Community involvement is essential to the success of Environmental remediation projects. By becoming knowledgeable about environmental projects, residents can become more actively involved in the process
and have an effective voice in determining how the community will respond to the problem. As vested participants in the process, rather than bystanders, citizens are more likely to actively support a remediation plan that they understand and have helped to develop.This web page will describe how to organize a community group, provide information about the EPA definitions of public participation, provide basic information on conflict
resolution , and provide further internet links. Identifying
the community is the first step toward active involvement.
A community can be defined in a number of ways. First, a community
can represent a geographic region such as a neighborhood or a village.
Another community definition might be a group of citizens that are
in an environmentally contaminated area that crosses government
boundaries or share a watershed. Finally, a community can simply
be a group of citizens that care about a given issue such as a church
group, service club, or an environmental group. Organized community
groups have the "strength in numbers" that is sometimes needed to
make progress in addressing the issues of a contaminated site.
When a community is faced with a contaminated site, there is a
unique opportunity to organize people that may have never before
worked together. Contamination creates fear and unknowns in the
community and by pooling information, resources and energy the community
can better address those fears. Some of the resources that should
be considered include: university contacts, public agency personnel,
media contacts, and neighborhood associations. Organizing a meeting
of interested community members can be as informal as a meeting
in a neighborhood home to a large public meeting that is widely
Community Tasks - There are many
tasks that an organized community accomplishes to be effective.
These tasks can be distributed among the members in a variety of
ways. Members need to meet with responsible government organizations,
seek and review pertinent documents, communicate within and outside
the organization and network with other organizations. Members need
to monitor (watchdog) the site closely to watch for changes in operation,
and learn to recognize allies and foes. Members can form relationships
with technical experts that will offer valuable advice. Members
may need to learn when to snarl and when to purr, and to demonstrate
unwavering determination and perseverance.
Commitment - The most successful community
organizations are driven by a strong commitment from the members.
There does not have to be a single leader but it is important to
communicate among the members of the group and share progress that
is being made and shape the next steps together. Citizen action
regarding a contaminated site can often mean many hours over many
years of: research, discussion, meetings, phone calls and struggle.
Most people who take on this effort are committed to making the
environment a safer place to live, work and play.
Many people will be involved at different levels of commitment.
Finding key citizens that can be the "link" to the community and
know the assets of the community's citizens is an important step.
Consider including as many people as you can whether their contribution
is big or small. In the long run, numbers are important. Some might
bake cookies for a meeting while others might testify before congress.
Each person will have a unique talent or skill - try to identify
it and ask for help from each person in their area of strength.
No effort is too small. Building a community using the asset map
approach is a way to identify individual strengths. John McKnight
is known for his work in the area of asset-based community building.
Some of his work can be found at the Civic
Coalitions - Often several organizations
are interested in one contaminated site. These organizations may
not normally work together, and may even have very different missions,
but because of this common interest they will form a coalition -
or an organization of organizations. A good assessment of the strengths
and activities of organizations near the affected community can
help identify more people with a real or potential interest. Sometimes
member organizations of a coalition can tackle the same problem
from different perspectives and accomplish more.For example, the
League of Women Voters, a traditional community-focused group, might
work with an activist environmental organization about an issue.
- When tackling a contaminated site, it is important to think broadly
about who might be interested or affected by such a site. Thinking
broadly will help you identify a list of stakeholders, or any party
with an interest. Environmental groups are often stakeholders, but
you may find that other groups have greater interest in participating.
In addition, citizens that live near the site without any affiliation
may be interested in getting involved. Consider who is affected
by the contamination, whose support would help your cause, and whom
you should have involved because of other relationships they bring.
One place to start is to put names in the blanks of the attached
and begin making phone calls!
There are many tools to solicit citizen involvement in a developing
community group organized around a contaminated site. Some ideas
- Distribute flyers and other information
- Insert a flyer inside the local newspaper
- Talk with local groups, volunteer organizations, PTA, service
- Publicize the meetings of the planning team; hold meetings
just for community input
- Ask for volunteers
- Invite the public to attend planning meetings
- Do a survey
- Organize school activities on local environmental issues
- Talk with friends and neighbors
find resources related to COMMUNITY, click on the following icons: