Building community resilience through civic ecology practices
Enhancing Rural Economic Opportunities, Community Resilience, and Entrepreneurship — Building Community Resilience through Civic Ecology Practices
As communities experience more and more “shocks” — whether from fire, floods, drought, loss of industries, or the drug epidemic — they need the capacity to adapt and to deploy proactive strategies. What motivates people to join local volunteer efforts to help their community respond to these shocks?
As communities experience more and more “shocks” — whether from fire, floods, drought, loss of industries, or the drug epidemic — they need the capacity to adapt and to deploy proactive, rather than reactive, strategies to transform existing ways of doing business. While policies at the national and state level are crucial, small communities can also build local capacity and resilience. This project seeks to understand how local actors engage in voluntary environmental stewardship to build social and ecological resilience.
We studied a host of “shock” events to evaluate the factors and policies that affect resiliency in rural communities, with a special focus on the environment. Civic ecology practices are hands-on, local volunteer efforts that can play a role in helping communities respond to natural and other ongoing challenges and prepare for future shocks. These practices can include transforming vacant lots into community gardens and pocket parks, cleaning up litter, planting native species in parks, and installing gardens to mitigate flooding. These kinds of relatively simple projects are helpful in their own right, but they are also important in establishing the community networks and volunteerism needed to build strong communities.
Understanding the motivations and accomplishments of individuals and groups involved in these efforts will help communities in responding to climate change and other shocks. We found that global organizations foster participation of local groups through hosting global “events” in which people perform volunteerism in their own communities, and then report on their local efforts to the global group (e.g., international cleanup days). However, local groups focused on a particular place are likely to conduct much more frequent cleanup events than general cleanups promoted by global organizations. Local civic ecology groups can increase their impact through multiple means, such as: by organizing with other national or local movements, including faith-based groups; by becoming part of governance networks; and by conducting work in highly visible locations. We disseminated findings from this multi-state project into four Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) taught in 2018, which reached 3,000 students. We also share results through ongoing social media groups focused on civic ecology and environmental education.
Website: Civic Ecology Lab
- Funding Source: Hatch
- Statement Year: 2020
- Status: Completed project
- Topics: Healthy communities, rural, resilience, economic vitality, ecology