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5 Steps to Community Sustainable Resilience

Pursuing sustainable resilience can seem daunting with dozens of sustainability and resilience models and hundreds of resources available. Everyone can do something to support more sustainable and resilient communities. This webpage breaks down approaching sustainable resilience into simple steps.

See the Partnerships section of our website for potential partners in your area and the Case Studies section of our website for examples of partnerships across the state supporting sustainable resilience now.  If you’re a citizen or community group interested in pursuing sustainable resilience at home, please visit our Sustainable Resilience at Home webpage.

Wherever you are in your sustainable resilience journey, we offer the following five, simple steps below, which will allow you to make an informed decision about the best way to pursue sustainable resilience in your community today:

Performing a baseline assessment allows stakeholders to examine current conditions, such as community infrastructure, housing, regulations, transportation, recreational space, economy, and social values and to identify areas of greatest need and opportunity. Resources for performing a baseline assessment are listed below from the least to most intensive.

  • Sustainable Communities HotReports!
    • Developed by US Census Bureau, HUD, DOT, and EPA
    • Free resource
    • Reports are immediately accessible and do not require the collection and input of data from community members or leaders.
    • HotReports! provide basic baselining of community transportation, housing, economic development, income, and equity for all counties throughout the United States. A community can pull its own county report or compare itself to other counties. The website also contains resources related to housing, transportation, health, air quality, and food.
    • Data is based on 1990, 2000, 2010 census information, Department of Labor’s Quarterly Census of Employment and Wates and State Occupational Projections, and the Census Bureau’s Local Employment Dynamics, so it may not reflect changing conditions within a community over the past several years.
  • Scorecards are useful for communities and community groups to provide a baseline assessment of current community conditions, identify opportunities for growth, change, and development, and support community discussions about strategic planning for sustainable resilience.  The EPA has collected a series of free scorecards – at the municipal level, the policy level, and at the project level – that can be completed relatively easily by municipal officials or local organizations and help shape discussions about community needs and opportunities. 

Host public meetings with your community members and stakeholders to discuss the findings from the baseline assessment; work with your community stakeholders to identify opportunities for growth for your community and to prioritize next steps. 

Public Engagement

The state of Mississippi provides a guide for effectively engaging stakeholders, including hosting public meetings, using the “visioning” process to envision outcomes, and developing advisory groups to encourage open communication throughout the decision-making process:

Use the Picking Your Pathway section of our website to decide the best approach(es) for your community to pursue sustainable resilience. Then, identify potential partners to provide resources like organization, manpower, matching funds, media coverage, etc. to support sustainable resilience measures in your community.

Tennessee communities often take one or more of the following approaches:

Recognition and Rating: this broad-based approach utilizes a formal recognition and rating system to perform a more comprehensive baseline and to provide comprehensive recommendations for next steps toward sustainable resilience across many sectors of community life.

Leading by Example: local government can lead by example by identifying opportunities to change its operations and governance to support sustainable resilience in policy, practice, regulation, and legislation.

Risk-Management, Resilience, and Emergency Planning: Tennessee communities are required to complete hazard mitigation plans and other risk-management and emergency planning to qualify for many types of funding, including pre-disaster mitigation funds. This path provides a natural entry point for incorporation sustainability and resilience into community planning.

Community Stakeholder-Driven: this path addresses specific areas of community stakeholder concern through changes to policy, operation, and legislation catalyzing in action to support sustainable resilience for all residents.

See the Partnerships section of the website to learn more about different existing partnerships across the state.

Work with community partners and stakeholders to take visible action in the path you’ve chosen.

Pursue initial projects that will result in cost savings over time and which benefits can be easily conveyed to the community.  For example, energy saved through LED-retrofitting, water conserved through use of low-flow faucets, green space added and/or utilized by citizens, improvements to water infrastructure, and enhancing public transportation options generate metrics that are readily accessible to community members.

These initial cost savings can be leveraged into additional sustainable resilience initiatives moving forward, such as monthly savings providing funding for repayment of loans through programs such as the State Revolving Fund for water and wastewater infrastructure.  See the Funding Resources section of this website for more information on potential funding sources.

Report your progress to community through informal and formal measures and begin setting new goals; sustainable resilience is an ongoing, iterative process.

  • Informal: Host a dashboard or scorecard with regularly updated metrics like energy savings, water conservation, number of citizens using green spaces or outdoor trails and parks, and miles citizens have logged using public or alternative transportation on your website. 
  • Formal: Host public meetings to highlight progress in sustainable resilience, including effective partnerships with local organizations, businesses, and industry, and ask community stakeholders to identify continued prioritization and community goals so that you can move the needle in areas of greatest community concern.

Use partnerships with local organizations and groups to fund and execute sustainable changes across the community.

Explore our case studies to identify projects and partnerships that you can emulate in your community.



Jennifer Tribble



Kendra Abkowitz