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Climigration Network Council Meeting Recap

Our Marketing Director and Project Manager Michelle Smith, recently had the amazing opportunity to attend the Climigration Network Council Meeting hosted in New Orleans, Louisiana March 23rd through 24th, 2023. The Climigration Network Council is an advisory group composed of a combination of organizations and leaders with learned expertise (academically or professionally) and leaders with lived expertise (experience) with the issue of climate impacts, climate migration and displacement. The lived experts represented vulnerable and indigenous populations in Puerto Rico, Oklahoma, Gulf Coast Texas / Louisiana, and Alaska. CIDA is fortunate to be part of such a dynamic network that aims to generate equitable, just, community led approaches to relocation for people most affected by the worsening impacts of climate change – those who are now finding it impossible to live safely in place.

Climigration Network's core principles include, local self-determination and humanity, supportive systems, equity, restoration and legacy, and receiving communities. All of which were the focal points of discussion during Michelle’s attendance at the Climigration Network Council Meeting.

Michelle’s first day of the council meeting in many ways were symbolic of all five climigration Network’s key principles. The members of the council broke out into smaller workgroups to discuss what drew them into their humanitarian based work and their visions of success for the network. Learned experts became emotional recalling the horrors they have encountered when trying to support impacted marginalized communities. It is crucial for leaders to have passion and compassion for the communities in which they serve, it speaks volumes that this much care and dedication is coming from these leaders. Climigration Network’s leaders are not only passionate but invested in creating solutions to community problems that if left unresolved will eventually impact us all.

Michelle shared what she learned during those sessions, so much of which is profound and will be valuable in the CIDA team’s outlook, perspective and approach. Michelle stated

– “while people in the group all come from a number of different backgrounds and experiences, we share many similarities and concerns as it pertains to climate impacts. And perhaps more importantly, we have the same goals for the future. Personal sovereignty was a key phrase, meaning people having agency, autonomy and self-determination over their own lives. In the case of vulnerable populations that sovereignty has been infringed upon and in order to have a meaningful dialogue and build a trust relationship, this needs to be addressed and steps taken to restore what was taken”, –

In a different small group of lived experts Michelle went on to review the problem statements determined by these experts from their experience navigating inequality. During that discussion, comments and feedback were talked through to clarify definitions and adopt a stronger stance on inequity in government systems. Much of which will be valuable for leaders and groups such as CIDA to have more insight on, in our efforts to move initiatives forward.

Michelle Smith discussing alongside learned and lived experts in small groups.

After a full day of discussion, Michelle and the network members were welcomed into the New Salem Baptist Church by a local community group, A Community Voice, for an authentic New Orleans meal and great discussion. During this discussion members of A Community Voice shared their experiences and lessons learned, along with their future plans and goals for creating a safe situation for their community. Michelle stated that dynamic conversation “was deeply moving and inspiring”.

This set an amazing tone for the entire duration of following activities and discussions throughout the entire network meeting. On the second day of the network meeting, the members discussed what short term future success would look like. so that the council can start to formulate clear goals for the network going forward.

Climigration Network Council Members enjoying an authentic New Orleans meal and great discussion at New Salem Baptist Church.

Some of Michelle’s key takeaways that she will use in the scope of her work included;

-Different perspectives can be incredibly valuable as long as there is a respectful trust relationship that allows participants in a dialogue to learn from one another’s differences.

-Expertise (lived and learned) combined with a shared passion and a willingness to listen and learn creates a powerful force for change.

-The Climigration Network can only do so much in isolation. Which is why there should be a focus on leveraging and building on strong partnerships and relationships with others to have the most impact.

-Ethics, standards and priorities should be the drivers in seeking funding and establishing partnerships, collaborations and coalitions (not the other way around).

It is amazing that our team member Michelle Smith had the opportunity to share her experience, knowledge, and insight with the Climigration Network Council as well as gain valuable knowledge to bring back to the CIDA team. These connections are crucial in ensuring CIDA’s outlook is broad, enriched by a better understanding of other communities’ needs, impacts and experience. Thus ensuring access to a community group support system across the nation.

Michelle Smith, alongside fellow Climigration Network Council Members, and a local community group "A Community Voice".

Thank you Michelle for once again ensuring that Community In-Power Development Association Inc. has a seat at the table, and is continually connected with community groups who also share the same dedication, passion, and commitment to equitable environmental practices.


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