Climate Resilience

To get involved with our climate change adaptation work, please visit our joint CYPHER, which you can visit at Please share your efforts on and @cypheryouth on Twitter; we welcome meaningful and genuine collaboration.

What am I currently doing? I am currently an adjunct clinical faculty at University of Southern California – School of Social Work where I teach the foundation series in biobehavior theory (SOWK 503 and SOWK 505), policy practice (SOWK 534 and SOWK 535) to first year MSW students and evaluation research (SOWK 629) to second year MSWs. I am the founding director of CYPHER,, a non-profit platform advancing the diffusion of innovation in climate resilience. CYPHER enables me to cultivate CleanTech and soft robotics innovation in resource-poor youth communities. Find details of our annual ‘Sustainable Earth Decathlon (SED) at

I work with UN Envoy on Youth, US EPA Pathways Program, California Department of Public Health – Office of Health Equity, UCLA Center for Global and Immigrant Health, LA Metro, community colleges, high schools, youth-serving organizations, ‘tech firms’, and business leaders in California to promote ‘community-defined climate resilience’ and ‘precision climate resilience’, constructs I formalize in an upcoming manuscript.

What are my research interests? I am interested in addressing poverty and climate vulnerability, and most importantly, how to best cultivate ‘start-up culture’ in communities that promote ‘precision climate resilience’, a construct I coined (Vergara, Mandayam, & Kaplan, in process). At the macro-level, ‘precision climate resilience’ is an ‘innovation diffusion planning framework’ and at the micro- and mezzo-levels it is a self-efficacy building model. In all three cases, it is a way to workplan, evaluate, and incentivize human and organizational behavior toward climate resilience.

Practical behavioral and planning questions about resource-poor and climate vulnerable cities lie inherent in ‘precision climate resilience’ that I am driven to understand. What are the mechanisms that build the self-efficacy to create technology-enabled climate resilience solutions? What lie behind the diffusion of innovation? Could we engineer persistence, collective self-efficacy, and intrinsic motivation in climate vulnerable cities so that they could be climate resilient? How could the community-ownership of technology-enabled solutions to climate resilience impact the policy environment? The financing and delivery of climate change adaptation and mitigation services in resource-poor communities?

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