Map OneSonoma: sustainable, resilient, inclusive Sonoma County

Pepperwood’s Role in Map OneSonoma: a collaboration focused on a sustainable, resilient and inclusive Sonoma County

by Lisa Micheli, President & CEO

“Convening” is one of our-time keeping categories at Pepperwood, and as President and CEO, I easily spend 25% of my time in this somewhat mysterious zone. This time is focused on collaborating with other community-based organizations across our region to co-create resilient solutions. In the wake of the 2017 wildfires, community leaders in Sonoma County realized that sustainable and equitable recovery meant stepping out of our silos of expertise, in order to coordinate strategies. At Pepperwood, our expertise centers around natural resource science and management. But our particular know-how is only one thread of the fabric that makes up our community. Resilience requires expertise from organizations specializing in the environment as well as housing, public health and safety, economic recovery, equity, and workforce development.

Our participation in the Map OneSonoma (M1S) collective is important as a resource for sharing and integrating insights across sectors. Born of a philanthropic strategy hatched at Community Foundation Sonoma County with Hewlett Foundation support, the M1S collective includes partners from health, education, labor, environment, and housing sectors of Sonoma County. Phase One of M1S (2017-2018) entailed a comprehensive community dialogue and “mapping” process to frame collective actions for our community’s long-term recovery.

The causality map we crafted (below), facilitated by Scott Spann of Innate Strategies, defines an ecosystem of relationships and influences of and between the many dimensions of our community. Our shared goal was to “increase the percentage of Sonomans living an inclusive, resilient, thriving quality of life by 2025.”  Representing Pepperwood, my role was to provide input to the climate working group and to facilitate a mapping process with a subgroup-focused on the health of forests, watersheds, soil, and wildfire mitigation, composed of the Rebuild NorthBay’s Environment and Sustainability Advisory Council.

We identified two impediments to progress (shown in orange on the map): the ability to respond to climate change and the ability to value ecosystems services. Identifying these “leakages” helped us to craft a solution and increase collective resiliency. As a result, Pepperwood began to lend more time to RebuildNorthBay’s Taking Action on Wildfire Resilience initiative, which seeks to find new revenue sources to support forest management. Pepperwood also allocated more time and expertise toward the new North Bay Forest Improvement incentives program for private landowners being rolled out in partnership with local Resource Conservation Districts.

This mapping process demonstrated how collaboration can help to streamline the recovery process while avoiding redundant efforts within the non-profit community. In this way, every precious dollar donated to our respective causes and areas of expertise makes the maximum positive impact possible for our community!

In March of 2020, we participated with Sonoma State University in the planning and implementation of the Elevating Latino Voices to Heal our Community from Climate Impacts workshop led by Latinx leaders around climate action. As a founder of the NorthBay Climate Adaption Initiative back in 2007, I felt this was a critical gap that was great to see finally get filled! And it has now set in action an ongoing collaboration, whereby Pepperwood can support the development of the Latinx Health Scorecard and more community-led actions to combat climate change and its effects on our community.

One of my motivations for joining M1S was to broaden Pepperwood’s role around increasing equity in our community, so that our organization can be a part of the unified force of organizations working to correct causes of institutional and structural racism in our region. In particular, Lisa Carreno, United Way Wine Country CEO and former Regional Director of 10,000 Degrees, is a personal mentor to me in this arena, waking me up to the fact that disaster and recovery historically results in the magnification of inequities. The M1S 2017-2020 Action Report articulates the relationship between our map-making and inclusivity:

In the face of COVID-19 and heightened awareness of structural racism, the community is calling for meaningful change, recognizing that simply “recovering” from disasters is insufficient. The Map itself contains the Code – the array of levers, relationships, and influences – that can lead to enduring transformation throughout Sonoma County. M1S – the initiative – is designed to align the many disparate recovery efforts launched since 2017 because it accounts for the community’s highest aspirations across multiple sectors. In particular, M1S can ensure that racial disparities are acknowledged, and that steps to address such disparities are explicitly woven into cross-cutting strategies.

As I write this, we are shrouded in smoke from this year’s early fire season. When I feel overwhelmed by the scale of our challenges, I ground my faith in the knowledge that I am not alone, and neither is Pepperwood. We have a strong community of talented individuals and teams, champions striving for a more equitable and resilient future for our kids and our grandkids. That’s why I believe so deeply in the work and goals of the M1S – because it places Pepperwood’s mission in the context of a larger whole:

This work is challenging and long-term by its very nature. But we cannot wait to act. It is vital that the key insights gained since the launch of M1S be operationalized quickly through projects, investments, and the elevation of collaboratives that accelerate community resilience, inclusion, and long-term community sustainability.

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