Success Through Collaboration

Cool Davis tries to find the fun in community fundraising

Back Commentary Oct 19, 2016 By Bill Heinicke

Cool Davis began as many nonprofits do — a small group of dedicated and passionate people putting their heads together.

Beginning in 2010, with the adoption of the City of Davis Climate Action and Adaptation Plan (CAAP), the founding board of directors had the resolve to set in motion a broad and inclusive organization that engages community groups in efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Facing the daunting realities of climate change, our mission is to inspire our community to take action — sometimes small, sometimes significant — aimed at turning the tide, improving the quality of life for all and building a healthy more resilient community.

Launched just as the Great Recession unfolded, Cool Davis has struggled in a time of unique competition for support, volunteers and donations. Our solution from the beginning has been collaboration. We are an active network of residents and more than 80 organizations. Cool Davis connects and coordinates the efforts of our partners and supporters through the efforts of volunteer committees which plan activities to assist households in adopting low-carbon actions.

Like many local nonprofits, Cool Davis is challenged with limited funding opportunities, harnessing the talents and energy of diverse people and organizations to a common vision and purpose, and finding a positive and effective message to inspire and care for our community in the face of a rapidly worsening view of the future.

We are, at our core, a small voluntary organization, with a few people doing the majority of the work. Sustainable living can mean different things to different people and generational groups and it can be difficult to delegate tasks, or allow someone else to tackle a project in their own style. Our solution has been to be an organization with a place for everyone to do something.

Cool Davis strives to be an organization where ideas are welcome and creativity encouraged. Our household action checklist covers energy, transportation and consumption solutions. We have found that when we focus clearly on our climate goals, there is a natural synergy of common purpose cutting across organizational and community interests. We have natural allies in business leaders, health care providers and public health practitioners. In Davis, reducing emissions reinforces and reinvigorates the many goals for sustainable living that our community has already set for itself — whether fostering innovation, increasing bike share or reducing waste.

Climate change is serious, with doom and gloom often overshadowing the steady progress of individual efforts. Cool Davis balances the bad news with a philosophy of fun, because enjoying this good earth, its fruits and each other, is vital to our success. Working together brings people together to share good food, laughter, music, art, poetry, dance, visual arts and film.

Given the nature of climate change, the positive results of our efforts can be hard to display or even comprehend. The existential question about what condition the planet is in, is an aspect of our task that requires a place for contemplation and hope. It requires a long-term perspective, making support often an act of faith especially in each other.  This is where our commitments — to collaboration, to being a place where everyone can do something and to our philosophy of fun — help us look beyond the difficult challenges ahead to the community of life and purpose that we strive for.  

As we’re about to enter our seventh year, Cool Davis has achieved a level of recognition in the community. Translating that into deeper familiarity (and action) will be difficult and is the focus of a new campaign now launching. When the frustrating and discouraging moments come — and they will — we will keep up the collaboration, keep the message positive, and celebrate accomplishments (no matter how small) and those who achieve them.

And since Davis is home to some of the greatest minds and organizations working on this climate problem, we hope that what we learn here will inspire and support the work of people just like us working in other communities in our region, state, nation and world. We are proud to do our part.