Building a Multiracial, Cross-Class Climate Blueprint

Why do some coalitions for climate action seem to work well while others fall apart? What does it mean for a coalition to produce not only successful outcomes but operate via healthy processes? And how can traditional environmental organizations find not only common ground but common ways of working with environmental justice and labor advocates?

To answer these questions, the Climate Advocacy Lab has been developing a Blueprint to analyze and break down how climate advocates can most effectively set up and work in multiracial, cross-class (MRXC) coalitions. This Blueprint will help us reach our mission to better equip the climate movement to build MRXC power using evidence-based insights.

This research project consists of two parts. The first is a review of how various popular organizing models (e.g., Midwest Academy, Sierra Club, Momentum, Alinsky model, etc.) define the principles and components (i.e., “variables”) that lead to strong, powerful climate organizing, and identify them according to their purported necessity in successful organizing. These variables include considerations of resource-sharing, mutual accountability, strategic planning, and internal flexibility.

The second is an analysis of these variables show up in practice when looking at five recent cases of climate campaigns that we believe illustrate the breadth of outcomes and processes in MRXC climate coalitions: Illinois’ Climate and Equitable Jobs Act, the fight against the Line 3 pipeline in Minnesota, New York state’s Community Leadership an Community Protection Act, the Portland Clean Energy Fund, and Washington state Ballot Initiative 1631. This step involves a combination of case study analysis and direct conversations with organizers and advocates involved in these campaigns.

We intend for the MRXC Climate Blueprint to help the U.S. climate community build more equitable coalitions that are also more effective in delivering and wielding political power. Although some of our findings will be emergent, our primary hypothesis is that diverse coalitions are more likely to succeed when participants are able to form effective and trusting relationships across sectoral lines and legacies of organizing. While not all campaigns and coalitions can win, our hope is that they fall short only due to external circumstances and not due to miscommunication or a lack of attention to healthy internal process.

We plan to produce two documents: a concise workbook with recommendations on how to structure MRXC climate campaigns and coalitions; and a longer report that goes into greater depth on our research methods, data and findings. These two documents will be supported through additional outreach opportunities like webinars, trainings, and other programming through the remainder of 2023.