Building Capacity

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					                 U S E PA / C O O P E R AT I V E E X T E N S I O N PA R T N E R S H I P S – N O . 6

Building Capacity
Educating for Community Action

         he nation’s environmental      ence. The art is in the educator’s       Being developed collaboratively
         future will, for the most      ability to notice and take advan-      with local community members
         part, be determined locally.   tage of community links and            helps community-based education
National forces may encourage           opportunities. The science             programs :
action through regulation, money,       involves applying skills needed for
or information but Hometown,            working with a coalition or group.     • Identify and build on communi-
                                        How the approach is applied               ty strengths.
USA, is most often where the
“rubber” of decision and action         depends on the characteristics of      • Take advantage of timely events
meets the “road” of environmen-         the community and of the groups          and opportunities.
tal impact.                             or agencies involved.                  • Collaborate with ALL interested
   How can Cooperative Extension                                                 groups including members of
and US EPA help steer communi-          Local Base is                            the target audience.
ties toward actions that protect        Fundamental                            • Work toward a positive out-
and enhance the environment?
                                        Address a locally identified             come.
Developing and using an educa-
tion plan designed to match com-        issue and work toward a posi-
munity interests will help these        tive outcome.                          Collaboration is
professionals support community                                                Powerful and
                                        To address an issue or concern
initiatives and enhance communi-
                                        effectively, community members
ty capacity to manage the envi-
                                        must recognize the link with their     Work with a coalition or
   This pamphlet briefly intro-
                                        local interests and be able to find    group, giving attention to
                                        and use the resources they need        techniques that support group
duces Community-Based
                                        to take action.                        effectiveness.
Environmental Education (CBEE),
                                           The most effective environmen-
describes how agency profession-
                                        tal education projects – those         When time and money are in
als can link their skills to CBEE,
                                        which lead to action and lasting       short supply – a chronic condition
and identifies needed tools and
                                        change – are created in response       for most programs – it seems
                                        to local concerns.                     obvious that being efficient and
   Effective Community-Based
                                           Sea Change in Philadelphia is       focused are important.
Environmental Education is
                                        an example. This non-profit group         Paradoxically, in Community-
defined by results: it leads to posi-
                                        develops entrepreneurial solutions     Based Environmental Education
tive actions. To be effective, CBEE
                                        to local environmental problems.       making efficiency and focus a pri-
must be:
                                        In one initiative neighborhood cit-
                                                                               mary approach may delay, or
• Local                                 izens sell trees for urban greening
                                                                               even derail, the program. Long-
                                        projects. The income supports
• Collaborative                                                                term improvement of environ-
                                        community garden and nutrition
                                                                               mental quality ultimately depends
• Informed                              education activities. Sea Change
                                                                               on building community capacity
• Active                                identified the need, audience, and
                                                                               to devise and meet environmental
                                        education strategy, then sought
  Applying a community-based                                                   management goals. This takes
                                        help from Extension experts to
approach is both an art and a sci-                                             time.
                                        provide horticulture training.
                U S E PA / C O O P E R AT I V E E X T E N S I O N PA R T N E R S H I P S – N O . 6

   Effective CBEE relies on some-      • Provide recognition and              • Data about the particular issue
one who acts as an instigator. This      rewards.                               of concern.
person works with a local group or     • Operate flexibly, adapting to            One surprisingly powerful and
coalition to get something started       and taking advantage of oppor-       effective tool is to involve citizens
and takes responsibility to keep         tunities as they occur.              in collecting and analyzing data. By
things going. Instigators are often                                           combining new information with
based in an agency, though they                                               their understanding of local people
                                       Informed Action is
may be community members.                                                     and local preferences, community
   Two skills are crucial to these
                                       Empowering and                         members can help develop action
collaborative efforts: facilitating    Productive                             plans that will effectively motivate
group progress using goal setting      Take action based on informa-          citizens to make a change or to
and consensus decision-making;                                                continue a successful management
                                       tion, within the context of
and building partnerships, net-                                               approach. The key is making a
                                       community goals.
works and teams. Effective CBEE                                               clear connection between the
leaders attend as much to group        The product or outcome of an           effort and citizen wants and needs.
“process” objectives as to success-    effective CBEE project has three           These techniques work most
fully addressing a substantive         parts: 1) informed action on a         effectively when agency profession-
issue.                                 2) substantive issue which leads to    als actively respect, encourage, and
   Content experts, who often          3) lasting change. When one ele-       reward the efforts of citizens and
have years of training in inde-                                               local groups, and when group
                                       ment is missing the effort can be
pendent thought and research,                                                 accomplishments are publicized.
may be relatively inexperienced                                                   Successful CBEE actions also:
                                          For example, some environmen-
with this type of collaboration.       tal education efforts produce lists    • Relate to long-term community
Training can help them learn it.       of meetings attended, handouts           vision and goals.
However, facilitating group            distributed, and telephone con-
process involves a state of mind                                              • Consider the community as a
                                       tacts made. There’s been activity
                                                                                whole (history, culture, and eco-
and a communication style as           but no action. Alternatively, some
                                                                                nomic or socio-political influ-
much as a set of skills.               actions produce no change because        ences).
   Experts can increase their          they lack appropriate local infor-
impact by working jointly with         mation needed for effective action.    • Build on community resources
local leaders and educators who           A school stream improvement           and skills.
are skilled in and comfortable with    project, for example, may be a         • Match the scope and complexi-
group process.                         good field education activity but it     ty of the action to the commu-
   CBEE project leaders or man-        may not improve riparian quality         nity’s resources.
agers are also more effective when     unless it is designed with help
they know and apply strategic                                                    Finally, action and information
                                       from natural resource profession-
                                                                              must address a substantive issue
planning tools. These tools can        als. Restoring a riparian area takes
                                                                              that community members see as
help: identify vision or purpose;      sophisticated understanding of
                                                                              relevant. Outsiders, like US EPA and
generate, organize, analyze, and       local hydrodynamics and appropri-
                                                                              Extension staff, with different infor-
prioritize ideas or issues; identify   ate plant communities.
                                                                              mation and experience may be
tasks and assign responsibilities;
                                                                              concerned about substantive issues
define and solve problems; per-        Information Needed for
                                                                              that are not yet apparent to com-
form assessments; collect data;        Effective Action
                                                                              munity members.
monitor and evaluate programs.         • Community wants and needs.              These professionals must meet
   Successful CBEE projects also:                                             the challenge of translating and
                                       • Environmental, socio-economic
• Communicate broadly using              conditions.                          communicating their concerns in
  varied methods such as newslet-                                             ways which evoke genuine local
                                       • Local strengths, skills and
  ters, town meetings, TV, festi-                                             concern and commitment.
  vals.                                                                       Otherwise real change is unlikely.
                 U S E PA / C O O P E R AT I V E E X T E N S I O N PA R T N E R S H I P S – N O . 6

Effective Education                     expertise in a new field, agency        Roles for
                                        professionals can collaborate with
is Active                                                                       Professionals
                                        a skilled practitioner to devise
Engage the broader group                programs that are effective with        A full-scale CBEE program is a
by using tested education               the target audiences.                   major undertaking which relative-
practices                                  Social marketing and the study       ly few Extension and US EPA pro-
                                        of how innovations diffuse into         fessionals can do alone. However,
Community-based education               society also offer useful insights.     their skills may be helpful at any
implies an education plan created       Well-tested environmental educa-        stage of community environmental
as a result of community involve-       tion research from both fields          education and planning.
ment and designed to match              shows that two conditions are              Some actions which can pro-
community interests. Effective          necessary for learning and change       mote community-based environ-
CBEE takes advantage of educa-          to occur: the education experi-         mental education are:
tional theory and research and          ence 1) presents behaviors which           Demonstrate awareness of
uses tested techniques for promot-      are similar to what people already      community issues, needs and con-
ing action and behavior change.         do, and 2) provides immediate,          cerns in programs or materials.
                                        observable consequences.                Lead by personal example.
Elements of Effective                      Training, a mainstay of many
Education Strategy                                                                 Link environmental issues
                                        Extension initiatives, is effective
                                                                                to community issues with rele-
                                        when provided to individuals who
• Presents all points of view.                                                  vant examples and localized activi-
                                        have decided to become involved
• Relates to a specific audience,       and when it addresses specific
  its needs, and learning styles.       skills needed for managing the             Tailor a program to meet spe-
                                        local issue.                            cific community needs (jobs
• Presents behavior choices that
                                                                                for youth, improved recreation
  are relatively low cost in time,
  energy, money, and materials.         CBEE Summary                            opportunities, unsightly lake
                                                                                weeds) with the environmental
• Gives the audience opportuni -        • Effective CBEE is created in
                                                                                topic as a parallel theme. Involve
  ties for self-assessment and            response to local concerns and
                                                                                citizens in gathering and inter-
  applying new skills.                    builds on local strengths.
                                                                                preting data.
• Uses creative approaches.             • CBEE programs are integrated
                                                                                   Help citizens lead in plan-
                                          into a community planning
   Many US EPA and Extension                                                    ning education on a local environ-
                                          process and help strengthen cit-
staff are resource specialists who                                              mental issue. Use behavior change
                                          izens skills to plan with the envi-
may have little training in educa-                                              research or social marketing.
                                          ronment in mind.
tion theory and tools. Also, each                                                  Support local groups
expert’s discipline has its own         • CBEE programs are collabora-
                                                                                already working with citizens on
mindset and techniques. For               tive. Their leaders attend as
                                          much to “process” objectives as       any locally identified topic. Use or
example, a university-based per-
                                          to outcomes.                          make opportunities to relate key
son may see a situation as an
                                                                                environmental topics or manage-
information or research problem         • Collaboration requires active,        ment activities to their work. Help
while a community activist sees an        consistent, continuing leader-
                                                                                them develop data gathering and
organizing problem and agency             ship.
                                                                                interpretation skills.
staff see an enforcement problem.       • The desired outcome is informed
   Effective practitioners recognize                                               Encourage and facilitate
                                          action which leads to lasting
these biases and use education                                                  activities that identify communi-
theory and research, such as                                                    ty needs and assets, relate to a
                                        • CBEE uses tested theory,              local vision, and provide action
understanding the learning
                                          research and techniques to pro-       steps for quality of life and the
processes of adults and youth, for
                                          mote action and encourage             environment.
example, to help counteract
                                          new behaviors.
them. Rather than develop
                        U S E PA / C O O P E R AT I V E E X T E N S I O N PA R T N E R S H I P S – N O . 6

  Developing Tools and                                    Social Marketing                                                   Skills development
  Resources                                               • Translate education goals into                                   • Offer professional development
  Behind-the-scenes work can also                           simple messages about easily                                       for natural resource experts on:
  help those who are working on                             accomplished actions.                                              “localizing” public meetings,
  environmental education in the                          • Develop packaged environmen-                                       strategic planning, adapting
  community. Here are examples of                           tal education programs for spe-                                    knowledge/skills to community
  some common needs:                                        cific audience needs/interests,                                    problem-solving, urban audience
                                                            such as basic boat maintenance                                     needs.
                                                            linked to preventing pollution.                                  • Build capacity in local groups to
  • Information about the econ-                                                                                                continue programs themselves:
                                                          • Develop behavior preferences
    omic, social and environmental
                                                            survey tools, sample behavior                                      organizing, assessing citizen
    costs of development and the
                                                            goals, potential barriers to pre-                                  needs/values, analyzing environ-
    economic costs of environmen-
                                                            ferred behaviors.                                                  mental trends/issues, getting
    tal protection strategies.
                                                                                                                               technical assistance, preparing
  • Indicators to measure results of                      Information gathering                                                education programs, coordinat-
    environmental management                                                                                                   ing volunteers, working with
                                                          • Tools to combine local mapping
    decisions.                                                                                                                 media.
                                                            and information gathering with
  • Demographic information.                                community development activi-                                    • Holistic approaches to issues
  • Environmental justice and                               ties.                                                              needing integrated solutions;
    health resources.                                     • Tools and training in captur-                                      e.g. solving one farm problem
  • Environmental education mate-                           ing/assessing community social                                     may create other issues.
    rials and training for urban set-                       and environmental indicators.
                                                          • GIS access and assistance.
  • Information on funding sources.

Prepared by Elaine Andrews and Lynn Entine, University of Wisconsin Cooperative Extension-Environmental Resource Center. Summarized from An EPA/USDA
Partnership to Support Community-Based Education: Discussion Paper, EPA 910-98-008. URL: <>
Edited by Lynn Entine. Designed by Nellie Schmitz.

                     Environmental Resources Center, University of Wisconsin Cooperative Extension, 1450 Linden Dr., 216 Agriculture Hall, Madison, WI 53706
608/262-0020 <>

Produced with funding from the US EPA Office of Environmental Education           EPA      United States
                                                                                           Environmental Protection Agency

         The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) prohibits discrimination in all its programs and activities on the basis of race, color, national origin, gender,
         religion, age, disability, political beliefs, sexual orientation, and marital or family status.

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