Nicole Dennis on adaptation, resilience, community engagement – and a just transition

Cobalt Engagement

Urban and regional planner Nicole Dennis believes great resilience and adaptation means bringing all the relevant voices together – starting with the community and keeping a strong eye on equity and a just transition.

With her new business, Cobalt Engagement, Nicole has the track record to prove this works. Her business draws on 15 years of navigating complex resilience and development programs, especially in regional areas.

With the Strategic Development Group, Nicole worked with Murray River Council to write its Adverse Event Plan.

Amid the pressure of the first COVID-19 lockdown, she organised engagement from state and local representatives, health and emergency services professionals, as well as tourism operators and farmers to define clear roles and responsibilities for each group.

“Two years later, when the really big floods did go through there, they implemented that plan. It’s now being used as a case study for other regional councils,” Nicole says.

“The program was very much engagement led, just listening to people coming up with their own solutions. There’s a huge amount of capability within our communities and great opportunities for us to be sharing these resources across all regional areas and city areas rather than as consultants coming in and reinventing the wheel.”

That’s where her company likes to start. “We can’t put a copy-paste solution into every community. We actually need to go in and spend the time on the ground listening to people.”

This “place-based” way to embed lived experience is to achieve shared outcomes that make a real impact, she says. And the engagement includes other professionals.

“There’s a lot of smart people out there in their own industry, identifying issues and coming up with ideas for a way forward. It is about bringing all those people together.”

But whatever the project – “whether resilience planning, a new offshore wind farm or recovery strategy, you need to start with the community.  And you need equity.

“I really believe that we can improve how we’re supporting a just transition, not just a green transition.”

Cobalt Engagement

Australia | Sydney