“Climate” is the emotional, social, and environmental setting within a specific place, i.e. a neighborhood, a school, an organization, or even a home.
I’m in Chicago this morning for the second of three days with Action for Healthy Kids. We’re in a space called Catalyst Ranch, and it is hands down The Most Creative Space I’ve Ever Worked In (second place goes to the Campaign Consultation offices in Baltimore!). The environmental climate here is spectacular, with the walls and rooms covered by hipster garage sale stuff. This space almost demands enthusiasm. But the climate is more than a room.
The emotional climate of a space informs how deep folks are willing to engage within that space. The social climate allows and encourages people to see how and where and why they fit within a space. The environments we operate in set the initial tone and reinforce the climate that is being established. Creating intentional climates for engagement requires intentional efforts to move on each of these areas, and more.
Often when people think about engaging young people, they think about the physical climate of engagement – colorful walls or funky music or pizza on the table are enough from that perspective. Sometimes people think about the social climate and whether the activities are fun enough or the outcomes are powerful enough. Every once in a while people think about the emotional climate. But rarely do we string together those different elements in order to ensure the overarching efficacy of the climate in a space.
Successfully engaging anybody requires that the climate be considered in a deliberate and intentional way. And by success I’m talking about whether an activity is effective and if it can be sustained over time. We must create climates for engagement – not just programs, not just agendas, and not just outcomes. Then we can move further.