is the lack of community engagement that provides design input and social license to move forward. We propose to shift the conversation from the bureaucrats to citizens through storytelling. Drawing upon citizens’ knowledge and opinions adaptation solutions will be designed to reflect local social, economic, and environmental values.

overview of the idea

Storytelling is the practice of using narration to explain events in words and images. Stories are active, personal, and memorable permitting the narrator and audience to expand their understanding about a specific topic. We propose an engagement strategy based on the principles of storytelling to spark the discussion about sea level rise and adaptation within Metro Vancouver communities.

Effective adaptation solutions are ones that will protect our homes and businesses while reflecting community values, history, and the environment. In order to design such solutions and reduce barriers to public participation a variety of materials such as public art, local landmarks, historical photographs and maps, social media, technical information, and images of technical solutions and sea level rise hazards would be used to inspire citizens to tell stories.

Storytelling sessions would be hosted throughout Metro Vancouver at a variety of scales. Citizens would share stories and information that identify community values and desires for the future. Drawing upon storytellers’ local knowledge, ideas, and expectations experts and community leaders would then create policy and technical solutions. Solutions and strategies would be shared with storytellers and the community for further refinement.

By engaging communities on the topic of sea level rise through storytelling adaptation solutions will be local, rigorous, cost-effective, and help communities thrive. Further, the momentum built by the action of storytelling will help build the political will to act and fund adaptation solutions. See www.risestories.com for more.

how it works

A team would be assembled to coordinate storytelling events and information management as prompted by local government, Metro Vancouver, or other regional organizations. The team would use a variety of methods to bring together a mix of citizens, experts, and business representatives to ensure the exchange, capture, and uptake of recommendations and ideas occurred.

At storytelling events technical information about the impacts of sea level rise and possible solutions would be work shopped. Information would be made available as current and historical photographs, videos, maps, GIS, and art to appeal to a wide range of stakeholders. This information would be accessible through social media, the web, and public art.

Stakeholders would to tell stories about their community with a focus on history, current use, and future use within the context of sea level rise. Some storytelling would take place in front of a live audience and some via digital media, e.g. YouTube and instagram. Through storytelling regional and neighbourhood level experiences and values would be identified.

After defining expectations, values, and potential adaptation solutions technical experts and participants would workshop solutions further for refinement. Next, participants would be asked to retell their story focussing on the implementation of solutions and corresponding benefits.

This second phase of storytelling would result in the conceptual design of an adaptation plan. Stories would be more refined and detailed as storytellers explore a variety of adaptation solutions, priorities, and trade-offs. In the end stories would be transposed into sketches, maps, and policy frameworks.



To see more about RISEstories, click here!

The Fraser Delta and Sea Level Rise

An example of a storytelling exercise.

Adaptation Through Storytelling

For a higher resolution image of the diagram for Adaptation Through Storytelling in the image gallery, click here!

How communities will adapt and thrive

Barriers to adaptation exist today mostly because broader conversations about future solutions, trade offs, and benefits have not effectively occurred in the public sphere. By engaging citizens through storytelling barriers will be deconstructed generating new approaches to traditional coastal defence design, community planning, and architecture.

Storytelling will increase citizens’ understanding about sea level rise stimulating ideas and feedback on values, policy, technical solutions, and economic opportunities. Through the active engagement of citizens, experts, and community leaders support will be generated for the investment in local, efficient and cost-effective adaptation solutions. This support will translate into action helping communities thrive now and into the future.

In summary, storytelling will assist communities to adapt and thrive by:

  • Moving the conversation about sea level rise impacts and adaptation solutions from the bureaucratic sphere to the public sphere. By engaging the public solutions will reflect local needs, values and priority.
  • Taking a systems approach to the issues of sea level rise in terms of space, time, service, and economics. Adaptation planning should address the region from Hope to the Fraser Delta, coastal infrastructure, building design & community planning, coastal business operations, emergency planning, ecosystem services, and economic investment to be effective.
  • Bringing together community partners that include all levels of government, crown corporations, major employers, NGOs, the business community, citizens, first nations, youth, the faith community, and academia.

Community Summit Premier Sponsor

SFU Public Square Founding Council Member

Stephen A. Jarislowsky

Community Summit Media Sponsor

Community Summit Supporting Sponsors


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