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Wetlands and Stormwater Management Advocacy Workshop

The goal of this workshop is to increase the capacity of community members to improve wetlands restoration and stormwater management projects, especially as they relate to community goals.

In a previous workshop, participants will have explored tactics for collectively determining the specific outcomes sought in order to achieve community goals. The following sections in this workshop include strategies to obtain various outcomes, and information about how community-collected aerial imagery is used in various capacities. The outcomes discussed are:

  1. Community Awareness and Education
  2. Local community small-scale action
  3. City/Parish (or County) regulatory authority action
  4. Plan implementation

A short list of ways community-collected aerial imagery can be useful is:

  1. Community connection Aerial images provide a unique perspective, showing the physical relationship between neighborhoods, across political boundaries, and between built and natural landscapes.

  2. Investigation Aerial images can be used for investigative purposes such as calculating the percentage of pavement in a residential block, learning about the progression of vegetative growth and species succession, or discerning river migration patterns.

  3. Documentation Aerial images can be useful for documenting infrastructural overloads or failures, including sewage overflows and flooding events, which are useful for planning and reimbursement purposes.

Discussion in Outcome-related Groups

It may be useful to have a designated facilitator for the following conversations and activities. Select a facilitator from your group, or ask a third-party facilitator to join your group for this workshop.

Sitting in a circle facing each other, introduce yourself and why you are here today.

Discussing the importance of the outcome:

After everyone in the circle has introduced themselves, write on post-it notes why this outcome/goal is important.

After everyone has written their reasons on post-its, go around in a circle and say them out loud as you post them to the wall. After everyone has shared and posted their reasons, cluster related reasons.

Ultimately you will use the reasons why your group believes these outcomes are important to guide the creation of your education and advocacy materials, and use them to inform your metrics in evaluating your progress on achieving your goals.

Discussing the resources available:

As a group, make lists of the resources you have available to you. There are several different categories of resources, including human, financial, and material. Be sure to brainstorm and create lists of resources in all of these categories.

In some cases, the political and cultural climates may be potential resources. In other cases, they may present obstacles. If governmental and community support are not resources, save that information for the following SWOC exercise.

Discussing the approach:

With the visual reminders you have created about why your goals are important and the multitude of resources you have available to you, you can start to formulate an approach to achieving desired outcomes.

To make sure that the approach is strategic, it can be useful to map out your group’s strengths, weaknesses, situational opportunities, and challenges. This is known as a SWOC grid. Divide a large paper into quadrants labeled as strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and challenges. As a group, brainstorm items in each successive quadrant, being as comprehensive as possible.

Focusing on the opportunities you listed, discuss how your group can capitalize on those opportunities, leveraging your strengths. For perceived weaknesses, discuss how your group will address those weaknesses (e.g. partner with another organization who may have a strength in that area). Spend time discussing what measures you can take to transform challenges into opportunities.

Review the approaches that have been successful for other groups with similar goals. Some successful approaches are written below under various outcomes headings. Use these examples to fodder further discussion about your group’s plans.

Once you have a scaffolding for the approach you plan to take in order to achieve your desired outcomes, review again the resources you have listed. Do you have all of the resources you need? If not, discuss plans to obtain the missing resources. In your current plan, are you utilizing all of your available resources? If not, discuss whether or not engaging the remaining resources would enhance your approach.

Finally, consider aerial mapping specifically. Discuss how high-resolution, community-collected aerial imagery can be a resource to your project. Review notes written below about how aerial images and mapping have been utilized in successful approaches to achieve various goals.

Modify your approach to optimize it.

Outcome sought: Community Awareness and Education

Community Education

Principles applied in successful approaches:

  1. Educating people in an appropriate tone and pitch is key. When dealing with issues such as climate change and sea level rise, make the issues clear but not alarmist or panic-inducing. Be simple, honest, and compelling.
  2. Provide evidence of outcomes, such as coastline change over time, before discussing abstract causes.
  3. Take a two-pronged approach, demonstrating direct impacts on local communities and nation-wide or global importance of the issues. The two-pronged approach is particularly important in areas where local and state interests may be antagonistic to your education motives. It may be necessary to educate a broader community that is not directly impacted but is tangentially impacted and are empathetic.
  4. Peer-to-peer learning can be impactful and empowering for teacher and student.

K-12 Education

Principles applied in successful approaches:

  1. Focusing on visible and tangible local effects is important, especially for younger students.
  2. Creating modules for repeated contact, with deeper engagement in each successive module, facilitates depth of understanding and knowledge retention. For example, introducing ideas in elementary school and building on those ideas at least once in middle school and again in high school leads to more informed adults.

Uses of aerial imagery:

  1. Visual demonstration of land area and vegetation change
  2. Visual demonstration of land use change
  3. Showing the connection between built and natural landscapes
  4. Showing the connection between multiple parts of a landscape
  5. Demonstrating interrelated issues in city infrastructure and impacts on life (e.g. flooding)

Read this description of a successful community education program: http://www.publiclab.org/wiki/stories#Community+wetlands+education

More examples of successful community education:

Audubon Louisiana Nature Center programming (http://www.auduboninstitute.org/audubon-louisiana-nature-center)

New Orleans Sewer and Water Board Walk n’ Learns (e.g. http://www.ladwpnews.com/external/content/document/1475/2239150/1/Silver%20Lake%20Reservoir%20Walk%20Invitation%20092714.pdf)

Outcome sought: Local community small-scale action

Principles applied in successful approaches:

  1. Get people personally interested and invested on a very local level, for example, on their specific residential block.
  2. Avoid involving controversial or contested political language in order to engage everyone. For example, it may be useful to avoid talking about climate change, and instead, focus on local flooding.
  3. Provide immediate and personal action steps. Empower people with knowledge about what they personally can do to help a situation, such as building rain gardens in their yards.
  4. Meet people where they are -- bring information to people in their own neighborhoods.
  5. Engage community pillars such as neighborhood associations and churches to develop trust and reach more community members.
  6. After discussing and implementing personal actions, then it can be useful to build on that knowledge by discussing useful municipal actions on a larger level, such as impervious surface restrictions.

Uses of aerial imagery:

  1. Demonstrating the connection between neighbors and neighborhoods

  2. Providing documentation and giving visibility to disenfranchised neighborhoods

Read this case study of a successful community direct action initiative in New Orleans: http://www.publiclab.org/wiki/stories#Community+direct+action+to+reduce+flood+risk

Examples of successful approaches:

Global Green in New Orleans, LA (http://www.globalgreen.org/new-orleans/)

Equity Caucus of Foundation for a Better Louisiana (http://www.foundationforlouisiana.org/grants_programs/together_2014/2014_equity_caucus/)

Front Yard Initiatives of the Urban Conservancy in New Orleans (http://www.urbanconservancy.org/projects/excessive-yard-paving-in-new-orleans)

Front Yard Ambassadors in San Francisco (http://www.sfbos.org/index.aspx?page=15348)

Outcome sought: City/Parish/County regulatory authority action

Principles applied in successful approaches:

  1. Multifaceted collaborations are impactful. Consider including team members with expertise in research and policy, building and design, advocacy, and various forms of education.
  2. Discussion of economic impacts is important and can be an effective motivator for individuals, communities, and municipalities.
  3. Find a champion on city council, and approach them with support of concerned citizens in their specific district. Recognize that local legislators have responsibility to their electoral district, not to anyone else in the state. Try to have one-on-one meetings with city council members.
  4. If possible, provide officials with examples of where a similar initiative or approach has worked elsewhere in the country.

Aerial imagery is useful for:

  1. Demonstrating connection among types of city infrastructure

  2. Documenting infrastructure failures

  3. Showing relationship between infrastructure capacity and neighborhood characteristics

Read this description of the development of a city-wide integrated water management plan: http://publiclab.org/wiki/stories#Developing+a+Municipal+Plan

Read this mini case study of a successful flood risk-reduction and water management plan advocacy campaign: http://www.publiclab.org/wiki/stories#Flood+risk-reduction+Advocacy

Examples of successful approaches:

Water Collaborative in New Orleans advocating for the Urban Water Plan (http://nolawater.org/)

Waggonner and Ball “Dutch Dialogues” for developing the Urban Water Plan (http://www.wbarchitects.com/research/dutch_dialogues/)

Examples of successful approaches involving economic arguments and incentives:

Community Rating System in New Orleans (https://www.fema.gov/national-flood-insurance-program-community-rating-system)

Front Yard Initiative (http://www.urbanconservancy.org/projects/excessive-yard-paving-in-new-orleans)

Outcome sought: Plan implementation

Principles used in successful approaches:

  1. Think about city- and landscape-scale infrastructure and functioning rather than on smaller, neighborhood scale. Aerial images can be particularly useful in guiding larger geographic considerations.
  2. Document patterns and use repeated or consistent events to help explain the risk or severity of an issue, and to monitor progress.
  3. Use a combination of modeling and ground-truthing to gather and communicate necessary data.
  4. Identify people in direct positions of power, such as the Army Corps of Engineers, Department of Environmental Quality (or Protection), City Council, or federal enforcement agencies.

Aerial imagery is useful for:

  1. Visualizing issues at the appropriate scale.
  2. Documenting repeated events and/or restoration progress.

Read this description of a successful wetlands restoration program: http://www.publiclab.org/wiki/stories#Wetlands+Restoration

Read this description of the planned use of aerial imagery in ecosystem management: http://publiclab.org/wiki/stories#Ecosystem+Management+Plan+Development

Examples of successful approaches:

Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation Bayou St. John wetlands restoration (http://saveourlake.org/bayou-st-john.php)

Gulf Restoration Network (http://www.healthygulf.org/)