Fostering a Climate-Informed Community Perspective in the Great Lakes: The Great Lakes Community Climate Program

Jessica Hitt Rachel M. Gregg
Posted on: 3/28/2013 - Updated on: 3/02/2020

Posted by

Rachel Gregg

Project Summary

Freshwater Future developed the Great Lakes Community Climate Program to provide training and ongoing support to community groups and citizens to enable them to incorporate climate adaptation into their work. The program includes three components: training on climate adaptation for community-based groups, a resource toolkit, and a grants program. Freshwater Future partnered with EcoAdapt to offer climate symposia in cities in the Great Lakes region and to develop a Great Lakes Climate Adaptation Toolkit for community use. The symposia provide community groups with an understanding of how to approach their work from a climate-informed perspective. The toolkit acts as a training resource, as well as a way to extend the training experience for workshop participants and share climate adaptation information with other interested parties. The climate grants program offers funding to symposium participants and others interested in implementing projects in their communities.


Freshwater Future is a nonprofit organization that provides financial, networking, and technical assistance to community groups and residents of the Great Lakes region focused on the conservation, protection, and restoration of lakes, wetlands, rivers, and shorelines. The organization developed the Great Lakes Community Climate Program to assist community groups and residents seeking to incorporate climate change into local decision making, activities, and projects. The program targets community-based groups in Michigan, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York, Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Ontario.

The Great Lakes region is vulnerable to a number of climate threats, including changing precipitation patterns and extreme weather events, resulting in droughts, increased flooding hazards, property damage, and habitat degradation. The Great Lakes Community Climate Program, supported by the Kresge Foundation, aims to prepare community groups by providing capacity building opportunities, regionally tailored resources and tools, and a small grants program to kick start the implementation of adaptation efforts.


Freshwater Future partnered with EcoAdapt, a nonprofit organization focused on climate change adaptation, to develop targeted resources and tools and provide adaptation training to help community groups prepare for a changing climate. Since 2010, EcoAdapt and Freshwater Future have hosted climate symposia in Detroit, Milwaukee, Toronto, and Buffalo. These workshops, based on EcoAdapt’s Awareness to Action curriculum, have trained nearly 90 individuals from different community groups to begin incorporating climate change into their efforts to protect and restore freshwater resources. The symposia all followed a similar format by first orienting participants to climate change science basics and predicted regional impacts, before focusing on developing adaptation solutions applicable to local and regional scales. The goal of each workshop was to ensure that participants left having learned how to approach their work from climate-informed and prepared perspectives.

EcoAdapt and Freshwater Future also worked together to develop a regionally-targeted climate adaptation resource, the Great Lakes Climate Adaptation Toolkit. The toolkit includes a primer on climate change and adaptation, four case studies on how other community groups in Michigan, Vermont, Montana, and British Columbia have begun incorporating climate change into their work, climate change communication guidance (The 10 Do’s and Don’ts of Discussing Climate Change), fact sheets on specific Great Lakes climate impacts and approaches to addressing climate change, and EcoAdapt’s Climate Vulnerability Assessment Quick Guide.

Freshwater Future’s climate grants program provides a funding resource to support on-the-ground climate change adaptation actions. Grant applicants have been encouraged to attend climate symposia and have received assistance in developing projects. Over the past two years, climate grants totaling $207,450 have been awarded to 34 community projects in all eight of the U.S. Great Lakes states and the province of Ontario. Project examples include community rain garden projects to reduce local flooding and beautify neighborhoods, advocating for the inclusion of climate projections into mining permit conditions, and ensuring appropriate species are used in restoration projects so they will survive the impacts of climate change. More project examples are available at

Outcomes and Conclusions

Through the climate symposia, the toolkit, and grants program, the Great Lakes Community Climate Program provides a number of resources and tools that are beneficial to grantees as well as the region as a whole. The resources created are available for dissemination in hard copy as well as on the Freshwater Future website. The partners are also conducting follow up surveys with workshop participants. Freshwater Future has received additional funding from the Kresge Foundation to continue this work, including sponsoring four more climate symposia with EcoAdapt between 2012 and 2014; the first of this new round of workshops was held in Duluth, Minnesota in October 2012. The second will be held in Cleveland in April 2013.


Hitt, J. L. & Gregg, R. M. (2012). Fostering a Climate-Informed Community Perspective in the Great Lakes: The Great Lakes Community Climate Program [Case study on a project of Freshwater Future]. Product of EcoAdapt's State of Adaptation Program. Retrieved from CAKE:… (Last updated March 2013)

Affiliated Organizations

Freshwater Future helps people protect the Great Lakes.  We do this by providing funding, technical and communications assistance to groups working to protect and restore their rivers, lakes, wetlands and groundwater in the Great Lakes region.

Freshwater Future's mission is to build effective community-based initiatives to protect and restore the water quality of the Great Lakes basin.

EcoAdapt is at the center of climate change adaptation innovation. We provide support, training, and assistance to make conservation and management less vulnerable and more Climate Savvy. Over the past 200 years, great strides have been made in the world of conservation and now all of that is at risk because of climate change. EcoAdapt is working to ensure the success of these past efforts by delivering a framework for climate adaptation.