A Coastal Adaptation Case Story: Catalyst Miami’s Community Leadership on the Environment, Advocacy, and Resilience Program

Kathryn Braddock Rachel M. Gregg
Posted on: 5/21/2021 - Updated on: 9/29/2021

Posted by

Kathryn Braddock

Project Summary

Blue waters, warm weather, and vibrant culture. Sea level rise, extreme heat, and displacement. Climate change is altering the lens through which we view our world. In South Florida, the most iconic features of the region are threatened by climate change. In Miami-Dade County, most development is concentrated along the coastline and is at high risk from flooding and storm surge due to sea-level rise and hurricanes. Proposed efforts to build more densely packed urban areas further inland and move infrastructure out of the path of sea-level rise are likely to displace current residents in these areas, many of which are low-income communities of color. The ability to “move out of harm’s way” is tightly linked to income and wealth. These disparities are strong in Miami-Dade, one of the poorest counties in the United States.

Since 1996, Catalyst Miami has served the communities of Miami-Dade County with the mission to “identify and collectively solve issues adversely affecting low-wealth communities.” Climate change—both its impacts and proposed solutions—are having disproportionate impacts on these communities. Catalyst Miami has developed programs to address these complex challenges by elevating community-raised issues. A central part of the organization’s work is “making community voices heard and community expertise used in decision making” at both the local and state levels. The organization’s climate and community-focused work includes grassroots leadership and advocacy trainings and educational workshops.

Catalyst Miami’s CLEAR (Community Leadership on the Environment, Advocacy, and Resilience) program is a 10-week leadership training for community members to learn about climate change, understand its impacts on their communities, and discuss potential solutions. Climate change is discussed within the context of other issues facing the communities, such as poverty, racial discrimination, housing, health, and transportation. At the end of the 10-week program, graduates develop a proposal for a climate change project they would like to implement in their own communities. If the proposal is accepted, the project is eligible for funding from Catalyst Miami. The program aims to build advocacy and community organizing skills. Catalyst Miami developed the CLEAR toolkit to share strategies, successes, and lessons learned from the program. The toolkit provides activities and details elements that enable community members to participate.

Catalyst Miami also facilitates a Neighborhood-Based Resilience initiative that focuses on increasing community participation and engagement in preparing for and recovering from disasters. The organization has started to integrate climate change into its financial savings program by encouraging community members to save tax returns to invest in preparedness measures for hurricanes. The Disaster Preparedness Matched Savings Program was created to help low-income families build financial stability to better withstand extreme hurricanes and other disasters, offering a 1-to-1 match of savings. 

Catalyst Miami’s programs take climate change education to the next level by giving the power and resources to the community so that they may implement projects and strategies most relevant to them. Instead of adaptation projects being done to their communities, these projects are being facilitated and created by the communities of Miami-Dade County. 

Funding Sources: 

  • The Carrie Meek Foundation
  • Howard Johnson Foundation
  • Kresge Foundation
  • Miami Foundation


  • The CLEO Institute
  • The Miami Climate Alliance
  • The Miami Foundation
  • Florida International University
  • University of Miami
  • City of Miami Office of Resilience
  • Miami-Dade County Office of Resilience
  • Miami-Dade County Public Schools

The Color of Wealth in Miami
A Miami Nonprofit Promotes Disaster Savings Accounts in Hurricane Season
Housing Justice in the Face of Climate Change: A Vision for Equitable Housing Policy for South Florida Communities and Advocates Fighting for Dignified and Sustainable Housing for All
Miami-Dade County Urban Tree Canopy Assessment
Realizing Resilience: Social Equity and Economic Opportunity


Braddock K, Gregg RM. 2021. A Coastal Adaptation Case Story: Catalyst Miami’s Community Leadership on the Environment, Advocacy, and Resilience (CLEAR) Program. Product of EcoAdapt’s State of Adaptation Program. Retrieved from CAKE: www.cakex.org/case-studies/coastal-adaptation-case-story-catalyst-miami (Last updated June 2021)

Project Contact

Zelalem Adefris
Vice President of Policy and Advocacy, Catalyst Miami
[email protected]

Affiliated Organizations

Catalyst Miami

Affiliated Organizations

Catalyst Miami’s mission is to identify and collectively solve issues adversely affecting low-wealth communities throughout Miami-Dade County.

What we’ve learned from nearly two decades in our line of work: making our vision a reality requires focus on three community building strategies.

Related Resources