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Public Lab respectfully draws on multiple rich lineages of organizing focused on site-specific knowledge production towards community self-determination:

We lift up indigenous movements for land defense, poor people's struggles for land reform and tenure, the lived expertise of HIV patients that changed medical research, and the knowledge production undertaken by families affected by cancer clusters as ancestors in this work. We lift up the methods and ethics of Freirian organizing, action research, participatory planning, public participation in geographic information systems (PPGIS), and popular epidemiology as we develop methods and ethics.

Public Lab's community science projects are place-based and led by local residents. This is for several reasons, including that: 1) people living and working near the site over time possess priceless lived experience; 2) governmental environmental regulation and the likelihood of it being reinforced varies geographically by zoning, administrative boundaries such as polity or electoral district, and specific landform qualities such as type of surface water or viewshed; and that 3) place offers a framework for multiple standpoints to co-locate and test each other for coherence. Stand for what you stand on!

This page is a place to collect and organize resources on organizing. Visit the organizing tag page to see the latest community posts about organizing on Public Lab, and get updates on this topic by following:

Follow Organizing

Lead image from the Appalachia Barnraising in 2017

On this page you can:

Learn about different methods for community organizing, including tactics for place-based organizing and organizing-related activities

Join the conversation
  • Ask a question, answer a question, or follow future questions on organizing
  • Post an issue brief that describes your local place-based concern

Read stories from organizers doing community science

Find further reading and resources on organizing

Methods for community organizing

Organize around place

We recommend this sequence of steps, even if you skip a few, for attracting and organizing a group of people around place-based research.

Tour the area

Move through the area together

toxic tour Wilmington CA

Image: Emmett Institute at UCLA School of Law, CC BY NC

Mental mapping

Invite each person to draw a mental map of landmarks, personal situated memories, infrastructure

hand drawn map

Historical land use mapping

Start investigating what's happened previously on this site as the best way to focus future study designs

Winnipeg land use historical map

Image: Manitoba Historical Maps, CC BY

Aerial mapping

Capture a portrait of the landscape with you and the group in it. Bonus, this is really fun!

kite aerial photography

Annotating aerial maps

Add the points that emerged from touring the site, drawing mental maps, and overlaying the historical maps

annotated map

Image: by @eustatic

This content will likely elicit the next round of questioning, which will provide some direction for your group to:

More methods for organizing

Methods published on Public Lab and tagged with organizing will appear on the organizing methods page at


Activities on Public Lab that have been tagged with activity:organizing will appear here

Add an activity  or request an activity guide you don't see listed

Activities should include a materials list, costs and a step-by-step guide to construction with photos. Learn what makes a good activity here.

Join the conversation

Questions from the community

  • See if other community members are asking questions like yours
  • Ask a question so other community members can offer support
  • Sign up below to be notified when someone asks an organizing-related question

Questions tagged with question:organizing will appear here

Title Author Updated Likes Comments
What strategies have been implemented to use citizen science successfully in litigation? @julia_e_masters 10 days ago 0
How do you turn results about environmental pollution into personal actions that people can take? @bhamster 8 months ago 2
How do you make results from environmental monitoring personally meaningful to people? @bhamster 8 months ago 2
Has anyone organized "walking tours" or "community walks" as part of their grassroots organizing practice? @amocorro 8 months ago 2
What methods have you used to raise initial public awareness of a local issue? @bhamster 8 months ago 8
For US Environmental Protection Agency Community Advisory Groups (CAGs): Does the EPA have to engage the local communities in the Superfund vicinity? And if so, what does that process need to look like? @amocorro over 1 year ago 3

Ask a question  or help answer future questions on this topic

Post an Issue Brief

Share information about a local environmental health concern and get support from the Public Lab community by writing and posting an Issue Brief. Visit “Write an Issue Brief” to find information on what an issue brief is, see examples, and learn how to write one.

Stories from community organizers

Further reading and resources