PLANNING: FOR COMMUNITIES
Imagine you are tasked with having to prepare your community for the event of a lifetime – except you have no personal experience of this event, no idea what to expect or even how many will be coming. This is the reality for every community that finds themselves along the path of totality.
All communities along the path can expect a staggering number of local, national and international visitors to their region. There will also be huge media interest in the months leading up to the eclipse, peaking on eclipse day when the eyes of the world will be watching.
In every community along the path, someone will be charged with the role of Eclipse Coordinator, bringing together a wide range of stakeholders from across the region.
Being an Eclipse Coordinator is a daunting task – there are many unknowns, and also unique challenges for eclipse planning that differ from planning other major community events. However, it is an incredibly exciting and rewarding role.
The Eclipse Coordinator is usually someone already working in a tourism or council role, who is well networked in the community who initially takes on the task as an additional role. In rural communities, this role is often left to volunteers.
Resources are often limited, but some communities are smart by bringing in a dedicated Eclipse Coordinator early on. The return on this investment is huge. The economic benefits for these regions are considerable, and the tourism potential is often unprecedented. Planning ahead ensures that your community benefits – not just on eclipse day, but for the long term.
There are many unknowns when planning for eclipses. My White Paper can help guide the way. (c) Kieron Circuit.
“There are known knowns. These are things we know that we know.
There are known unknowns. That is to say, there are things that we now know we don’t know.
But there are also unknown unknowns. These are things we do not know we don’t know“
LACK OF KNOWLEDGE
Eclipse planning is difficult when you have not seen one before. This means leading a team of other stakeholders in a process that you have little knowledge about. You also have to convince your community to get behind you.
LACK OF EXPERIENCE
In any one location, a total eclipse occurs once in every 375 years. So there is never anyone with personal experience on how to prepare, and it is very rare for anyone in one community to have actually seen a total solar eclipse.
LACK OF CONFIDENCE
The Eclipse Coordinator role is one that requires strong direction and leadership, negotiation skills, determination, and putting your faith in something that you have not before experienced. It can be a daunting role.
TOO MANY HUMANS
It is difficult to predict exact numbers, and many will decide at the last minute where they will go. How do you plan for something when you have no idea whether visitor numbers will be 1,000, 10,000 or 50,000?
I am not just an experienced eclipse chaser. When I was on the ground in my home region in 2012, waiting for the total solar eclipse, I became aware of the gaps that occurred in community eclipse planning – see 2012 Eclipse Planning for an overview. This drove my passion to be involved in community eclipse planning, to ensure each region made the most of this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
I was the Eclipse Planning Consultant for the Faroe Islands in 2015, and have undertaken further research on this process. I provided extensive support to communities across the path of totality in the US in the lead-up to the ‘Great American Eclipse’ in 2017. Following this, I continued to research the hindsight lessons, and am always updating the process of community eclipse planning to ensure my guidance is evidence-based.
The key to successful eclipse planning is to know how to approach things uniquely for your community, and how to get your businesses and community behind you. You will also need to understand both chaser and general tourist behaviors so you can make accurate predictions which will help with planning.
Without uniquely tailored advice, it is easy to get caught up in the overinflated numbers and then be disappointed when the crowds do not attend; or have the opposite when a small event is completely inundated by tens of thousands of unexpected chasers.
But get this right – your community will come together to plan something special that will put you on the map. And on eclipse day your community will celebrate something very special that will be remembered for a lifetime. And your eclipse visitors will feel a connection to your region that will keep them returning again and again.
WHITE PAPER ON COMMUNITY ECLIPSE PLANNING
In 2015, I launched my White Paper on Community Eclipse Planning at the American Astronomical Society Eclipse Planning Task Force meeting in Portland, Oregon. This is the only guidance available to communities on how to prepare for a total solar eclipse and is aimed at Eclipse Coordinators. This document can be downloaded for free here and can be circulated widely.
Hundreds of communities across the path of totality have now used this resource, and have found it extremely valuable as a starting point for their community preparations. The guidance was based upon interviews with eclipse coordinators in 2012 and 2015, and from my own personal experience of being the Eclipse Coordinator for the Faroe Islands. The following are testimonials about the White Paper:
“This excellent document is now being used across the U.S. path of totality and will no doubt provide crucial information to those who are planning eclipse activities within their region. We are delighted that other communities that find themselves within the path of totality can benefit directly from our experiences.“
(Guðrið Højgaard, director of Visit Faroe Islands).
“I found the White Paper compelling and well organized, and reproduced it in my most recent book, Your Guide to the 2017 Total Solar Eclipse. Kate developed it in a robust way using interviews she collected over a three-year span. Her guidance in this area is important because nobody else is making such suggestions.“
(Michael Bakich, Senior Editor, Astronomy Magazine and Eclipse Coordinator in St Joseph Missouri).
ON-LINE CONSULTATIONS AND IN-PERSON ACTIVITIES
I undertake a limited number of free 30 minute on-line consultations for eclipse co-ordinators from communities that lie within the path of totality.
For eclipse-coordinators or officials looking for more detailed guidance, I can provide more in-depth online planning consultations, and can take part in planning meetings and deliver presentations via the use of zoom and other technologies.
I also offer in-community support to deliver community awareness events, planning workshops, media engagement, and other planning activities – just ask.
I know how exciting it is to have a total solar eclipse happen in your region. I also know what it is like to plan for one, what is needed, and the importance of support. I love supporting communities – the process very much draws upon my unique skills as a clinical psychologist, and my extensive skills in consulting and service development. I also love sharing my own passion for eclipse chasing in a relatable way, that makes a change from the eclipse being presented as a boring science event.
No-one can give certainty to all the unknowns that surround community eclipse planning. But I can help your community start the process and identify your unique pathway to eclipse planning, drawing upon the hundreds of hours of consulting experience and feedback I’ve engaged with over the years with many communities across the path of totality.
If you are coordinating the eclipse for your community, and are looking for guidance and support, make sure to download my White Paper, and get in touch using the following form if you have any queries.