To fight for change tomorrow, we need to build resilience today.
— Sheryl Sandberg

Happy 2020! As we leave the 2010s behind, I’ve been thinking a lot about what’s in store for the Chesapeake Bay movement in the next 10 years, especially as our movement evolves and becomes more representative of the 18 million people who live, work and play in the watershed.

I sometimes wish I could better read the tea leaves for the future, but while I can’t predict what will happen, I do know things will change — and our movement needs to embrace the concept of building resiliency across both our environmental and social systems.

Resilience is defined as an ability to recover from or adjust easily to misfortune or change. This concept is frequently used to describe solutions to climate change challenges, but it can also be applied to social systems. Scientists and practitioners have been building resiliency into our ecosystem over the last few decades, and it is now time for our movement to focus efforts on our human and social systems in order to weather the next decade of unpredictable changing conditions.

So, if change is our only constant, how can we prepare? We start by building more responsive, modern and flexible social systems to build resilience for the future.

We have made strides, and, with the changing demographic trends in the Chesapeake region, our movement needs to focus more on these efforts. As the Baby Boomer generation continues to retire, and Generation X and the Millenials step onto the leadership stage, we have already started to see a shift in the voices and perspectives represented within organizations, communities and partnerships. Women continue to be promoted into leadership positions within organizations and on boards of directors.

Communities of color are creating space within our movement, such as the work of ecoLatinos in the Chesapeake Bay region and the Audbubon Naturalist Society’s Taking Nature Black conference. Much like the ecosystems we are seeking to protect, our movement is actively seeking more diversity and better representation of the population that lives in this watershed.

To build a more resilient Bay restoration movement, I believe we need to focus our efforts on three things: diversifying the perspectives represented in our partnerships, creating an agenda based on equity, and giving power and voice through inclusivity.

  • Diversifying the perspectives represented in our partnerships: In a future where the new norm is anything but normal, we need as many different perspectives in our partnerships as possible. This doesn’t mean we just throw people together and expect positive results. It requires us to create spaces that have ground rules on behavior and expectations on outcomes, so that we all start from the same page. This work requires us to be authentic when we build our relationships, an activity that requires us to be more vulnerable and willing to step out of our comfort zones. A diversity of voices will add different perspectives, ones that will bring new and different ideas and activities to solve age-old problems — and will no doubt challenge the way we’ve always done things. The world faces new challenges, and our watershed requires a diversity of thought and perspective to weather whatever storms may come.
  • Creating an agenda based on equity: Equity is the concept of giving everyone what they specifically need, while equality is the concept of giving everyone everything equally. The concept of equity builds from a base of equality, but recognizes that there are some communities in our watershed that have fewer resources than others. These resources could be watershed group representation or project funding, for example. Resiliency at the Chesapeake Bay regional level will require that our movement recognize the disparity across our communities and bring resources to those areas that will build capacity for more equity in the outcomes of our movement. One example is a rural local government without the tax base that a larger urban community might have, which therefore does not have the funding and resources to reduce flooding. When we create agendas that recognize the need to bring more resources to specific communities first, then we begin to create an agenda of equity.
  • Giving power and voice through inclusivity: Inclusivity is a mindset that enables our movement to act and behave in ways that welcome and embrace diversity. When teams are inclusive, they work to lift each other up and do their best collective work, thereby becoming a genuine part of the solution. An inclusive team values what you bring to the table. Inclusive teams become allies with, and for, each other; it’s a support network that makes the individuals that much stronger and lifts up their voices.

We must not only seek a diversity of voices but create inclusive spaces that give power and voice to those that have not traditionally been heard, helping to create a more resilient movement overall.

As we embark on the new version of the Roaring ’20s, I look forward to working through the future’s challenges — and promises — together. At the Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay, we are focused on continuing to build a resilient movement where we collectively bring together communities, companies and conservationists to restore the lands and waters of the Chesapeake Bay.

The work we all do in 2020 will build on the work we started in previous decades, so please, let’s be present, be kind, be open, be together.