Facilitating Climate Conversations at the Southwest Adaptation Forum

Oct. 20, 2022
Maria Mata Robles and Amanda Leinberger (CCASS) working at the nametag booth together

Photo Credit: Tahnee Robertson

Earlier this month, Earth Grant intern Maria Mata Robles traveled to Albuquerque, NM with her Earth Grant internship mentors at Southwest Decision Resources (SDR) for the 2022 Southwest Adaptation Forum (SWAF), an event planned by SDR in collaboration with Southwest Climate Adaptation Science Center and several other organizations. She spent three days there, engaging in meaningful conversations about desert adaptation and gaining valuable experiences in conference facilitation.

Maria Mata Robles holding a laptop during a conference panel

Maria compiles participant feedback behind the scenes.

Photo Credit: Tahnee Robertson

Maria had been to professional conferences before SWAF, but this time she served an important role as a facilitator and coordinator throughout the three-day conference, giving her the opportunity to experience the immense amount of work that goes on behind the scenes of such an event. She took notes during discussions, videotaped throughout the conference, distributed supplemental materials for workshops, and provided administrative support. She emphasized that her time at SWAF gave her a deep appreciation for the work of conference planners and facilitators everywhere, most especially for her mentors Tahnee and Colleen, who supported Maria consistently throughout the event.

Even though this role was new for her, SDR staff had prepared Maria during their work together in the months prior. Southwest Decision Resources is a Tucson-based organization that works to collaboratively address environmental conservation and community challenges throughout the Southwest by supporting the design and implementation of collaborative natural resource management and community development efforts. As an intern, Maria had taken SDR’s facilitation training, a workshop open to the public that teaches note-taking skills, the fundamentals of meeting facilitation, and other tools essential to making a collaborative project efficient and effective.

While working at the Southwest Adaptation Forum, Maria was also introduced to important topics like post-tragic event adaptation, cultural fire, and adaptive agriculture. Her favorite program at the forum was a panel discussion on cultural fire. Maria said, “The panel was very eye-opening for me since I hadn’t been introduced to that topic before”. Throughout the conference, the planning committee emphasized highlighting Indigenous voices, which was illustrated in the significant amount of participation from tribal members. Several nations and tribes were represented that day, and SWAF planners intend to increase representation at their next forum.

By the end of the conference, Maria was both happy and exhausted, having built connections with people from all over the Southwest and successfully supported the smooth execution of one of the region’s most important forums on resilience and adaptation. 

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