Community EE Strategy Wheel Pilot (Alpha version)

It is official. The development of the Community EE Wheel has begun! Help us make sure we are on the right track by completing the survey below:

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Community EE Guidelines 2014

DRAFT CEEG slideshow 10 24 13 pics_Page_01Community EE Guidelines 2014

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WELCOME TO THE COMMUNITY EE LIVING LIBRARY

Resource Library

This section is for all kinds of resources that help explain more about practices that support Community EE.

Feel free to scroll down to see all that is in here or look for resources by THEME on the right side of the screen under CATEGORIES.

If you know of resources that should be added to this section, please contact us through the form below:

Video

Community EE Fellowship 2013

This video gives an overview of the Community EE Fellowship that took place on Thursday, October 10th at the North American Association for Environmental Education conference in Baltimore, Md.

The Fellowship engaged community leaders with leaders in the field of Environmental Education (EE) through the lens of an emerging practice in EE called Community EE.
To learn more about Community EE please visit us at http://www.communityee.net.

2013 Community EE Fellows

Veronica Kyle, Faith in Place

http://www.faithinplace.org/about/mis…

Tanya Fields, The BLK Projek

http://theblkprojek.org/

Kari Fulton Environmental Justice and Climate Change Initiative

http://bigthink.com/users/karifulton

Parisa Norouzi, EmpowerDC

http://www.empowerdc.org/

Andrew Brazington, Environmental Leadership Program

https://www.facebook.com/apbraz?fref=ts

Nilka Martel G.I.V.E

https://www.facebook.com/GIVE.Inc

Dennis Chestnut Groundworks DC

http://groundworkdc.org/about/staff/

Morgan Powell, Bronx River-Sankofa

https://www.facebook.com/BronxRiverSa…

Tambra Raye-Stephenson, NativSol Kitchen

http://about.me/nativsol

Tokiwa Smith, Science, Engineering and Mathematics Link Inc. (SEM Link)

http://www.semsuccess.org/

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Community Environmental Education Guidelines

 

Compiled by: Akiima Price, Bora Simmons, and Marianne Krasny

 

October 2013 Draft

 

Section 1. Welcome to Community Environmental Education

 

What is Community Environmental Education (EE)?

Community EE aims to enhance a community’s wellness through thoughtful environmental action. It fosters collaborative learning and action, taking into account the social, cultural, economic, and environmental conditions of a community. Anyone with a commitment to promoting community wellness, along with an interest in how environmental learning and action can promote community wellness, can contribute to community EE.

 

Community EE is most effective when efforts are focused on the participatory processes that develop authentic relationships, foster community leadership, enhance social capital, and strengthen a community’s capacity for improvement. Outcomes should reflect action around issues communities care enough about to do something about, and should honor the process of relationship development. Key to the process are experiences that build relationships among individuals and organizations coming from diverse perspectives but sharing common goals around community wellness and the environment. Together, these individuals and organizations follow a process to identify community issues and the role each can play in addressing them, and build the shared understanding, commitment, and confidence that enables them to advocate and take action. Such community led, community sustained efforts will build and maintain the community wellness that comes from a safe and healthy environment.

 

Why Community EE?

Community EE is important for two reasons.

  1. Communities large and small, urban and rural, rich and poor, face multiple stresses—whether they be poverty, crime and violence, economic disinvestment by industry and government, pollution, or flooding, drought, heat waves, and fire related to climate change. These stresses threaten community well-being.
  2. Community well-being is intimately connected to the health of the environment. New research reports the impact of urban trees on reducing crime, enhancing economic development, reducing asthma, and promoting mental health. Neighborhoods with community gardens are less violent and have more positive social interactions among residents. And streamside and park restoration projects can be opportunities for learning job skills and bringing communities together.

 

Inspiration

Our greatest hope for the Community EE Guidelines is to inspire programs that engage communities in on-going fellowship and partnership around issues of shared concern. This engagement will build positive relationships among community partners, groom participants and organizations for the leadership needed to sustain their efforts, and provide children and adults with opportunities to learn about how people can steward our precious resources through themselves engaging in that stewardship. As a result of community EE, we can observe positive outcomes for communities and local environments.

Where do we Find Community EE?

In Chester PA, a community leader engages teens in community gardening and outdoor art to build a work ethic, promote healthy eating, and foster the youth’s creativity.

 

In the South Bronx, youth in the after-school program at the non-profit organization Rocking the Boat build historic wooden rowboats, take community members out onto the Bronx River during Community Row Days, and take action to improve the environment through planting bioswale gardens and monitoring oyster survival on artificial reefs they install in the New York City estuary.

 

In Washington DC, teen leaders at GroundWorks-Anacostia remove trash from Bandalong weirs placed in the Anacostia River, and advocate for a city-wide ban on plastic bags.

 

In rural northeast PA, high school students work with the non-profit Eastern PA Coalition for Abandoned Mine Reclamation to help restore coal mining sites and to understand how community well-being depends on a health environment.

 

 

Shared Values: We believe…

One of the keys to practicing Community EE is embracing the discomfort of being vulnerable.

 

Everyone who wants to help shares the stage in community EE.

                                                                                              

Trust, connecting with others, and engagement in communities—or social capital–has the power to support change, increase knowledge, and transfer values

 

Community EE requires caring, commitment, and the willingness to adapt your original goals into goals

you develop collectively with partners.

 

Learning occurs as part of the process of people working together to restore and steward local environments.

 

Through working and learning toward a common stewardship goal, individuals gain a sense of achievement and empowerment.

                                                                                                                                               

Stressed communities can create healthy environments and healthy environments can create healthy communities.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

 

How to use the Community EE guidelines

Use the community EE guidelines as general principles and tools for creating partnerships to address community wellness through environmental stewardship, learning, and action.

 

We have compiled a set of activities and resources to help you complete each guideline. These activities and resources are included in the Community EE Guidelines Toolkit.

 

You can also use the guidelines and activities to focus discussion among your colleagues and friends as you plan for community EE.

 

At the end of the guidelines, we have also included a list of written and online sources that you can access for more information.

 

 

YOU CAN HELP BUILD COMMUNITY EE!

We are looking for more examples of community EE. Please send us a short sentence about your effort with a link to your website, YouTube videos, photos, and other materials. If you would like help compiling these materials, please contact us at: communityeersvp@gmail.com ….

 

We welcome your comments on the guidelines and accompanying resources. Please send comments to us at: communityeersvp@gmail.com

 

 

www.communityee.net

 

 

 

 

 

Part 1. Caring and Capacity

Resource: Community EE Toolkit, Part 1 (under development)

The first three guidelines are about identifying what local community and environmental wellness issues you care about and what experience, ideas, and networks you bring to community EE. In short, it is about “mapping your assets.”

 

Guideline 1. Caring and Commitment

The first guideline is about caring enough to take action—action that involves forming relationships with people from different walks of life to steward and restore a shared resource, such as a stream, vacant lot, garden, or trees lining your street. At the same time, it is about connecting with people who share the fundamental belief that everyone deserves a healthy community and healthy environment… and that you can work together to create healthy communities and healthy environments.

 

Consider the answers to these questions. Hint: As you identify the issues you want to work on, please think of issues that affect communities and the environment.

 

1a. What do I care about in terms of community wellness and my local environment?

 

1b. What motivates me to work on the issue(s) I care about? What would I like to see changed?

 

1c. Which issues do you care enough about to commit to the hard work of doing community EE?

 

1d. Can you name one issue that you want to work on in the near future? Keep this issue in mind as you proceed with the next steps.

                                            

 

Guideline 2. My Capacities

This guideline is about the capacities that you will bring to the table when you start partnering with other groups. Capacities include such things as what you are knowledgeable about as well as practical skills like the ability to speak up—and to listen—in a group, to organize neighbors for community action or celebrations, or to dig a ditch and plant a tree. Answer the following questions:

 

2a. What do I bring to the table? What capacities do I have to work on the community EE issue or issues I identified?

 

2b. What is my comfort level working with new people? What is my comfort level working with people different than me? How willing am I to place myself in a situation where I feel vulnerable?

 

2c. How willing am I to work with others who care about issues that overlap with—but are not exactly the same as—the ones I care about? Am I willing to partner with them to find our common interests and to identify issues that we both care deeply about?

 

2d. If you are part of an organization, what capacities does your organization have to support the issues you care about? Do they care about the community EE issues you have identified? What resources and support are they willing to commit to these issues? How open are they to new ideas? How open are they to new partnerships with groups whose missions may differ from their own? 

 

 

Guideline 3. My Networks

The third guideline is about who you know and what resources they bring to community EE. It’s about the fact that everyone brings something to the table. And it’s concerned with sharing—or trading—ideas, skills, and resources to address the issues you both care about. Jot down answers to the following questions:

 

3a. Who is in my networks? Networks can include friends, police, local businesses, faith-based organizations, neighbors, and others with whom you share stories, information, and sometimes resources.

 

3b. Who in my networks cares about the same community EE issues I care about? What connections and resources do they bring to the table?

 

3c. How might my capacities support these individuals and organizations?

 

3d. How might I work best with these people and organizations to address the issues we both care about? How willing am I to support them in order to build trust? How willing am I to adapt so that we can work together?

 

3e. What are some of the barriers or challenges to working together? How might I address these challenges?

 

                                                                                                                                                                                                       


 

PART 2. Getting to Partnerships

Resource: Community EE Toolkit, Part 2 (under development)

Now that you have identified what issues you care about and what capacities you and your organization bring to the table, you are ready to start the work of building relationships. Part 2 includes questions and tips to help you to identify what kinds of capacities—and partnerships—are needed to address the community EE issue you care about. It also provides suggestions for developing those partnerships. Keep in mind that once you have formed partnerships, you will be revisiting your plan with your partners to develop a common goal and strategy for moving forward. This Action Planning and Implementation is discussed in Part 3.

                                                                                   

Guideline 4. Environment-Community Connections

This guideline outlines the critical step of connecting community issues with environmental action. The belief that stressed communities can build healthy environments and healthy environments can create healthy communities is foundational to community EE.

 

4a. Brainstorm or use the Community EE Wheel to consider a strategy for connecting community issues and local environmental action. For example, safety is the community issue you care about. Planting and caring for trees in honor of people who have died from violence is a strategy for bringing attention to the issue of violence, and gives a focus for healing. It also increases tree canopy, which has other benefits such as shade for people to gather under, cleaner air to reduce asthma, and beautification. In a second example, water quality of a local river is the issue you care about. Consider what the people living along the river care about, for example jobs, and how improving water quality might create job skills or actual jobs.

 

 

Guideline 5. Identify Gaps

Guideline 5 is about identifying gaps in your current capacity.

5a. Now consider your capacities from Guidelines 2 and 3, and the connections among community issues and environmental action from Guideline 4. Identify capacities you and your organization will need to make those connections. For example, if you are a community group wanting to plant trees, you may need access to trees, soil, and tree planting expertise. If you are an environmental educator or resource manager wanting to improve water quality in a stressed community, you may need access to a group skilled in job training programs.

 

5b. Also taking into account your capacities and the connections you want to make, consider the people and organizations in your network that have the needed resources and skills. Next identify people and groups outside of your network who can be helpful.

 

 

Guideline 6. Begin the Conversation

Guideline 6 offers several general suggestions for initiating a dialogue with groups you may want to partner with.

 

  • 6a. If the people and groups you identified in Guideline 5 are in your network, start a conversation with them about common goals. If they are not in your network, you will need to strategize about how to reach them. One way to do this to ask an individual in your network who is also part of the group you want to work with to make the first contacts. For example, a nature center had as their community EE goal helping veterans to reintegrate into the community but had no staff with military experience. One of the nature center staff members did however have a friend who was a veteran. She asked the veteran to make the initial contacts with the veterans organization. 

 

6a. If you decide to make the contacts yourself, consider the tips in the Beginning the Conversation Strategies Box.

 

 

 
 

Beginning the Conversation Strategies

 

  • Keep in mind through this initial process that you are a learner not a teacher.
  • Go the organization’s website and become familiar with their mission and programs.
  • If it seems as if there is potential to partner with the organization, call them and set up a time to visit. During the first call, listen and learn. Be transparent about your interests but frame the visit to be about them.
  • Build rapport by people feel comfortable and being genuine. Ask and remember people’s names. Explore commonalities (for example, sports team, family, weather, or a holiday).
  • Realize that this is the first step in a process. You may feel uncomfortable with parts of the phone call or visit but keep the larger goals of learning while showing respect foremost in your mind.
  • Meet people where they are. Don’t criticize or compare their efforts to yours or another group’s.
  • Allow yourself to feel vulnerable. Be humble.
  • Look for signs of incompatibility and compatibility.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Guideline 7. Consider Compatibilities

This guideline is about assessing your readiness before making a commitment to work with another group. Now that you have had an initial conversation, you will identify the positives and challenges of working with a particular group. If you decide you are interested in working with a particular group, you may need to reassess your original goals to develop collective—shared–goals that all partners care about, contribute to, and benefit from.

 

7a. Start envisioning how the differences and similarities between your organizations might be leveraged into an exciting program or activity. Remember, diverse perspectives can lead to innovation—including innovative ideas to address community wellness and environmental quality. Envision such a “mash-up” activity or program that meets a shared goal.

 

7b. Assess potential incompatibilities. Sometimes different goals, different working styles, and different histories that shape current outlooks are too difficult to bridge. The trick is to assess this before making a commitment to working together. It’s ok to decide upfront that this collaboration won’t work.

  • Ask yourself: Does it make sense to continue moving forward with this individual or organization? How likely are we to come up with a collective goal that both of us feel comfortable with and committed to? Are our working styles compatible? Does it feel “right” to move forward?
  • IF YES, go to Guideline 8.
  • IF NO, reflect on what went well and what might need to change for you and for another organization. Make sure you get back to the group you met with to thank them for their time and don’t burn any bridges in the likely event this group comes into the picture in the future. Begin the conversation with other individuals and organizations on your list of potential partners (Guideline 6).

 

 


 

Part 3: Planning, Implementation, and Assessment

Resource: Community EE Toolkit, Part 3; eeEcology map; MEERA website;  Measuring EE Outcomes online tool; EEResearch online tool (under development)

Part 3 guides you through developing an action plan that includes goals, activities and project management, as well as a strategy for determining how well your project is reaching its goals. It includes guidelines about developing and implementing a collaborative action plan or strategy that builds on local and organizational strengths and shared interests, and leads to sustained changes in community well-being and environmental quality. You can use assessments of your project to make changes in areas where you experience challenges, and to share your successes with funders and others.

 

 

Guideline 8. Building Relationships

This guideline is about how you can build relationships with organizations where you see a strong potential for working together. Building relationships is not easy. It takes hard work and commitment… and time.

 

8a. Prior to making a commitment to partnering with other organizations and starting the collective action project, consider the work you have already done. Revisit what you have learned about yourself, your organization and support, your networks, and community EE partners through Guidelines 1-8. Reflect on this information and discuss it with colleagues, volunteers, or friends who are part of your team. At this point, how much you are able to commit in terms of time and resources, and to doing the rewarding but at-times difficult work of partnering with individuals outside your immediate circle?

 

 

8b. Consider strategies you will use to build the trust and rapport needed to work with your partner organizations. Several strategies are listed in Building Relationships Strategies Box.

 

 
 

Building Relationships Strategies

 

  • Build the trust that will later serve as social capital. One way to do this is by attending partner meetings and community events even when you feel out of place. Social capital can be drawn on throughout the collaboration process. But unlike financial capital, it grows when it is used as long as it is used in a way that benefits all partners.
  • Be transparent about what you have in common and where you differ… and about what you think you understand and what you don’t understand.
  • Avoid winners and losers. Focus on interests rather than positions to ensure understanding and fairness.
  • Assume the best intentions when someone says something that may at first be offensive—try to get beyond the offensive language and understand the real meaning behind the message.
  • Be flexible. You may need to ask yourself: Do I need to reassess my goals and organizational resources, given what I have learned about my partner organizations?
  • Keep your eyes on the prize. You will experience ups and downs, disagreements and periods of fellowship, and see program participants facing challenges and feeling pride in discovering new capacities. Keep in sight your larger vision and march forward.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

8c. A community EE partnership can grow into a “community of practice.” Communities of practice are people brought together by common goals and a desire to learn from each other. They work together over the long-term as more experienced members of the community of practice mentor new members. As you move to defining your goals and collective action in the next guidelines, consider how different individuals will be mentors and how they will share their knowledge and experiences with novices in your community of practice. Consider that each member of the community of practice may be a mentor in some situations but a novice at other times, depending on the particular capacity that is needed.

 

 

Guideline 9. Defining Collective Goals

This guideline is about the critical step of defining your common goals. Work with your project partners to answer the following questions.

 

10a. What do you hope to achieve through your collaboration? What would you like to learn from each other? Are you wanting to build relationships for the long-term or only those focusing on a particular collective action?

 

10b. What are your goals specifically related to the project you are working on together? Define three types of goals. What would you like to see happen for the youth and adult participants in your program? What would you like to see change for your community? What would you like to see change for your local environment? For example, in a streamside restoration project, your goals might be for youth participants to learn about stream ecology and better achieve in school science classes. For the community, your goal might be to engage adults and children in activities that build trust or more broadly build social capital. For the environment, your goal might be to reduce water run-off into the stream. Or, in a tree planting project, your goals for participants might be to learn job skills to prepare them for jobs in a city parks department. For the community, it might healing through planting trees to commemorate community members lost in the Iraq War or through local violence. For the environment, it may be to increase air quality and create more shade. Be sure to listen to all who have committed to working with you, and to develop collective goals that each member of the partnership cares about and is invested in.

 

 


 

Guideline 10. Defining Collective Action

This guideline is about creating your collective action plan. Before you start, consider Action Plan Strategies. Keep these strategies in mind as you develop your collective action plan.

 

 
 

Action Plan Strategies

 

  • Community well-being depends on a healthy environment. A healthy environment also depends on people who are willing to steward the precious resources that we hold in common. Avoid language that pits the community’s needs against our need for healthy green space and a healthy environment.
  • Think about how you will sustain the collaboration. Include fun, social events such as barbecues, outdoor concerts, and walks, as well as work sessions. One suggestion is one hour of fun for every two hours of work. 
  • Ensure action is collaborative and builds sustainable outcomes that benefit the community in both the short term and the long term.
  • Develop a means to assess the outcomes of your efforts on an ongoing basis. Are your actions realizing your common goals?
  • Think about how you will use your assessment to make improvements as well as to share successes.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Work with your partners to answer the following questions. 

 

10a. What is the community context in which you will implement your program? What positive or negative factors in your community influence, motivate, or inform your program? For example, you may work in an urban area that lacks local parks, an area with high dropout rates, an area where there is a large population of senior citizens, or an area that has suffered massive pollution.

 

10b. Who will be the participants in your program? List and describe the participants who will join in your community EE program. Children, youth, elders? Recent immigrants, people of diverse ethnic backgrounds? Individuals with disabilities? What skills and challenges do they bring to the program? Together with your partnering organization, search out individuals who bring perspectives not currently at the table. Ensure that diverse viewpoints are incorporated into the program and shared.

 

10c. What activities will you engage the participants in? Keeping your commitment, goals, context, and participants in mind, develop a list of activities or actions. How will these activities help you to achieve your program goals? Are the activities appropriate for the context and program participants?

 

10d. How will you know you have reached your goals? How will you assess how well your activities meet your goals? What questions will you ask participants? Of the broader community? How will you record your observations of the activities and any evidence of impacts on participants, the community, and the local environment? How will you use the information you collect to improve your program?

 

10e. Create a map of your program goals, participants, context, and activities using the online eeEcology map tool. After you have created your map, reflect on why you believe your activities will achieve your goals? Access the EEResearch website for help in learning more about what activities are likely to achieve what set of goals.

 

 

Guideline 11. Managing your Community EE Partnership

Guideline 11 is about how you will ensure that your program is on track.

 

12a. Develop a written agreement on who is responsible for the different tasks—everything from making sure permission slips are signed and getting snacks for an activity, to financial reporting and communications with the media. Who will be in charge of making sure everyone is getting done what they have committed to?

 

12b. Develop a plan for sharing how things are going, ideas for changes, and successes and concerns among those in your partnership. For example, you may want to schedule weekly phone meetings, or to record activities using GoogleDocs.

 

12c. Develop a plan for building external support for your community EE effort. How will you share positive outcomes with the media and funders?

 

 

Guideline 12. Adaptation and Transformation

This last guideline reflects two characteristics of resilient people, systems, and even programs—that is, adaptation and transformation. The steps in this guideline should be revisited on an ongoing basis once you have started to implement activities.

 

13a. Based on your shared assessment of your achievements and challenges, engage in a conversation with your partners of how you might need to adapt the community EE program. You may want to revisit your goals and ask how well the activities are reaching the goals. Should you explore small changes in the activities or new activities to better reach your goals? Or are your goals unrealistic, in which case they may need to be adapted to reflect what is possible to achieve. Or perhaps you have reached you goals and want to build on what you have accomplished by setting new goals and designing new activities to meet them.   

 

13b. Assess events and factors outside your program that suggest the need for changes. For example, major flooding, the exodus of a major employer, or the influx of newcomers into the community where you are working could suggest the need to revisit goals and actions.

 

13c. If things are really not working out, you may need to do something more radical—that is transform your efforts into something very different. Although disappointments with partners, changes in your community, or failure to achieve goals can be unsettling, they also can lead to opportunities for creativity—for re-envisioning new ways to more effectively address the issues you care about.

 

 

 

Community EE is an ongoing process—for some, it’s a deep commitment and lifetime work. As your program evolves, draw on your knowledge, experience, networks, and commitment to community and environmental wellness to make the changes needed to address the issues you care about. The North American Association for Environmental Education, EECapacity, Cornell Civic Ecology Lab,
 and the authors of these guidelines—Akiima Price, Bora Simmons, and Marianne Krasny—
are available to support your work.

 

List of Guidelines

 

Part 1. Caring and Capacity

 

Guideline 1. Caring and Commitment

 

Guideline 2. My Capacities

 

Guideline 3. My Networks

 

PART 2. Getting to Partnerships

                                                                                   

Guideline 4. Environment-Community Connections

 

Guideline 5. Identify Gaps

 

Guideline 6. Begin the Conversation

 

Guideline 7. Consider Compatibilities

 

Part 3: Planning, Implementation, and Assessment

 

Guideline 8. Building Relationships

 

Guideline 9. Defining Collective Goals

 

Guideline 10. Defining Collective Action

 

Guideline 11. Managing your Community EE Partnership

 

Guideline 12. Adaptation and Transformation

 

Literature cited

Leach, William D. (2011) Building a theory of collaboration. In Dukes, E. F., Firehock, K. E. and Birkhoff, J. E. (eds.) Community­Based Collaboration: Bridging Socio­Ecological Research and Practice. p 146­188.

 

 

Community EE Strategy Wheel / Fall 2013

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3rd Draft is CLOSED for review.

3rd Draft is CLOSED for review.

Thank you for your contributions to the Community EE Guidelines. We are currently in the process of synthesizing all of the feedback we received this summer and are planning to share the 4th and final draft with you in October 2013. Please feel free to continue to comment on other sections of the site and check back next month for the most updated draft.

We look forward to your continued feedback and appreciate your time.

Please comment with any questions you may have in the meanwhile.

Outstanding Community EE Resource: The Listening Project

listeningProjectWebsiteheader100x1225

Taken from http://www.listeningproject.info/how.php

What It Is

The Listening Project is an organizing tool for nonviolent social change, especially useful in communities where conflict and disempowerment weakens efforts toward community development, justice, peace or protecting the environment.

Listening Projects use trained volunteers to conduct one-on-one interview that address local and sometimes national or international issues. Interviewers take time to build trust and understanding so that people interviewed can go deeper into their fears, hurts, hopes, needs, feelings and ideas.

As citizens begin to understand that their feelings, opinions and actions can matter, they respond in dynamic ways. Some offer creative ideas and solutions. Some take the next step to action or leadership. Thus the Listening Project can be an important step toward individual and community empowerment.

When we truly listen to people, no matter how different they are from us, we increase communication and mutual understanding. This can be the foundation of an effective, heart-centered community organizing process.

The heart of any Listening Project is trained volunteers from an organized group going out into a community to listen to (interview) individuals. These volunteers use active listening in their interviews because they really want to hear what other people truly think and feel about community issues (which may include regional, national or global issues).

The Listeners of course have their own ideas but they aren’t going to force their ideas on anybody. They think the best way to solve community problems is for people to try to understand each other. And they want to provide an environment where all sides can explore the issues and consider new ideas and solutions. This helps reduce conflict that often hampers positive change. It can also empower people to work together to find practical solutions that will be good for the community as a whole. Of course anybody can all by themselves take up this basic idea about listening, and have their own private “listening project.” Listening Project with the capital letters, however, is different:

A Listening Project happens when:

  • an organization or coalition
  • working to achieve community based goals
  • commits to listening, nonviolence & grassroots empowerment
  • then plans and carries out a Project
  • based on community interviews and active listening
  • that builds trust, strengthens relationships
  • and produces results the organization applies to long-range goals.

That’s the Listening Project in simplest terms. Now we’ll spell it out.

Specifics:

An organization or coalition…
This is important because a Listening Project is a big undertaking that requires organizational skills and resources. It is often beneficial for an organization to broaden community support and involvement in the Listening Project by forming coalitions and partnerships with other organizations. Sometimes an individual, acting as a community facilitator, takes the lead in listening and developing the organization or coalition that will conduct the Listening Project.

working to achieve community based goals…
Your Listening Project goals should help you achieve one or more of your organizational goals. Your organization should have clear goals that are easily understood by your community and by members and supporters of your organization. These goals should also be community based – they should in some way be related to the needs and concerns of the affected community. Sometimes the initial goal for a Listening Project is simply to listen to the community to find potential allies and to hear grassroots ideas, concerns and solutions that help your organization establish clear community based goals.

commits to listening, nonviolence & grassroots empowerment
This approach to social action is built on helping organizations strengthen grassroots participation and leadership. It accomplishes this by building and strengthening relationships through active listening that increases understanding, trust, and mutual respect — with both friend and adversary. We work to build community awareness and participation, to find common ground, and to create community based solutions. We also seek to remedy injustice and achieve our goals by building bridges rather than demonizing and “running over” our opponents.

then plan and carry out a Project.

The Project is a group effort that includes:

  • developing your organizational capacity to conduct the project
  • planning , goal-setting, preparing the interview questions, conducting the training, etc. all of which must happen before the Listening
  • and follow-up organizing after the Listening, with new plans, goals and strategies based on the findings of the Listening Project interviews.

Project interviews generally take 2 to 6 months to complete. Time needed for follow-up organizing varies, depending on long and short-term goals.

based on active Listening
Following an intensive weekend of training, two-person teams of trained volunteer listeners – one listener and one recorder — conduct interviews with individuals, using pre-developed questions. These questions help focus the interview on community issues and your organizations’ goals but they do not limit the interview. Interview questions are generally open ended, non-threatening and they stimulate people to look into issues more deeply. Thus interviewers ask follow-up questions that help the interviewee open up and explore their deeper feelings, including new ideas and solutions. (Interviews are generally conducted at people’s homes or in a place where they can feel relatively safe. Each interview lasts about one hour).

designed to build trust, strengthen relationships
Active listening builds trust so that the person being interviewed can be less defensive and more open to exploring new ideas, feelings and solutions. As trust occurs, a positive relationship can develop between the interviewer and the interviewee. This relationship is a vital step in the direction of improved community relationships that can foster community based solutions and action. Active listening is also an empowering process in that helps people understand that their voice and actions matter.

and produce results the group can use in working toward their long-term goals.
Through the Listening interviews, your organization can get a better understanding of the community and how you can more effectively work on or change your goals. You can identify new resources and find potential allies and new grassroots leadership. Some people interviewed may experience personal change of heart and mind. Thus, new people are likely to step forward to contribute to your efforts. The results of your community interviews can also be used to educate yourselves and the public and focus community attention. The LP itself doesn’t automatically accomplish any group’s long-term goals, like “Reduce crime and drugs in our neighborhood.” But a good follow-up organizing plan takes advantage of Listening Project results to help reach those goals.

Video

This woman is amazing…

Margaret Gordon – 2010 Purpose Prize Winner

Margaret Gordon was honored with a Purpose Award that honors individuals over the age of 60 who are changing the world.  As co-founder and co-director of the West Oakland Environmental Indicators Project (WOEIP), a resident led, community-based environmental justice organization, Gordon has significantly contributed to improving the health and quality of life for residents in West Oakland, CA.

Colorado EECapacity Collaborative: “We Connect Communities to the Environment Where They Live and Empower Them to Make a Difference”

This is a great infographic comes out of the EECapacity Project, produced by the great minds out in Colorado working to push the needle forward collective impact around environmental education between diverse partners in community settings. http://coloradoeecapacity.weebly.com/uploads/9/5/7/1/9571235/colorado_state_consortium_infographic.pdfcolorado_state_consortium_infographic