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Sunnyvale Strong Blocks

Reinvent the world. The journey begins on the block where you live.

Photo of Sandra
1 4

Written by

The Cool Block Pilot a program of the Empowerment Institute

How are you connected to Sunnyvale?

  • I visit Sunnyvale regularly.

What type of applicant are you?

  • Non-profit

Stage of Development.

  • Idea with demonstrated evidence of impact (ready to expand beyond Sunnyvale)

What problem are you aiming to solve? (100 words)

Energy efficiency is the holy grail of carbon reduction, yet many residents don't see the opportunities and responsibilities they have in their homes, transportation and purchasing to reduce carbon.

Tell us more about your climate strategy or solution (500 words)

Cool Block (CB) originated from David Gershon’s The Low Carbon Diet but carbon-reduction programs tend to attract just “carbon warriors”. Gershon realized that successful community engagement programs must to tap into our intrinsic needs for deeper personal connections, safety and higher purpose. The Cool Block (CB) program demonstrates that you need to provide multiple benefits to engage citizens in carbon reduction. CB brings together community-building at the block level with carbon reduction and disaster resilience. During the 5 month program, residents follow a well-defined path to tackle energy savings/carbon reduction, disaster prep and neighborliness. The program uses peer support and accountability, the principles that make AA and Weight Watchers effective, to motivate participants to take actions they want to take, but somehow never get around to. Residents create lower-carbon lifestyles through a combination of behavior changes & efficiency measures. The Palo Alto pilot of 175 residents (24 blocks) achieved a 30% average household carbon reduction with 25 actions per household across all topics. The top actions were: reducing waste, meat and hot water use, using efficient lights, maintaining an efficient car, and switching to renewable energy. CB drives behavior changes as blocks share more tools and errands. Here are the pilot results: CB transforms the path to carbon neutrality into an opportunity to develop collaborative muscles and address the epidemic of loneliness in our cities. “Our team and others are proving that the most powerful engine of change may indeed reside right here in our neighborhoods,” said a CB leader. See testimonials:

Describe how your solution could be a game-changer for your selected Opportunity Area (100 words)

CB is successful because it changes behavior through: -A multi-topic approach which broadens the program’s appeal -Each module contributes to the engagement of the household and block -The 4-5 month program enables participants to tackle fast behavior changes and longer term infrastructure projects -Peer support and accountability helps motivate and support participants to take actions and make changes that they honestly want to take, but somehow never get around to doing.

Explain how your idea would be implemented in Sunnyvale (700 words)

Sunnyvale can create a CB campaign, supported by the CB program and platform, led by a City-based Program Manager in collaboration with the non-profit Empowerment Institute (EI). A pilot can be completed in nine months; a scaling program can be completed in four years. We propose that we begin with a pilot program involving a number of blocks to be agreed upon by the City and EI. The local Program Manager will train the Block Leaders, provide ongoing coaching, and follow the Block Leaders progress throughout the pilot. Once the pilot data are in regarding the amount of carbon reduced, plus the number of water savings, emergency prep and block-level/community actions taken, the City and EI will compare results against the shared objectives. The City and EI can then decide to launch the next phase to recruit, train and deploy 25% of the blocks over 3 years. The work of Stanford’s Everett Rogers’ Diffusion of Innovation Model illustrates that if an idea or product is accepted by 15% of the population (the Early Adopters) it will diffuse on its own momentum. After 3 years the City will have completed the knowledge transfer to a City Staffer who will then guide the process to deploy to as many future blocks as desired. The CB is supported by a robust and mobile-optimized web platform with multi-language support. The platform helps households plan and take actions with the help of locally customized resources and supports actions suggested by other “Innovate” submissions. Additionally, Sunnyvale can add resources and programs from various City Departments as well as resources and programs from partners such as Acterra’s Green@Home and GOEV Ambassadors, providing an effective conduit by which residents can learn about all the programs that the City has to offer. Sunnyvale will identify the community groups to be integrated in the program including City departments such Code Enforcement, Emergency Services, Community Services, the resiliency community, libraries, friends of the park, rotary clubs, faith-based communities, etc. We link these local resources to specific topics and actions on the website, on an action-by-action basis. The CB platform includes an integrated carbon calculator and carbon reductions based on actions taken. This helps households and blocks track their progress in reducing their overall carbon footprints and enables comparison of activities and progress between neighbors on the block.

What kind of impact will your idea have? (250 words)

We anticipate the results for Sunnyvale will reflect the results fromPalo Alto’s pilots:

Scale: Describe how your idea could reach a significant number of people affected. (250 words)

Research has shown that Everett Rogers’ diffusion of innovation (see below) is best achieved through the engagement of “Early Adopters”. Block leaders who respond to the CB leadership opportunity, and neighbors who respond to the Cool Block invitation, are the Early Adopters who will create a “new normal” within a community. Building on this, the final Cool Block topic focuses on actions which expand the reach of the Cool Block experience – beyond the core team to include the entire block, beyond the block into other blocks in the neighborhood and across the city, and beyond the city into other communities. Everett Rogers work:

Feasibility: Where are you with understanding the feasibility of your idea? Describe what you’ve done so far and your plans. (500 words)

New realities have raised the awareness of people across the world regarding the urgency of climate change. And citizens are increasingly ready and eager to respond. Accessible, effective action options and a true feeling of agency are needed now. The CB offers this solution and will bring in-kind funds to implement the program in Sunnyvale. For the pilot phase we will need a Sunnyvale resident or City Staff (paid by Sunnyvale) to be trained by the CB Program Manager in the Cool Block framework. In addition to the in-kind funds we will bring to the City, a SCC Supervisor has indicated interest to assist with funding. Additionally we will need to engage with all of the various City programs, community groups and entities (such as Acterra and Sunnyvale Cool) to promote their programs.

As you consider your next steps, what kinds of help could you use? Is there a type of expertise that would be most helpful? (300 words)

The Cool Block needs city partners – leaders who recognize the potential for their community, who wish to partner with their citizens, and who wish to partner with us.

Are you willing to share your email contact information submitted on OpenIDEO with our partners?

  • Yes, share my contact information

[Optional] Biography: Upload your biography. Please include links to relevant information (portfolio, LinkedIn profile, organization website, etc).

[Optional] Attachments: Please upload relevant attachments or graphics or show us how you came up with your idea.

The CB meetings are divided as follows: 2 on Disaster Prep 2 on Carbon Reduction 1 on Water Saving and Stewardship 2 on Community Building and Sharing Resources 1 on Civic Engagement and Broadening the Program

Evaluation results

2 evaluations so far

1. From a range of 1-5, how interested/compelled are you to bring this idea into your own life or into the city?

1 - Not Interested - 0%

2 - 0%

3 - 0%

4 - 50%

5 - Very interested - 50%

2. From a range of 1-5, does this idea provide benefits aside from reducing carbon emissions?

1 - Low co-benefits - 0%

2 - 0%

3 - 0%

4 - 50%

5 - High co-benefits - 50%

3. From a scale of 1-5, what do you feel is the feasibility of this idea to work well in Sunnyvale?

1 - Not feasible - 0%

2 - 50%

3 - 0%

4 - 0%

5 - Very feasible - 50%

4. From a range of 1-5, what is your hunch about how much this idea will cost the Sunnyvale community to implement properly?

1 - High cost to the community - 0%

2 - 0%

3 - 0%

4 - 50%

5 - Low cost to the community - 50%

View more

Attachments (2)

Palo Alto Resident Feedback on the Cool Block Program.docx

Testimonials from participants in the Palo Alto Cool Block Pilot.

Cool Block Alpha and Beta Results-1.docx

See the results from 24 households who've been through the program.

1 comment

Join the conversation:

Photo of Barbara F

Cool Blocks would move the climte action plan out into the community. It would encourage residents to actively engage in the community effort to reduce emissions by organizing their blocks and collaborating with neighbors to reduce emissions and prepare for emergencies. And it would provide a structure for implementing many of the actions in the Climate Action Plan. Cool Blocks is up and running in Palo Alto.