As each week passes in my fellowship at the State Lands Commission, I am discovering new corners of my brain to pack with information. While I thoroughly enjoy my incredibly diverse workload, applying my background in environmental conflict resolution toward Commission environmental justice outreach efforts has been particularly rewarding.
Thus far, I have helped plan and facilitate three environmental justice roundtables in Oakland, Martinez, and Long Beach, and one tribal roundtable in San Diego focused on hot-button issues like marine oil terminals, hazardous waste, coastal development, and marine spatial planning. While I am still learning about how best to assemble and facilitate a community roundtable, below are some early lessons learned that may help current or prospective fellows navigate a similar terrain.
- Develop an environmental justice outreach list.
- Use CalEnviroScreen: This tool helps inform where the event should be held.
- Create a dedicated external email address (e.g. firstname.lastname@example.org).
- Contract and partner with a local environmental justice organization.
- This will:
- Increase representation from migrant and minority communities.
- Put money back in the pockets of organizations who support the most disenfranchised.
- Build and maintain relationships and trust within the community.
- This will:
- Offer food, beverages, childcare, free parking, translation services, and secure a venue close to public transit.
- Schedule the event after work hours.
- Engage tribes.
- Know your audience: Develop reader-friendly outreach materials (flyer, blast email, agenda, handouts) that avoid technical jargon and acronyms.
- Conduct targeted outreach: Use methods like door-to-door visits (contracted environmental justice organizations can provide this service!) and email/call local environmental justice organizations, non-profits, health and planning departments, and government offices.
- Build in time for networking.
- Offer facilitator training.
- Request attendees to sign-in: Provide a column to add contact information for follow-up.
- Listen: Structure the agenda so most of the roundtable is spent on listening to issues/concerns.
- Know your jurisdiction and authorities: Develop a list of anticipated questions and answers and circulate with facilitators.
- Develop community agreements: Present the agreement at the beginning of the roundtable. (Example: http://www.resource-media.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/08/Community-Agreements-1-pager.pdf)
- Clearly state purpose, objective, or goals: Be prepared to express what your agency plans to do with the information gathered.
- Dedicate time for smaller roundtable discussions.
- Develop probing questions: This will help kick-off the conversation. Share questions with attendee list ahead of the roundtable.
- Assign dedicated notetakers and facilitators: I suggest 1-2 notetakers per table and 1-2 facilitators per table.
- Distribute a feedback survey.
- Review and evaluate survey responses.
- Follow up with attendees within 1-2 weeks of roundtable.
Written by Abby Newman