Post by Steve Adams, ISC’s Director of Strategic Initiatives
In 2009, fresh from several years of working for state and federal government, I found myself in the nonprofit world with an opportunity to work exclusively on climate change adaptation – something I had been able to focus on only partially during the last few years of my public sector career. New to my job, I began a series of calls reaching out to other adaptation practitioners – some I knew, some whose good work I’d heard of – all of whom were quite happy to be in touch with someone else focusing on adaptation.
In the course of my conversations, many of the folks I spoke to remarked that, “there’s no good way for us to connect.” Terri Cruce said, “we should form a learning network.” I thought the idea was exactly right – we desperately needed a way to talk with and learn from each other. So, in early 2010, we gathered a group of 20 practitioners in Boulder to talk about the state of adaptation practice and begin laying the groundwork for our adaptation learning network.
The product of that initial meeting proved sufficiently intriguing to the Rockefeller Foundation that they provided funding to develop the business case for the network. After another Boulder meeting (the details are related here) in 2011, we realized that our learning network was in fact an emergent professional society – the American Society of Adaptation Professionals (ASAP). Later that year, I had the privilege of joining the team here at ISC, and the Kresge Foundation and MacArthur Foundation provided critical funding to help us incubate ASAP within ISC. And, with some blood, sweat and tears, something beautiful was born on April 14, 2015: the American Society of Adaptation Professionals as an independent not-for-profit corporation.
Fast-forward five years and we have been amazed by the success of this far-flung network. Thanks to efforts of our ASAP Executive Committee, our dedicated Affinity Group chairs, and many of our earliest members, we now have 966 members (and counting!) representing 42 states (and two provinces in Canada – we’ve even got some members from South America, Europe, Africa and Australia). Since our first booth at the 2013 National Adaptation Forum and with the tireless efforts of our project director Sascha Petersen, we recruited new members at regional adaptation events in 2014 in New England, the Pacific Northwest, California, the Great Lakes and South Florida. Sascha has led the development of ASAP’s dynamic new website that features online content integration with the Georgetown Clearinghouse, Climate Access and the U.S. Forest Service’s Climate Change Resource Center with more content partners to come as we grow. And we’re eagerly anticipating the first ASAP Prize for Progress in Adaptation award at next week’s NAF in St. Louis.
Now, we are getting ready to launch ASAP from the ISC nest. As ISC has done many times in its work building community-based organizations and networks, we have supported this nascent organization, created by creative and committed collaborators from all over the US, to a place of strength and sustainability. It is time for ASAP to take its place as a nonprofit organization flying with its own wings.
Next week, at the National Adaptation Forum, for the first time, ASAP will be signing up new members and accepting membership dues on the spot! Our initial support from Kresge and MacArthur has allowed us to build a strong membership base. Over the next few months, we at ISC will transition the operating systems and governance structure built here so that ASAP can be a fully independent organization by the end of 2015.
ISC will continue to have a strong partnership with ASAP – I will remain on the board through the transition, Sascha will be working hard every day (as he has been) and at least a dozen ISC staffers are active ASAP members! We are committed to keeping adaptation front & center for local leaders, so many of whom are tackling climate adaptation issues every day. Making sure they have a strong network of professional colleagues across sectors throughout the US is core to ISC’s mission of helping people get the tools they need to succeed.
If you’re attending the National Adaptation Forum, please attend the Monday night reception or stop by the ASAP table and introduce yourself in person – Sascha and I will be there, along with Nancy Schneider and Mike Crowley from ISC. And if you aren’t a member yet, please consider it! It takes all of us to make adaptation happen!