It’s a good day for social innovator and two-time Keeping History Above Water alumna Victoria Hermann. This morning, the JM Kaplan Fund awarded Victoria its prestigious Innovation Prize for Rising Tides, an initiative which will create a new online matchmaking platform that connects pro bono experts with climate-affected communities. Ultimately, she hopes Rising Tides will help communities adapt their important sites and places in response to quick and slow onset disasters related to climate change. In Victoria’s own words…
As our world warms from a changing climate, America’s cultural heritage assets, which have defined people and place for centuries, are in danger. Cultural landscapes, ethnographic resources, archaeological sites, historic buildings, and traditions often cannot keep up with the accelerating change in the environment around them. 96 percent of Americans live in counties that have been hit by major weather disasters in the last five years, causing billions of dollars in damage and irreplaceable cultural loss. Importantly, low-income communities are most vulnerable to these disasters, because they often do not have resources to prepare for and recover from disastrous events.
Rising Tides is just one part of Victoria’s broader work to examine the ways in which climate change impacts coastal communities and the cultural heritage they care about. Victoria Herrmann is the lead researcher for America’s Eroding Edges and the President and Managing Director of the Arctic Institute, where she leads the Institute’s research on climate change and community adaptation in Arctic communities. In 2016, Victoria co-convening an international working group on cultural heritage and climate relocation as part of the Pocantico Call to Action. She has previously worked with the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, the United Nations, the US State Department, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
The J.M.K. Innovation Prize provides ten awardees each with three years of support at $50,000 per year, as well as a $25,000 “bank” of funds for technical assistance or targeted project expenses – a total award of $175,000. The Prize focuses especially on new ideas piloted or prototyped by dynamic visionaries at a stage when they typically struggle to acquire seed funding. This year, applicants responded to rapidly shifting challenges in communities across America through efforts that promise profound social impacts.