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.

Learn more about the project on the Rochester Ecology Partners Website

Research Questions

  • 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”

Key Findings

  • 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.

Research Process

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
  • Surveys
  • Interviews

Stage 3: Connection and Analysis

  • Directory Website
  • Final Report
  • Public Communication

Guiding Frameworks

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.


Top 5 areas of focus and % of organizations naming these as core areas of focus

Community Health58%
Economic Development52%
Ecosystem Health52%
Environmental Study and Education49%

Top 5 Activities % of organizations naming these as core activities

Events for Members / Community72%
Conservation / Restoration48%

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 all0%
To a minimal extent4%
To a moderate extent47%
To a great extent47%

Environmental Justice – the extent organizations are working towards environmental justice

Not at all5%
To a minimal extent30%
To a moderate extent35%
To a great extent30%

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.