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Question:What methods have you used to raise initial public awareness of a local issue?

bhamster is asking a question about general: Follow this topic

by bhamster | May 18, 2021 16:35 | #26636


This question came out of the kick-off call for the latest research area review on mapping for organizing and advocacy. Several people said that one of the biggest challenges encountered in their community organizing was first helping other people to become aware of a local environmental issue.

Organizers from @LESBreathe, for example, shared that some residents who regularly visit East River Park in New York City were surprised to learn it was closing.

What are some ways that folx have used to raise awareness in this early part of community organizing?



6 Comments

@sarasage do you have any community organizing strategies that come to mind?

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@lesbreathe @bhamster - I appreciate community dinners (harder to do right now in pandemic...). Supporting local small business and getting food to feed everyone, then sharing conversation in small dinner tables or one big room.

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@bhamster @amocorro

This is a great question and I am happy to start the conversation and share what people in our group did to raise local awareness when a polluter wanted to expand. Some of the things that we tried include:

-Attending local civic meetings (depending on the size of your community/city you may need to pick and choose the most critical meetings).

-Serving on a local community board and civic association(s).

-Joining and participating in local groups on social media.

-Writing and submitting op-eds to your local newspaper outlining the most important issues.

-Getting to know your local environmental reporters by familiarizing yourself with their work -- you may find a good match to pitch your story.

-Text banking

-Filing a civil rights complaint; in our case there was an environmental injustice issue.

-Reading and responding to Environmental Impact Reports and other planning/scoping documents (if applicable). This is one of the most frustrating aspects because it is tedious. If you have a group, you can assign people to respond to different sections depending on their interest. Scoping documents have sections about how the proposed project will affect geology, paleontology, plant biota, traffic, water, etc. Choose a section(s) that you are interested in and encourage others to respond to sections that interest them.

-Calling and asking your local regulatory agencies such as EPA, AQMD, etc. -- as well as local nonprofit chapters, such as the Sierra Club, to make them aware of your issue.

-Fundraisers.

-Networking/supporting local candidates is very important. Local candidates are often most interested in your cause because they are trying to build a base of supporters. In one case, I had run out of time for public comments and had nobody to read the results of a local 2-week air study. We found a local candidate who was there to help, and who quickly digested the research and presented it to the county board. We have also been in touch with candidates and elected officials in neighboring congressional districts. Every bit helps.

-Creating a new citizens' alliance group with an online presence.

-We had a huge issue with astroturfing from a lobbyist and as a result, it made us look less credible. Call out astroturfing when you see it -- take it as a compliment.

-Make sure people in your group are fit with a task that makes sense to them or one they are interested in. Respect people's comfort, time and talents.

-Local environmental issues are often bipartisan. Reach out to local republican, independents, and democratic party chapters. Saving a local butterfly from habitat loss will be an easier argument to make, for example.

-Believing in your cause is critical. We want to make the world a safer, healthier place to live.

thank you for this brilliance @sarasage !!!


Thanks so much @sarasage and @amocorro for sharing your experiences and strategies here! This is really helpful.

@SaraSWFL, tagging you here in case you're interested!


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When I started, I just started speaking out (media) about the environmental issues, and folks came to me. I also contacted a local environmental organization and asked them if they heard of anyone else that had the same concerns as I did. They sure did! He connected us and that is how we started our Bucket Brigade.

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