Plan for the Long-Term

Transition can be a time of great possibility. In some cases, you have the opportunity to envision a new community and quality of life from the ground up. Think creatively about how to replace revenue and create a solid fiscal footing, good jobs, attractive spaces, a cohesive community, and a place where all generations will want to live for the long term.  

But you also need to plan thoughtfully—not just for the coming months or years, but for decades. Long-term planning will help ensure that the vision you collectively create accounts for the needs of all community members (and that everyone in your community understands the anticipated timeline).

Visualize Scenarios

Scenario planning is one way to help your community imagine and plan for the future. It’s a technique that businesses often use to anticipate what’s coming and decide how to best prepare. Simply put, scenario planning involves imagining a wide range of possibilities—even those that may seem unlikely—and mapping out how to capitalize on them.

As you consider future scenarios, try to look at them through multiple lenses. Work with your stakeholder groups to envision how each scenario might play out in terms of your community’s fiscal, social and physical condition. For example:

  • What might be the impacts on your community’s future tax base?
  • How might it change your current social structures, interactions and activities?
  • What might happen to the site where the closed utility or mine now sits?
  • How will each scenario make the most of and/or conserve the natural environment in your community?
  • Who benefits from each future scenario? Who doesn't benefit?

As you continue to learn more about what a closure will mean, what assets and resources are available, and what your community wants, you can continue to revisit and rethink the possibilities together.

Once you have a range of scenarios in hand, pull together the pertinent facts to create presentations to share with stakeholders about the different possibilities. Make a note of all the assumptions used in developing the scenarios, anticipating that these may well change with more information.

Create a Common Vision

Eventually, as the stakeholder groups consider and discuss the potential scenarios, you can help your community develop a common vision for the future. Perhaps they’ll want to become a regional trade hub, or an artist colony, or a key destination for outdoor enthusiasts. Whatever your community decides, keep moving the process forward by discussing what it will take to get there. Ask what success will look like in six months, one year, or five years, given what you know already. What are the holes or weaknesses that you’ll need to address to achieve that success? How will you address them? The common vision should be written down and shared publicly - on a website or printed copies - for people to regularly review and update as the transition moves forward

Photo courtesy of Kentuckians For The Commonwealth

Remember—this is an ongoing and evolving conversation. Engage your community in these conversations through guided discussions, planning charrettes or even informal chats. Create ways to gather ideas online and share what you’re hearing. Continue to reach out to other community members throughout the process to bring in their ideas and concerns. Expect answers to change over time as information emerges, as others get involved, and as impacts take shape.

Once you’ve established your leadership team and secured community input to create a common vision, much of the rest of the transition-planning process can be delegated—with clear objectives and with clearly stated expectations. This type of change management has happened in many places, under a range of conditions. Examples of transition efforts are abundant, and although many are related to other types of economic change, they contain relevant ideas and lessons for communities struggling with an economic transition away from coal.

There is no endpoint in transition planning. This is an ongoing process so continue to evaluate, adapt, and refine your community’s plans. As new information, trends, and stakeholders emerge that impact transition efforts, plans and programs should be modified to reflect internal and external factors.

Technical assistance

If your community is interested in receiving technical assistance from JTF, please complete our Technical Assistance Request form.

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All of the information here is included in our Blueprint for Just Transition downloadable PDF guide.

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The Blueprint for Transition is an ongoing project of the Just Transition Fund. Please check back as we will continue to update and add to the site.