Sustainable Development; Climate Policy; Resource Security; Poverty, Income Inequality; Conflict, Violence, Peacebuilding; US Foreign Policy

In-Country Work

Afghanistan, Australia, Austria, Bangladesh, Belgium, Cameroon, China, Cuba, Denmark, England, Finland, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Iran, Italy, Jordan, Lebanon, Malaysia, Morocco, Netherlands, Norway, Pakistan, Philippines, Poland, Singapore, Somalia, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Syria, Turkey, United Arab Emirates, Vatican, Venezuela, Yemen.


Dr. Michael Shank is the Director of Engagement at the Carbon Neutral Cities Alliance, a group of international cities committed to achieving aggressive long-term carbon reduction goals and a partner of the Urban Sustainability Directors Network. Related to this work, Michael is also coauthoring a book for Island Press on environmental justice leadership in America. Michael’s professional career includes leading press and/or policy shops at the UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network, Climate Nexus (clients included the United Nations, Vatican City, The White House, and Fortune 500 Companies), U.S. Congress, Friends Committee on National Legislation, Institute for Economics and PeaceBiodiversity NorthwestPuget Soundkeeper Alliance and more.

Michael’s academic career includes a Ph.D. from George Mason University’s Carter School for Peace and Conflict Resolution and is focused on climate conflict. Michael is adjunct faculty at New York University’s Center for Global Affairs, where he teaches graduate courses on Sustainable Development, Power and Politics and Climate and Security. Michael also serves as adjunct faculty and advisory board member at George Mason University’s Carter School for Peace and Conflict Resolution, where he teaches graduate courses on Writing for Policy and Practice and Communicating Conflict, and is a Visiting Scholar at the Carter School’s Program on Urban Peacebuilding.

Michael is a former opinion columnist for the Washington Post and US News & World Report and a contributor to USA Today, CNN, FOX News, The Guardian, TIME, Fast Company, Newsweek and more.  Michael lives in Washington DC, where he serves on the advisory boards of the Faith For Our Planet, New Standard Institute, Global Environment Media, and the Safer Society Foundation. Social: LinkedIn | Facebook | Twitter | YouTube | Medium | Instagram

“Michael Shank’s facilitation of the communications seminar for City of Stockholm communicators gave great input on how to think about and relate to the sometimes difficult issues of citizen dialogue about climate. The different takes on and systematic depiction of behavioural challenges helped increase understanding of a way forward in this area. I think I was not alone in hoping we could engage in a longer workshop with Michael to further deepen our insights and skills to reach the citizens of Stockholm. At Gröna plattan Sergels torg, Michael’s generous input, in participating in talks and holding workshops about the architecture of soil, was also greatly appreciated. The inspiration and directness with which he addressed the visitors certainly made a strong impression. Thank you so much, Michael!” – Helene Mårtenson, Communications and External Relations Division, City of Stockholm Executive Office
“The Storytelling workshops facilitated by Michael Shank are a lucid, honest, inspiring, and insightful experience. I went into it scared to be frank, but that is part of my journey. Stories can be personal or professional or both. I found that by telling my story, I better understand who I am and why I do what I do. Michael imparts age old wisdom in establishing and delivering a great narrative – so obvious once you know it, but otherwise hidden in plain sight. The format is safe and supportive. Be ready to experience a range of emotions. In a few short sessions I have gained so much insight, respect and connection with colleagues, even those who are great friends that I have worked alongside for years and thought I knew so well. I highly recommend these sessions.” – Nik Midlam, Manager Carbon Strategy, City of Sydney
“Michael Shank opened the door, gave us a glimpse of the world outside – and made us feel it is within reach. When Oslo becomes European Green Capital in 2019, one of our goals is to use this opportunity to become better known as an internationally leading city on green urban development. In addition, part of our “job” as award winner is to be a role model to other cities. To achieve both missions we need to be visible in international media. Shank’s workshop on how to work with international press was an eye-opener to the possibilities. It also provided us with practical tools and challenged traditional thinking on how to identify and approach the stories that have international appeal, that make Oslo unique. In addition, Michal Shank is an entertaining and humorous speaker, which helps fuel our motivation to go home and try it all out! – Marianne Alfsen, former Head of Communications, Oslo European Environmental Capital 2019, Office of the Governing Mayor, The City of Oslo
“I knew in advance that Michael Shank is a very inspiring and exceptionally good trainer. Therefore, I invited, in addition to the staff of Helsinki City, communication and climate experts from neighboring cities and other organizations we cooperate with. As a result, we had in the training course over 40 experts from neighboring cities Espoo and Vantaa, Helsinki Region Environment Services, The Association of Finnish Local and Regional Authorities, Finnish Independence Fund Sitra, Finnish Environment Institute, Natural Resource Institute and Ministry of the Environment. All participants were very pleased with the way Michael Shank gave useful information and was inspiring and engaging throughout the one and half day training. He had prepared his training material well and had lots of relevant Finnish examples. He also uses himself as an example, which increases practicality in his training. The Communication Workshop clearly improved our capability to organize successful communication campaigns with participating experts and organizations.” – Esa Nikunen, Director General of the Environment Centre of Helsinki City, Finland
“Michael was a triple treat when he came to Melbourne in February. In four days he delivered four workshops on environmental communications. Two as part of the CNCA Innovation Funding to support Australian Capital Cities to develop a consistent approach to climate change communications, one for the local government Carbon Management Network to soften their sometimes overly technical approach to communicating, and one to City of Melbourne staff on the development of an international best practice communications plan for the Zero Net Emissions Strategy. If this sounds exhausting, I am sure it was, but Michael was inspiring and engaging throughout. His approach immediately informed the development of our very successful Sustainability ‘landing page’ for the City of Melbourne website, and we find ourselves referring frequently to the lessons we learned over the course of the visit. He is an invaluable resource!” – Judith Landsberg, former Team Leader, Low Carbon Future, Urban Sustainability, City of Melbourne, Australia
“The City of Boulder, like many cities, sometimes struggles with how to distinguish between conventional communications and community engagement versus creating campaigns that are designed to support constructive change within our community. Transitioning off fossil fuels will require that the city significantly expand our capability in developing and implementing change campaigns. Through our work with Michael Shank, we made significant progress in bringing a shared understanding of these distinctions across multiple departments within the city, particularly our communications team. Through this alignment, we were able to reach an internal consensus on how to frame a significant campaign initiative (“Beyond Gas”) and develop a plan to secure support for this approach both internal to the city organization and among many external stakeholder groups. Our ability to reach this internal alignment was significantly accelerated through the support provided by CNCA and Michael’s skillful, insightful and inspiring facilitation of this process.” – Brett KenCairn, Senior Climate and Sustainability Coordinator, City of Boulder, Colorado, USA
“The CNCA storytelling series facilitated by Michael Shank came to the San Francisco Department of the Environment at a crucial time. The City had mandated all employees return to in person work and trainings and presentations that had been on hold for more than a year were getting planned. 20 staff took the opportunity to hone their storytelling skills so they could bring the behavior changing messages not only to the residents and businesses of San Francisco, but to conferences and seminars well beyond our geographic boundaries. Michael led the large group with ease and grace, starting with a deeply personal story to get everyone comfortable. Moreover, since the sessions were not in person, it allowed us to feel more comfortable sharing intimate stories about our lives. Michael showed great skill in facilitating the online series by allowing all voices to be heard in the format we preferred. Michael brought to life concepts about mind – body connections with effective exercises and the science behind them. He gave us just enough direction so we were not restricted but then guided us with feedback so we could see where we could do better. He shared great examples of talks and nudged us to incorporate elements from those in our own stories. Michael was gentle, firm, effective and extremely personable. That skill also helped the group get closer to each other, even though not all of us had worked together in the past. All in all, this series left us with a sense that we could all be great storytellers and use our new skill to protect our planet.” – Lavanya Deepak, Executive Projects, Office of the Director, San Francisco Department of the Environment
“The opportunities for improving our communications about climate change are everywhere; they are often and, in many cases, predictable. That’s why we need to be in “campaign always on” mode, and in doing so create a web of communication that drives transformational change in our City. This was just one of the take outs that I came to realize from Michael’s communications workshop with City of Sydney. And I wasn’t the only one – Michael helped build the readiness for change through conversation with staff from the Lord Mayor’s Office, our CEO, our engagement team, our programs and strategy areas. As a consequence, we are developing an ‘opportunities map’ to help move us from good to great communicators on climate change. The ball is now firmly in our court to take action and create change.” – Chris Derksema, Sustainability Director, City Sustainability, City of Sydney, Australia
“The Burlington Electric Department, the first municipal entity in the country to source 100% of its electricity from renewables, has had the privilege of working with Michael on how best to articulate its next ambitious goal – to transition the City to net zero energy in the transportation and thermal sectors. Thanks to Michael’s unique, engaging and creative way of framing the communication challenges around “net zero”, the BED team is now well poised to define and articulate the Department’s direction, not only internally to other BED staff, but to the general public and other stakeholders.” – Jennifer Green, Sustainability Coordinator, City of Burlington, Vermont, USA
“Michael’s infectious enthusiasm and passion for his subject helped us work through our strategic communications and messaging on climate action. His simple steps showed us how to leverage our community’s strengths and values to give residents the messaging they need, not the messaging we want them to have.” – Emily Wilmsen, former Senior Communications Specialist, City of Fort Collins
“Effective storytelling to the community is a big part of my job as a marketer working in the climate change space, however, upon reflection, I rarely used these skills when communicating inside my organisation. Attending Michael’s workshop taught me the science behind effective storytelling and built my confidence to integrate personal stories when communicating with my colleagues. An extremely worthwhile workshop led by an intelligent, empathetic and articulate instructor.” – Carolyn Johnstone, Sustainability Engagement Coordinator – Net Zero, City of Sydney
“Mahalo for the great workshop delivery yesterday here on Kauai. I hope you have a sense of how incredibly valuable your work is in a small government setting like ours. Our workshop was SOLD OUT – which is incredible for something like this. Usually we need to work tirelessly to get people to participate – but not this time. We were actually scrambling to find a way to squeak in a few more attendees. I am excited to help facilitate follow-up among the six separate campaigns that participated, and really appreciate your helping those in the room understand that you are available as a resource for them. I also hope this will help us work with our Mayor’s office to take a little more risk with this stuff, and have more fun along the way. After almost 8 years in this job, I think that was the first/only time we held a workshop focused just on how to get our message out – and it was very much needed. Looking forward to more fun and creative efforts to magnify and accelerate the great work happening within our local government and partners.” – Ben Sullivan, Energy & Sustainability Coordinator, Office of Economic Development, County of Kaua’i, Hawai’i, USA
“These sessions have been fantastic and you are such a fabulous, thoughtful facilitator. Thank you very much for guiding us through the process – these sessions have certainly strengthened connections to purpose and each other!” – Sky Bivens Le, Branch Coordinator | Climate Change and City Resilience | Strategy, Planning and Climate Change Division | City of Melbourne
“Storytelling with Michael was a fantastic experience for us at the City of Melbourne. Not only did it arm us with practical resources and skills to be better communicators in our work, the sessions were powerful, uplifting and were a great way to build strong connections in our team. Michael’s coaching style is empathetic, positive and constructive. He is able to pinpoint aspects of peoples’ stories that can make them more effective, delivering valuable learning and development for staff. One of the most valuable activities we’ve done in building our collective capacity whilst also strengthening connections amongst the team.” – John Griffiths, Manager Zero Carbon City, City of Melbourne
“I enjoyed a lot the “communication skills” session moderated by Michael as it dealt with issues that are so relevant for local authorities like our city. Cities need to communicate better about what they are doing and why they are doing this. Often we have measures that are being implemented without any clear communication before and during their realisation. This leads to misunderstandings and anger in the affected neighborhoods and the population. The session gave some key information and recommendations about better ways to communicate and what language to use to address properly your target groups. What I especially liked in the session was that Michael activated the audience and made them participate in the debate. The session was very dynamic and gave speakers the possibility to interact with the participants, answering specific questions regarding current projects and challenges. Cities should invest much more in communication when it comes to planning and implementing mobility or climate protection measures. It is definitely worth it because then you get more approval! Thanks for the great session!” – Patrick Daude, Project Manager at the Mobility Department of Stuttgart City Hall, Germany