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Watch the Climate Impact Program overview session from the September 23rd Virtual Summit

In January 2022 we were presented with a challenge as part of our joining the AccuWeather family – save 1 million lives with our combined expertise, tools, and resources. That’s a big statement to make in the air quality world given the long term impacts air pollution exposure has on our health. The questions that surfaced as a result were solid. In particular if we were thinking in terms of measuring our work’s impact. 

The World Economic Forum (WEF) also released their Global Threats Report for 2022 around the same time. Top of the list was Climate Action Failure and Extreme Weather. Using this as a starting point to help focus our thinking, we began unpacking the idea of saving lives -> of rather safeguarding life. 

On one hand, we have the acute, physical threats of extreme weather. We could measure this in terms of mortality. But what about climate Action Failure – how is this hurting our health? Number of years of life lost, quality of life, mental health, etc.  

As we broke the challenge down, things were moving into the realm of the possible. Maybe not for us alone, but perhaps with the help of other experts. The key back in January was to wrap all of this up into a big statement that would guide our work going forward. Now we could put that statement in context with the WEF’s report, and start drilling down into more detail. Now we were on to a new question: based on our sphere of expertise, assets, and influence, what could we focus on that would actually make a difference?

It’s important to note that we were not starting from scratch here. Because air pollution is so wrapped up in climate research, we had some good leads on where we could focus our efforts and who might want to help out. In fact, we already had a few really nice projects getting off the ground that might help serve as proof of concepts.

We determined that the three areas of focus in which we could have the most impact are:

  1. increasing environmental awareness and education; 

For example: We have worked with journalists around the world – providing them with data, tools, and expertise in support of their project. Working with the University of Paris to develop a hackathon curriculum for first and second year undergrads using our personal pollution monitors is designed to inspire our next generation of climate scientists.

  1. advancing climate research and understanding, and;

A good example to mention here is our membership in the Development Data Partnership which provides data to a variety of international organisations to be used in their research and development projects around the world.

  1. fostering climate action and engagement.

Some of my favourite examples in this category involved map making – from the Houston Air Alliance organising bike rides through their city to map the air, to Ploggers in Italy running extreme mountain trails and picking up litter as they go.

Right – so now we have a direction, context, and three areas of focus. Next up? How are we going to get started? If you caught the first session earlier today or have worked with Plume Labs before, you will know that the first thing we do is make a list of what we are good at. What do we have to offer and how could it be paired up with something different, to make something more.

This is where the Framework for data-driven collaboration comes in. We want to speed up partnership based projects in the key areas of focus that have a positive, measurable impact and can scale.

Going back to our list of what we can bring to the picnic?

  • We have data -> historical, real-time, forecast – I get unreasonably excited about this and will not go into detail right now. If you would like to schedule some time to get the presentation on what data we can offer, please let us know and we’ll connect you with the right team.
  • We have deep expertise.
  • We can reach a vast amount of people with important information.

These three, when taken together, present a powerful toolkit but even so it’s not going to be enough if we want to take on the challenge set before us.

This is why we have placed partnerships and collaboration at the center of the entire program. 

A key point I will highlight before I get into how we might work together – This program is designed to make collaboration easy, fast, and to yield results. It’s probably going to change over time and that’s good. The main thing is getting people together and getting to work. 

So how has all of this been working so far? Our projects always start with an idea that fits into one of the 3 areas of focus – it’s not always a fully formed idea, but we have a solid grasp of what we are trying to achieve. Sometimes we already know who we are going to be working with too. The trick at this stage is thinking through the full potential of the idea. How far could we take this? What aspect is scalable? Then figuring out what is missing to get there.

Then we reach out to people who might be interested in working together on the project – bringing a particular skill set or asset to help fill any gaps. From there, we get together and have a bit of a brainstorming session to figure out if there is something we could explore together.

This is an example of how we have reached out to potential partners with ideas for projects, but it works the other way around as well. If you have an idea or project that fits into one of the key areas of focus and has the potential to scale on an international level, you could follow the same process.

What happens next?

Above is an example of a three step proof of concept process starting from simply seeing if the idea is possible, right up to the point where we are publishing the results of the project and preparing to scale up for a full implementation.

In fact, we could apply this process to our own Climate Impact Program.

We have worked our way through steps 1, 2, and 3 and are now scaling the program up to bring on more partners, launch more projects, and make more progress.

Interested in discussing a project? Send us the details and let’s discuss.