The Greater Rochester Environmental Community analysis is an effort to understand the work of organizations to improve our environment in the Rochester Region. The definition of an “environmental organization” is shifting and an intersectional approach that recognizes the role of the social and natural environment in the work of many organizations is needed. The end result is a better understanding of what is being done to build a more sustainable and just community and a research process that models community participation and engagement. Ultimately we hope this project will lead to a more connected and collaborative environmental movement locally, the application of resources in ways that lead to change for those that need it most, and a shared vision that has been developed and adopted by the community. A full report of our findings will be published this spring (2023). Below is a summary of our process, data, and conclusions.
- How can we create an equitable, inclusive, and collaborative local movement?
- Who are the groups that are dedicated to improving community well-being and the environment for all in the region and how do we identify them?
- What are their priorities, core activities, strategies, and challenges?
- How do local organizations define “environmental justice”, “sustainability” and “climate justice”
- Organizations are challenged by a lack of resources.
- Education is an essential aspect of the work organizations do.
- Organizational development is a priority but opportunities are limited.
- People are looking for opportunities to connect and collaborate.
- Organizations are interested in Environmental Justice but have little understanding of what it means to create Environmental Justice.
In doing this work we aimed to adhere to principles and practices that lead to just and equitable solutions. This begins with approaching our research questions from a perspective in which community members are equal partners in the research.
We use a broad definition of an environmental organization and an intersectional lens that better ensures equity and inclusivity. To better understand who is doing what, where they are doing it, and how they are doing it, our research team used a reflective process of inquiry to establish guiding frameworks and research processes. Relationship building was central to our approach.
Stage 1: Research Team Development.
- Advisory Committee
- Principal Investigators
- Research Committee
Stage 2: Community-Based Research
- Inquiry Cycles
Stage 3: Connection and Analysis
- Directory Website
- Final Report
- Public Communication
We started the project with an examination of several frameworks that would guide our thinking about this project. There was a recognition that we can learn from these frameworks but we would need to cocreate an understanding of environmentalism, environmental justice, and sustainability.
- Jemez Principles of Democratic Organizing
- Just Transition Principles – Just Transition Alliance
- Just Sustainabilities – Julian Agyeman
- Intersectional Environmentalism
- Sustainable Development Goals – United Nations
- Principles of Environmental Justice – First National People of Color Environmental Leadership Summit
Top 5 areas of focus and % of organizations naming these as core areas of focus
|Environmental Study and Education||49%|
Top 5 Activities – % of organizations naming these as core activities
|Events for Members / Community||72%|
|Conservation / Restoration||48%|
Organizational Leadership and Membership
- The average number of employees = 5
- The average number of volunteers = 38
- Average Leadership Team Size = 7
- Average BIPOC Leadership = 2
- 20% of leadership is BIPOC
Sustainability – the extent organizations are working towards sustainability
|Not at all||0%|
|To a minimal extent||4%|
|To a moderate extent||47%|
|To a great extent||47%|
Environmental Justice – the extent organizations are working towards environmental justice
|Not at all||5%|
|To a minimal extent||30%|
|To a moderate extent||35%|
|To a great extent||30%|
Gaps and Opportunities
The following themes emerged as gaps and opportunities through surveys and interviews with organizational leaders
- People power and bandwidth to take advantage of new opportunities, maintain programs, and sustain organizational development
- Funding for initiatives and organizational development
- Opportunities for collaboration among organizations and in the larger community
- A lack of environmental justice focus in organizational development and programmatic initiatives
- Evaluating the impact of programs and organizational activities
- Existing collaborations and opportunities to connect with other organizations
- Federal / State Funding for sustainability and environmental justice initiatives
- Education in the community and schools
- Specific Ideas and Solutions that people and organizations have locally
- Workforce development initiatives that involve green-collar jobs
Impactful Quotes from Surveys and Interviews
“a communication tool would be a great resource because we don’t want to be trying to duplicate what other groups are doing, but we do want to work with groups for whom there’s a complementary purpose.”
“We are not a climate change organization, but everything we do obviously impacts and hopefully mitigates climate change.”
“People are saying they’re doing ed work, EJ work, but then reality, there’s so many people not being served.”
“We need generous, dependable, long-term, flexible funding, so we can spend less time trying to raise money and more time on the real work.”
“in order for a real wholesale change to happen, everybody has to care about it and try to participate.”
“Our board and volunteers are grassroots and scrappy. We’re motivated to make change and we’re in it for the long haul.”
“We can’t meet any goals without being collaborative. It’s imperative to succeeding in meeting any climate change goals anytime soon”
Suggested Next Steps
Next Step 1: Expand the resources available to organizations to grow their ability to meet their mission.
Organizations need resources of all kinds but they especially need flexible and sustainable funding. Capacity building and technical support initiatives would go a long way toward supporting their sustainability and environmental justice initiatives.
Next Step 2: Expand opportunities for collaboration.
The need for coalitions, collaborative infrastructure, and convenings came up over and over again. Organizations see the value in working together and need support in making it happen. Grants and programs that provide resources for collaborative efforts would allow organizations to increase their impact.
Next Step 3: Create educational opportunities in the areas of sustainability, environmental justice, and organizational leadership.
The community members working to improve environmental and community well being for all highlighted the need for education. They see education as an essential component of building an equitable, collaborative, and impactful local movement toward a flourishing future. Opportunities for organizations to learn, community outreach, and partnerships with educational institutions emerged as strategies.