A community meeting and site visit during the Pilot Community Engagement Project. Courtesy of Pilot Project leaders. DEC photos.
Vermont Business Magazine The Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) and non-profit partners Center for Whole Communities (CWC), Rights and Democracy Institute, and the Vermont Law School Environmental Justice Clinic recently released an Environmental Justice Community Engagement Report. The report presents on-the-ground community research and data collection that will support DEC and other state agencies and non-profits in conducting their community outreach with an environmental justice lens.
The Connecting People to Power report presents the learning from an 18-month long community engagement pilot program conducted in three communities in Vermont (Bennington, Northeast Kingdom, and Winooski/Burlington) and provides specific recommendations to DEC on tools and techniques to conduct more equitable and inclusive community engagement.
In addition, the report can be used by other Vermont state agencies working to address justice in practice, policy, rulemaking, and enforcement. This information will directly inform community engagement efforts as Vermont moves forward on implementing the statewide Environmental Justice law passed in 2022. The law requires covered state agencies to develop comprehensive community engagement plans by July 1, 2025.
“Connecting People to Power is a rich resource that staff members throughout our agency will benefit from,” notes DEC Commissioner John Beling. “We appreciate the incredible amount of research and time that the project team committed to this report, and we are happy to share it widely to help environmental outreach professionals throughout our state reach a greater level of awareness of environmental justice issues and impacted communities.”
Community voices are front-and-center throughout Connecting People to Power, demonstrating how a thoughtful and inclusive approach to community outreach creates engaged and informed community members. As one project participant noted, “I appreciate all the time and effort you all are putting into helping families like mine and the community we live in. Thank you for taking the time to enable us to get our voices out there!”
Community liaisons Grace Gershuny (Northeast Kingdom), DeShawn Hamlet (Bennington), and Riziki Kassim (Burlington-Winooski) played an essential role connecting report authors with people from directly impacted communities.
“We are thrilled to share this important body of work with DEC and a broader audience,” says Britaney Watson, project team leader, “There is a real and important opportunity to tailor outreach strategies to encourage the participation and representation of all Vermont communities in important public policy decisions.”
The Department of Environmental Conservation is responsible for protecting Vermont's natural resources and safeguarding human health for the benefit of this and future generations. Visit dec.vermont.gov and follow the Department of Environmental Conservation on Facebook and Instagram.
Center for Whole Communities is a collaborative of skilled, loving and fierce facilitators, with decades of experience doing transformative leadership development and system change work. Our leadership practices and frameworks build capacity at the individual, organizational, and community level to deepen awareness, embrace differences, and value relationships, making change possible.
A community meeting was held in Burlington during the Pilot Community Engagement Project. Courtesy of Pilot Project leaders.
Source: 8.22.2023. Montpelier, VT – Vermont Agency of Natural Resources Website