Your zip code makes a big difference … in just about everything.
Low-income and communities of color benefit least from green infrastructure and healthy urban forests initiatives. Even when officials begin with the intention to spread benefits across the entire community, many discover that they are unable to deliver on that promise. And research suggests that the neighborhoods most interested in expanding tree canopy are often not those with the greatest need.
To succeed, don’t just educate. Engage.
Learn along with residents about the benefits of trees. Your goal? To enable community members to determine their own needs and expectations and then advocate for them.
Make residents your partners.
They’ll stick with you if meet them on their own turf, understand cultural differences, and keep lines of two-way communication open for the entire process. Solid partnerships will create a sense of ownership and encourage people to help maintain and monitor the health of their own neighborhood trees. See how communities in the Chesapeake Bay region achieved these goals.
Show, don’t tell. And above all, listen.
“I wonder what if, instead of funding communities to do the things that we think are needed to create change, if we funded communities to make progress on their journey of transformation for growing their own capacity, and for learning what it takes, wherever they are at, to be making progress on that journey.” Soma Stout, Institute for Healthcare Improvement, National Academy of Sciences, December 19, 2016
Many tools can help frame the conversation, and enable residents to visualize what trees can do for their community. Some are scenario builders, others pose and answer “what if” questions.
- I-Tree Design can show what even a single tree can “produce” when planted on a particular property — even down to dollars and cents. [Remember to check your web connection!]
- Climate Interactive, designed by Milwaukee’s water authority, offers a community-wide tool which allows users to try different scenarios and compare benefits.
- To actually create scenarios which can be summarized and presented as options, take a look at Plan-it Geo’s Scenario Builder for Treasure Valley, ID. Based on ArcMap and CommunityViz 360, it can demonstrate neighborhood-by-neighborhood impacts for different tree planting schemes.