Getting Started With Local Partnership Ideas

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As CCL expands our policy agenda it opens up the possibilities for our chapters to do more work with local and state-level groups. This training provides suggestions for how chapters might begin working to promote urban forests by planting trees together with a local community organization or support building electrification and efficiency by engaging with community leaders and government. 
TOC and Guide Section
Importance of service in building local partnerships

Community service, which is a Grassroots Outreach strategy, can empower our volunteers and build important connections within our community. Through this outreach we make CCL and our work known in our communities, we find new members and we build relationships in the places where we live. This ultimately builds support for climate action and carbon pricing.

While CCL is singularly focused on climate change with a strong emphasis on pricing carbon, immediately engaging with communities and organizations on the issue of carbon pricing is often not an effective way to win friends and allies. By engaging in service activities to support community causes, CCL volunteers can build relationships on all sides of the political spectrum. One of the best ways to build trust is to help and support someone else’s cause without expectations that they will support yours.

In the natural course of interactions you will be asked what you do or what other passions you have and that is when you can share about CCL. Your goal is to build relationships and trust and the time to talk about CCL and our policy agenda and climate solutions will make itself apparent as your new relationships grow and develop.

Doing your research


  • Be humble,
  • Do research on the problem or issue. Understand the history. 
  • You are most likely entering spaces already led by other organizations.
  • Keep in mind how you are engaging with your community.
  • It’s Important to not become a “white savior” in your interests of helping.
  • Listen, learn and work together..

It’s important that you don’t show up in a community assuming you have the solution to a problem. You need to understand the context and the history, which will vary from community to community. 

Addressing white savior complex

The term “white savior” is a critical description of a white person who is depicted as liberating, rescuing or uplifting non-white people; it is critical in the sense that it describes a pattern in which people of color in economically under-developed majority non-white areas are denied agency and are seen as passive recipients of white benevolence.

Partnership questions for CCL Chapters

Before engaging in a local partnership, consider whether it will

  • Deepen a connection with important local allies?
  • Ultimately help us achieve the goals of our policy agenda?
  • Increase momentum for federal legislators to take bold action on climate change?
  • Increase momentum for potential allies to support bold federal climate policy?
  • Grow the diversity of the movement calling for bold climate legislation?
  • Build bipartisan support for climate action?
  • Provide opportunities for endorsements/statements of support for federal legislative priorities?

Of course, it’s unlikely that one partnership would contribute to all of these outcomes, but this list demonstrates the range of possible opportunities. 

Ways to look for service opportunities related to urban forests and tree equity:
  • Search the internet for local community gardens, local environmental organizations, and local government environmental departments. Look for events that you can volunteer for. Participate in local tree planting, trail cleanups, or similar activities
  • Consider partnering with these groups or organizations. These may include:
    • Master gardeners' groups
    • City arborists
    • Arbor Day foundation (if local groups exist) 
    • American Forests (if local groups exist)
  • Connect with representatives of local neighborhoods or communities that might want more trees and see if there are ways to support them. 
  • As an example of a service opportunity, In Palm Beach County, Florida you can sign up for a volunteer event with their  Environmental Resources Management department. These are  "hands-on" environmental projects, such as plantings, trash cleanups, and exotic plant removal. 
  • Another example was when Growing Climate Solutions, a local climate organization, invited CCL to plant trees for a new community in construction with Habitat for Humanity. During this event, they had the opportunity to meet a newly elected County Commissioner, and they were featured in our local newspaper, the Naples Daily News. Because of their relationship with Growing Climate Solutions, CCL was invited to be a speaker at their January 2023 conference to talk about the work we do. 
Ways to look for service opportunities related to building electrification and efficiency:
  • First review CCL’s training on the topic and familiarize yourself with the issues and how they may relate to your local area. 
  • Connect with any local organizations that are promoting building electrification and efficiency. 
  • Collect information on local resources that you can share with the public.
  • Include building electrification and efficiency in your grassroots tabling and presentations materials. It can be a great way to make climate solutions tangible to everyday people and get them engaged on the topic.
  • Educate your local elected officials on the need for electrification and efficiency and ask them to join Rewiring America’s Mayors and Municipal Leaders for Electrification Caucus where they will get access to information on what they can do to support electrification.
  • Connect with businesses and encourage them to join Rewiring America’s CEOs for Electrification 
  • Work with local officials and advocacy organizations to help members of your community take advantage of funding from the Inflation Reduction Act through education and outreach.
How to engage in a community with tree planting in five phases

Addressing inequity in tree cover in urban areas is not something CCL can (or should) do on its own. We are new to this work, and will need to learn ways of collaborating with others. To help you get started, we’ve outlined five phases of engagement: soil building, taking root, growing strong, branching out, and watering and nurturing. Just remember - this is a guide, not a checklist. (Note that this strategy may not be suitable in all contexts.)

Phase 1: “Soil Building”

The goal of this phase is to set yourself up for success by analyzing the “soil” around you. 

Assume this is brand new territory, even if you are a local. 

Look up your community’s tree equity score (see more information below). Are there areas of your district that have a lower tree equity score? Or does your district already have good tree cover? There’s nothing wrong with adding trees where there are many already, but we can maximize our impact by prioritizing those communities where trees are most needed.

Do you live in/already engage deeply in that community?  If you are new, you’ll want to put more energy into researching the community before proceeding to Phase 2, though we recommend doing this research even if you are local. You may be surprised by what you don’t know!

Research the community. Check out their local news and events, and try attending a few. Start to build trust with this community by listening to them in their own spaces. If somebody wants to know more about why you’re there, remember to lead with CCL’s broader mission of enacting big solutions to climate change, not any one specific policy agenda. Be prepared for this process to take time - the best soils take years to develop. 

What is Tree Equity?

Trees are more than scenery for our cities. They are critical infrastructure that every person in every neighborhood deserves — a basic right that we must secure. But a map of tree cover in America’s cities is too often a map of income and race. That’s because trees often are sparse in low-income neighborhoods and some neighborhoods of color. Ensuring equitable tree cover across every neighborhood can help address social inequities so that all people can thrive.

What is a Tree Equity Score?

The Tree Equity Score (TES) is a website hosted by American Forests here:   

TES calculates scores based on how much tree canopy and surface temperature align with income, employment, race, age and health factors in the U.S. Scores are available for 150,000 neighborhoods and 486 urbanized areas (places with at least 50,000 residents). More than 70 percent of people in the U.S. live in one of these places.

Phase 2: “Taking Root”

In this phase, we recommend checking in with your local partner group to get their input on the idea of tree equity, and of CCL as a valued partner in that effort. Remember to listen closely to what you hear in these conversations. Don’t assume that the people you are meeting with will want to engage in this, and get comfortable with getting turned away.

Connect with potential community partners, like city arborists and master gardeners. Get a sense of what has already been done in this community. You might find at this stage that there are specific reasons why this work hasn’t already been done, or that there are plans in the works already. 

Connect with trusted community leaders and earn their trust. This will look different for every community, but consider connecting with community resource centers or places of worship. 

Align interests and capacities. What does the community really need support with? If there is already interest in planting more trees, what specifically has prevented them from doing it? It might be lack of financial capacity - trees aren’t cheap - or difficulties navigating city ordinances. 

What is your chapter good at? Do you have a strong media team that can help get the word out about the importance of tree equity, or a skilled grasstops team that can engage local nurseries to secure tree donations? Work with community partners and leaders to identify what specific value your chapter can add. 

Phase 3: “Branching Out”

By this point, you will have earned the trust of key players, and you’ll be clear about what your chapter can contribute. 

Engage the community in making decisions. Try co-hosting a community gathering where you show the tree equity score of their area on maps. 

Ask them to share their thoughts on where would be the best place to plant new trees. Invite a local arborist to explain how different tree species grow and solicit feedback from the community on what trees might be suitable there. Bringing the community along from the beginning of the planning process will start cultivating local advocates.

Confirm that your paperwork is in order. Most cities have strict rules about where trees may be planted. You may need to use your advocacy skills with your commissioners to change these rules, or work with a local parks department to add trees to an existing green space. 

Phase 4: “Growing Strong”
  • Pick a date and make it a big deal
  • Invite everyone, and give credit where it’s due
  • Put some trees in the ground! 

This is the phase where your planning pays off - the actual tree planting event! By this point, your group coalition has done most of the hard work together, but you should pay close attention to making sure the event itself lives up to CCL’s values and brand. 

Work with community members to pick a date and make it a big deal! Perhaps there’s a specific holiday that is significant to them that they would like to celebrate by planting some trees. They can also help you get the word out about the event. Leverage your media skills to get the word out in local papers. 

Invite everyone, and give credit to everyone who has participated. Showcase the value of this collaboration in your promotional materials and at the event itself. Be creative with your invite list, but always remember to live by our values.

And, put some trees in the ground! 

Phase 5: “Watering & Nurturing”
  • Make a plan for tree upkeep
  • Keep the conversation going
  • Share your story!

One of the major reasons why tree planting fails is that people forget to plan for what happens after the event. After cultivating these relationships, don’t disappear! You and the coalition have invested major time into building trust in this community. Sticking around shows that you are committed to the work. 

Make a plan for tree upkeep. Rotate regular maintenance with community partners. If watering is needed in your community, make sure it’s happening. And yes, you should do some of it yourself. Keep showing up.

Keep the conversation going. If you’ve done this right, you’ll have a group of folks who believe in what you stand for. Celebrate your success together at regular intervals - consider having an Earth Day gathering, or an anniversary celebration. Over time, those can become entry points for talking about CCL’s other work. 

And as you complete actions, don’t forget to log them in the CCL Community Action Tracker.  

Also, don’t forget to share in the CCL Community Forums what worked well for your chapter taking a moment to write up what you and your group did can inspire other chapters around the country to try out something similar and learn from your experiences.

Press play to start the video (33m 42s)
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Skip ahead to the following section(s):
  • (0:00) Intro & Agenda
  • (3:26) The Importance of Service
  • (5:54) Doing Your Research
  • (12:54) Local Examples & Ideas
  • (23:35) Five Phases For Tree Planting Planning
  • (30:22) Next Step Ideas
  • Solemi Hernandez
  • Steffanie Munguía
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Press play to start the audio (33m 42s)
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Audio Outline
 Skip ahead to the following section(s):
  • (0:00) Intro & Agenda
  • (3:26) The Importance of Service
  • (5:54) Doing Your Research
  • (12:54) Local Examples & Ideas
  • (23:35) Five Phases For Tree Planting Planning
  • (30:22) Next Step Ideas
  • Solemi Hernandez
  • Steffanie Munguía
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