The climate crisis calls on us to balance urgency with respect, partnership, and joint innovation. 

With a large amount of federal infrastructure and climate funding hanging in the balance, Climigration Network members and community partners are out to build something better for people and our ecosystems. Too often, we’ve failed to heed or invest in the knowledge and plans of communities. How can we direct resources to support the visions and adaptation plans of communities that are dealing with disruptions to their lives and livelihoods due to the climate crisis? How do we make sure that those communities who face the greatest risks are empowered to decide whether they can continue to live safely where they are, or gain the support necessary to relocate?

One thing is clear: it’s impossible to create supportive systems for community-led climate migration without first opening up dialogue about this difficult subject. Some community organizations and local governments are beginning to broach the topic of moving out of harm’s way, yet having these conversations, no matter what words or approaches are used, is difficult. Differences in culture, financial circumstances, and geographic location all influence how we think and talk about climate risk and migration.

With funding from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation, the Climigration Network partnered with a creative, BIPOC-led research team of communications professionals, helmed by Scott Shigeoka and Mychal Estrada, to generate a guidebook for community leaders and practitioners to help support community conversations about long-term solutions to manage climate risk.

Lead With Listening: A Guidebook For Community Conversations on Climate Migration is based on interviews with 40+ people with direct experience with climate risk and displacement. We hope the insights they shared will help others grappling with this reality too. Every conversation was built on trust and consent with clear conditions and agreements to minimize retraumatization, and each participant was financially compensated and valued for their time and wisdom.

The guidebook offers insights on how to enter into conversations about relocation with a community in ways that are more equitable, restorative, and culturally responsive: questions to ask yourself before you approach; phrases to use other than "managed retreat”; and actions and activities you can take to open up a conversation with empathy, curiosity, and care.

The guidebook isn’t exhaustive. It’s just the beginning. We’re working with community-based organizations to shape the ideas and suggestions to their community contexts, and sharing the guidebook with practitioner networks to have discussions about how to better engage with communities. 

We’ve also partnered with the Anthropocene Alliance, the Alaska Institute for Justice, and the Lowlander Center to host compensated dialogues with leaders from low-income, Black, Latinx, and Tribal communities across the country to learn more about what changes, resources, and support are needed for communities facing climate risk and displacement. Leaders in these dialogues are calling for greater access to public and private funding and resources, but also greater state and federal consultation, coordination, and commitment to disaster relief, mitigation, and relocation. Learn more in “The Great American Climate Migration,” a statement from grassroots leaders in the Anthropocene Alliance outlining conditions necessary to guide the resettlement of some 30 million Americans over the next half-century due to climate change.

Guidebook Project Team & Acknowledgments

Work on such a complex and important issue would not be possible without the contributions of numerous supporters. The Climigration Network would like to thank the following for their help in developing this guidebook:

  • The Climigration Network Narrative Building & Communications Workgroup, which provided insightful feedback and helped refine this Guidebook, including members Hannah Teicher, Edward Thomas, Debra Butler, Libby Zemaitis, and Kelly Leilani Main. And Hannah Teicher, Patrick Marchman, and Delaney Morris, who have been working hard to share this Guidebook out with new audiences.
  • The 40 Co-Creators - representing different political backgrounds, lived experience, and professional perspectives - who shared their stories, pain and wisdom with us. Their collaboration was essential to this creative process.
  • The Research and Design Team that undertook this opportunity and created what we hope to be a valuable tool for the field. Thank you. The team was comprised of seven individuals, with experience as organizers, cultural designers, storytellers, artists, policymakers, and more, who come from diverse backgrounds and share a personal connection to the climate crisis. Team members, as well as co-creators, come from communities often hit first and worst by the impacts of the climate crisis: Black, Indigenous, Chicano, other POC, LGBTQI+, immigrant, rural, farmers, and activists. In particular, we would like to thank Erika Diaz Gómez and Lina María Osorio, who co-designed this Guidebook.
  • “Lead with Listening” was made possible through the generous support of the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation.

Every place and person is different, which means there’s no “one size fits all” approach to talking about climate migration. We hope that people take in what serves them and their community best, and let us know what they learn in the process. Please connect with us ( to share your thoughts, questions, and suggestions.