An Adaptable World Environment

August 21-23, 2024 – Las Vegas, NV

For over six decades, DRI has tirelessly tackled scientific challenges related to global climate. DRI is unwavering in its commitment to continue this intensive research. But fortifying communities against future devastation requires more than science. It demands the collective resolve of communities: agency staff, elected officials, policymakers, first responders, researchers and scientists, industry leaders, environmentalists and residents working together on measures to advance resilience and adaptability. This is where AWE+ comes into play.

AWE+ A DRI Global Initiative

2024 Agenda

AWE+ Agenda in Brief


Welcome + Introductions + Keynotes
Open Networking + Roaming Dinner and Cocktail Stations 


Full Day

Networking Breakfast + Keynote
Morning General Session + Cohort Breakout
Interactive Lunch
Afternoon General Session + Cohort Breakout

Reception and Dinner Hosted by DRI
DRI Project Experience and Innovative Product Displays 


Full Morning

Networking Breakfast
Morning General Session + Cohort Breakout
Closing + Call to Action

Program Overview

AWE+ 2024 is the first in a series of annual summits hosted by Desert Research Institute (DRI) and aimed at mapping a pathway to building resilient communities in a climate-shifting world. The inaugural event will take place August 21 – 23 in Las Vegas and will run from an opening reception Wednesday evening through noon on Friday.

AWE+ differs from other events and conferences in that it is a cohort-centric, collaborative forum that offers a variety of platforms and social spaces in which speakers and delegates can freely discuss difficult questions, share ideas, foster critical, creative thinking and form relationships that lead to real-world change.

AWE+ will part ways from the norm of an agenda packed with panel after panel speaking at passive audiences with limited time for attendees to meaningfully engage with peers and speakers. Rather, thought-provoking keynote addresses along with short, information-rich, topic-framing discussions led by subject experts will frame up difficult questions, identify barriers to change and the silos that need breaking, and inspire continued conversation. Following each keynote or discussion session, delegates will break into moderator-led, diversified “cohorts” to candidly discuss strategies for getting to the “right” types of decision making.

In the weeks leading up to the summit, these cohorts will be thoughtfully organized, information will be exchanged among them, and a cohort facilitator will convene an introductory, ice-breaking  Zoom meeting. This will enable delegates to meet other members of their cohort and begin the conversations that will extend into the summit.

During the event, cohort moderators will be assigned to help delegates seamlessly transition from general to cohort sessions. They will challenge their cohorts to engage in energetic, thought-provoking conversations that take into consideration a diversity of views. Delegates also will be encouraged to socialize widely with other attendees throughout the summit.

Each cohort session will be assigned a “scribe” to capture key points, note questions that arise, and send a summary to the entire AWE+ delegation to encourage continuing dialogue and provide the groundwork for action that will be documented in a repository at Desert Research Institute for public access.

Detailed Agenda

Day One: Wednesday, August 21 — 5 pm to 8 pm

Setting the Stage

“Doing what needs to be done may not make you happy, but it will make you great.” ~George Bernard Shaw

In this opening session, keynote speakers will set the stage by acknowledging that the same questions about community preparation and recovery have been on repeat for the last 25 years and challenging AWE+ delegates to break out of old paradigms that no longer serve communities seeking to achieve real resiliency.

Understanding wildfires and their impacts is not just physical science issue, but also a complex human problem — one that calls for cooperation and innovation as drought conditions and risks increase across the globe. AWE+ 2024 delegates are challenged with breaking out of the historical dialogue loop, confronting the most difficult issues openly, working collaboratively to suggest new approaches and seeing good ideas through to their end.

The evening will culminate in open networking as Desert Research Institute staff, delegates and speakers enjoy an elevated food and beverage experience in a conversation-friendly room with a variety of inviting chef stations and cocktail service.

Day Two: Thursday, August 22

Embracing Change by Jumping Off the Hamster Wheel

Morning Session — 7am to 12pm

General Session 1

“Fire was never anything we ever thought about.”
~ Maui resident after wildfires fueled by windstorms devastated the resort town of Lahaina, Maui, in August 2023, leaving 115 people dead and 338 missing

“I wish I knew all I know now….”
~ Rod Stewart

What does recovery look like? What are the hardest lessons learned in recent years? Why do some wildfire-affected communities make changes and others don’t? Focusing on wildfire recovery as our first order of business places the human impacts – including oft-ignored cascading hazards and long-term effects – at the forefront of the AWE+ conversation.

The morning session will take a keen look at insights from members of wildfire-affected communities including those that are ahead of the game when it comes to recovery and resiliency measures. Delegates will hear from on-the-ground community leaders and public representatives who will offer experiential guidance in dealing with a range of human issues — from economic and environmental matters to the social, health and psychological tolls affecting human lives. The discussion also will raise awareness about how collaboration across governmental jurisdictions can provide substantial regional benefits, along with a discussion about what governments should/should not and can/cannot do.

This examination of human impacts and real-world failure and success stories will motivate delegates to focus on what an effective recovery looks like and identify blind spots and the not-so-obvious impacts that need to be considered in achieving meaningful long-term recovery.

Cohort session 1 convenes in four separate rooms
Summit-wide networking

Afternoon Session — 1pm to 5pm

General Session 2

“I would spend 55 minutes thinking about the problem and 5 minutes thinking of the solution.” ~ Albert Einstein

“Pissing people off doesn’t mean you’re doing the right things, but doing the right things will almost inevitably piss people off.” ~ Colin Powell

Making the right decisions often involves breaking down silos, building new relationships and collaborations, and openly confronting barriers. The afternoon session will focus on where we are failing to ask questions, listen to others, and truly change the conversation in order to escape the hamster wheel. Speakers will be candid and even provocative in expressing their points of view about past and present failures. Delegates will be challenged to confront the frictions preventing the right decisions from being made, whether because of bureaucratic practices, politics, outdated policies, legal barriers, resource issues, economic restrictions, environmental concerns, or behavioral or technological concerns, among others.

This session will consist of three targeted areas of discussion: utilities and infrastructure; real estate development and construction; and insurance. Topics may include evaluating and reducing risks to utilities and infrastructure; building smarter to improve resiliency and accelerate recoverable damage; identifying funding sources; encouraging governmental or community investments; creating incentives for companies to innovate; needed changes to industry models including insurance; needed changes in regulation and policies; and managing disincentives to the “right” decision making. These panels will be inclusive of all segments of business, industry and government.

Cohort session 2 convenes in four separate rooms


DRI hosted cocktail reception and dinner featuring DRI project experience and innovative product displays — 5:30pm to 7:30pm

Day Three: Friday, August 23 

Leading Change Onward

Morning Session — 7am to 12pm

General Session 3 

“If you look at history, innovation doesn’t come just from giving people incentives; it comes from creating environments where their ideas can connect.” ~ Steven Johnson, science author

The final session will focus on the quest for wildfire resiliency solutions. It will address the realities of changing environments and why our communities must change and adapt with them, not the opposite. Experts knowledgeable in fire science will offer short and long-term strategies for operational process, policy changes and mitigation plans, with a look at  innovative resources and tools for building resilient, fire-adapted communities. Topics will include: building smarter; incorporating innovative technologies; accelerating recoverable damage; and accessing governmental funding and other resources, among others.

Cohort Session 3 convenes in four separate rooms following networking break

Closing remarks and call to further action

AWE+ is synonymous with SYNERGY

AWE+ will harness the potential of collective energy to drive changes in policies, practices, technologies, and behaviors.

It is an immersive experience where DRI will assemble and convene a carefully curated cross-section of people committed to breaking out of existing paradigms, engaging in candid conversations, and collaborating in new ways.

This diverse delegation will share ideas and knowledge, and take decisive actions aimed at building communities better prepared for the inevitable effects of global climate events.

View of the DRI Reno Campus with the landscape in the background.