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Sustainable Community Development

Introduction

The Sustainable Community Development Attribute fosters collaborative problem-solving to solve challenges communities face and is a way for public gardens to contribute to Sustainable Development Goal 11. Public gardens that work with diverse communities create conservation-led efforts that can produce economic, environmental, and social benefits. Through these efforts, nature is protected as both an economic and community asset that provides sustenance, open space, jobs, economic opportunities, and important cultural and historic ties. By providing funding and technical expertise, public gardens can work with valued community resources to help them achieve their goals for sustainability. Sustainable Community Development is the intersection of the business community, local government, environmental groups, community members and others working to make their community more livable, inclusive, affordable, and economically competitive. This attribute focuses on strengthening communities with green design, infrastructure, and education while preserving their unique identity, history, and culture. 

 

Goals:

1)      Strengthen efforts to protect and safeguard communities’ cultural and natural heritage, helping to ensure their environmental health while striving for economic balance.

2)      Support positive economic, social, and environmental links between urban, peri-urban and rural areas by strengthening regional sustainable development.

3)      Provide access to safe, inclusive and accessible green and public spaces, for all demographics.

4)      Enhance capacity for participatory and inclusive sustainable planning and management in all nearby communities.

 

Making the Case:

 

In recent decades, the world has experienced unprecedented urban growth. In 2015, close to 4 billion people — 54% of the world’s population — lived in cities and that number is projected to increase to about 5 billion people by 2030. Rapid urbanization has brought enormous challenges, including growth in the numbers and size of slums, increased air pollution, inadequate basic services and infrastructure, and unplanned urban sprawl, all of which also make cities more vulnerable to disasters. Better urban planning and management are needed to make the world’s urban spaces more inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable.

 

As more and more people move to urban areas, cities typically expand their geographic boundaries to accommodate new inhabitants. From 2000 to 2015, in all regions of the world, the expansion of urban land outpaced the growth of urban populations. As a result, cities are becoming less dense as they grow, with unplanned urban sprawl challenging more sustainable patterns of urban development.

 

Public gardens have a key role to play in putting communities on a sustainable development pathway, managing risk and enhancing resilience, and advancing prosperity and well-being:

 

“In terms of why do public gardens need to do this? I think there are several factors, one is that we are changing, certainly in our country and in other countries, from a single demographic being the predominant one, to being a multi-cultural society with no single demographic group predominating. And if public gardens intend to continue to attract large audiences, they have to reflect that demographic diversity. And I think secondly, funding sources are increasingly looking at not simply how attractive gardens can be by displaying a real multiplicity of ornamental species, but how effective they can be in changing people’s lives.”

 

“When public gardens work with communities on landscape improvements of any type, they should not only reflect the community’s needs, but they should improve the community just enough to make it more livable, to improve the quality of life, but not so much that they tip the balance toward gentrification.”

 

~Former E.N. Wilds Director, Associate Professor at Cornell University

 

“When I think of sustainable community development, I come back to asset mapping. What it means is whatever your sustainability goals are, they have to be implemented in the context of that particular community, you have to know what that community's interests are, what their vision for themselves in the future is, and what their current challenges are.”

 

“You can't define sustainability narrowly, you can't just talk about environmental sustainability because if people are not economically stable, politically stable, socially stable, they are not going to pay attention to the environment, so you have to take a holistic approach, and that's why something like windy city harvest is so powerful, because it's addressing multiple aspects of a sustainable community.”

 

“I mean one of the things about sustainable community development is if you're building capacity in the community, and you're empowering the community to make their own change, that's far more important than any one program that a garden might choose to offer in a particular community.”

 

“Looking at botanical gardens throughout the country, there tends to be a phenomenon where botanical gardens tend to be insular, like an island unto themselves from their surrounding community and as a result of that isolation so to speak, it doesn’t really bleed into some of the more at risk communities that may be within proximity of the garden itself.”

 

~Vice President of Education & Community Programs, Chicago Botanic Gardens

 

 

1. Investigate and Establish a Baseline 

2. Identify Stakeholders 

3. Data Collection/Resources

4. Develop and Implement a Plan of Action 

5. Evaluate and Maintain Success 

6. Report, Communicate, Educate

7. Resources and Case Studies 

 

 

 

1. Investigate and Establish a Baseline

 

Use the Sustainable Community Development Self-audit worksheet for the self-audit and use it to further track your planning decisions (see Develop and Implement a Plan of Action section below).

 

The following questions should be considered as part of an initial self-audit.  Board members and key leadership staff will ideally be part of this initial conversation and organizational self-reflection. If you do not know the answers to some questions, simply note that you don’t have metrics in place. Do not be discouraged if your initial responses generate more questions than answers. Focus on the scale and scope of how you can engage your community.

 

UNDERSTANDING YOUR COMMUNITY & FOSTERING LEADERSHIP

 

To which local communities does your garden belong? Consider your physical location and surrounding residents, businesses, and cultural institutions, as well as the locations and communities of your outreach programs. Think, too, of local networks of which you are a part, considering all levels of staff and board engagement. Ideally, these questions should be considered for multiple communities of which a garden is a part regardless of physical proximity.

 

  • How does the community in which your garden is located overlap with your garden’s membership, visitors, staff, volunteers, and board?

  • What steps can your garden take to increase community representation among members, visitors, staff, volunteers, and board?

  • Has your garden met with community members to figure out ways to align your mission with their values?

  • Does your garden have programs that are in direct response to identified community needs that have been voiced and discussed by community residents and leaders?

  • Does your garden give community members opportunities to become leaders on projects/programs and make decisions on their own?  

  • Has your garden identified the challenges your community is facing and how your garden can fulfill a need (e.g., food deserts, community gardens, lack of green spaces—-parks and recreation.)?

  • Has your garden researched and contacted government officials at your local office of sustainability or other environmental non-profit organizations about projects they are involved in within your community to ascertain information on different needs and demographics?

  • Does your garden offer workshops and events that engage and educate your community on expressed issues of concern (e.g., nutrition education, sustainable vegetable production, and green infrastructure)?

  • Does your garden offer scholarships, custom programs, professional development, certificate programs, or curriculum for field trips?

  • Does your garden know what green initiative projects your community is currently involved in?

 

INSTITUTIONAL CAPACITY –BUILDING SELF-SUSTAINING PROGRAMS

 

  • Has your garden cultivated self-sustaining programs in your community that would maintain longevity in your absence (e.g., 5, 10, 15 years and beyond after implementation)?

  • Has your garden cultivated trust with local leaders and community-based organizations with whom it would partner? Are there multiple points of contact between your garden and these partners and a commitment to maintain these relationships in the long run?

  • Has your garden identified the tools, resources, and knowledge needed to ensure long-term commitment and tangible outcomes?

  • Does your garden have the capacity (staff, time, financial resources) to work with an entire municipality? If not, where can you focus your resources to engage people on a smaller scale?

  • Does your garden have a process for identifying and prioritizing community-based projects (e.g, need for additional financial resources, need for external partners, etc.)?

  • Has your garden identified overlap between your institutional mandates and needs and the communities that surround your garden?

  • Does your garden have resources that it can provide to your community with minimal to no staff, time, or money invested (e.g., free parking for school field trips)?

 

INTERNAL SCOPING  

 

  • Does your garden’s strategic plan have any tactics or goals that focus on sustainable community development outside your garden walls? 

  • Has your garden identified what aspects of your programs that involve community members are successful and are replicable moving forward?

  • Does your garden leverage the resources that are available in your community?

  • Does your garden connect its educational resources to the greening efforts of your community?

  • Does your garden’s current programming reach a broad audience that is reflective of your community?

  • Does your staff meet regularly to identify ways your garden’s programs could strengthen targeted and ignored demographics?

  • Does your garden have an individual or team focused on community engagement?

  • Does your garden offer workshops or events at different locations off site to ensure accessibility and diversify public engagement?

  • Does your garden have any community-focused programs that are funded by a granting agency?

  • What resources will your garden commit to training and educating staff to be sensitive to the unique needs of community members (e.g., racial/gender equity training or other workshops)?

  • Will training only target program staff, or will it encompass other departments such as marketing, development, and upper management?

  • Many community issues overlap with other social and environmental issues, some of which are politicized or controversial. Does your garden have plans in place for messaging and programming around sensitive topics?

 

 

 

2. Identify Stakeholders

 

An effective process is predicated on buy-in from both the garden’s leadership and the members of its board.  Leadership must strive to identify potential board and committee members who reflect the racial, gender, and socioeconomic diversity of the communities they serve.  Then they need to convince these individuals of the benefits of their providing service to the garden. Its beneficial to find overlap between your influences as an institution and the community’s influences to figure out how best you can work together. This also helps to establish trust, vital to forming a sustainable partnership. If you want to do any sustainable community development, the first step is to talk to people at public forums and identify community leaders. From there, depending on the kind of work you're interested in, you can determine the stakeholders with whom you need to engage.

 

  • Does your garden meet with community representatives to form mutually beneficial partnerships?  

  • Has your garden identified projects that need joint fund-raising and external partners in order to get involved? 

  • Does your garden have a process of prioritization for identifying programs in your community to pursue? If so, who is involved in making the final decision?

  • Does your garden talk with community leaders, environmental justice/community nonprofits, local businesses, and home owner associations about potential partnerships that your institution would like to form to address specific goals you have (e.g., greener and cleaner parks, vacant lots converted to green spaces, community food gardens, etc.)? 

  • Does your garden work in tandem with your city or municipality and its sustainability office to see how you can use your own resources and expertise to fulfill an objective or goal? 

  • Has your garden engaged educational institutions who conduct research and are actively involved in sustainable development projects (e.g., college and university departments that specifically address urban/regional planning and community development through capstone projects, etc.)?

  • Does your garden engage local K-12 schools on garden-related projects?

  • Do those on your garden’s list of potential partner organizations have a proven track record of project accomplishment? If so, are those projects on-going and long lasting or did they not accomplish what they set out to do?

  • Does a partnership that your garden is considering have the capacity to fulfill joint expectations (aligning your mission with theirs)?

  • Does your garden partner with external organizations and agencies to drive economic development (e.g., working with city parks and recreation departments on projects)?

  • Does your garden collaborate with individuals or institutions (museums, restaurants, churches etc.) who have particular stature and standing within their communities?

 

 

 

3. Data Collection/Resources

 

In order for data collection to benefit a garden working towards sustainable community development, there must be a clear articulation of how a data set relates to the gardens greater goals or mission. Data collection must have a finite timeline, resulting in identification of needed resources to make well informed action decisions. Sustainable community development projects cannot be evaluated immediately after a single season or even an entire year in some cases. In fact, in many instances, it can take years to really gain meaningful data that can tell a powerful story or give your garden an indication that you are on the right path.

 

SHORT TERM ASSESSMENT

 

  • Does your garden regularly evaluate and survey participation and interest in programming outside gardens walls (e.g., where they live and reason for participation.)?

  • Has your garden surveyed participants in programs, events, workshops, and visitors (online and in person) to get a sense of how the community perceives your garden (overall awareness of what it can offer, etc.)?

  • Has your garden conducted researched or contacted external organizations (e.g., local government agencies, universities, environmental non-profits, etc.) to collect data on community values, demographics, and other important trends (e.g., some external sources have published papers with qualitative and quantitative social science data)?

  • Does your garden use the Alliance for Public Gardens GIS to start mapping and tracking existing projects in your region and to identify potential future projects in largely ignored areas?

  • Does your garden utilize college and graduate level research or internships to collect data and information in your community?

  • Has your garden hired internal or external partners to perform an evaluation of an on-going program to eliminate internal staff bias?

 

 

LONG TERM ASSESSMENT

 

  • Has your garden tracked how long former projects outside garden walls took to complete (categorizing them based on type of work and scale)?

  • Has your garden tracked distance from garden to project sites to assess overall geographic impact?

  • Has the garden revised/updated survey questions distributed to participants on long-standing programs outside garden walls (e.g., age, education level, interest in horticulture, environmental concerns, etc.)?

  • Does your garden track program retention rates (tracking program retention rates and getting feedback from those that decide to leave-exit interview/survey)? 

  • Does your garden consistently collect data on the number of participants in a program?

  • Does your garden evaluate leaders that were involved in both the development and carrying out of the program?

  • Does your garden perform a midway evaluation of a program?

  • Does your garden interview participants before their participation and then 3, 6, 12 months after participation to really see how their attitudes, practices, and lifestyles have changed (e.g., interviewing participants at different times to assess program effectiveness and compare experiences)?

  • Does your garden consult or involve a professional evaluation firm that can provide expertise to frame the questioning, provide objectivity, and analyze the responses?

  • Does your garden have metrics for measuring environmental or economic impact of community programs?

 

 

 

4. Develop and Implement a Plan of Action

 

Prioritize community engagement and development based on your garden’s mission. This will help your garden decide where it should be investing financial resources. The identification of a new program should be organic and reflect the community’s needs, but be related to the garden’s mission. Decide which projects will amplify or embody your mission and which are outside the scope of what your garden is trying to achieve. Implementing a plan of action starts with building trust within your community for long-term sustainable development that is reflective of the community’s needs.

 

  • Create a map of your targeted community’s assets (use GIS or similar software or hire consultants/partner with academic institutions for this purpose). This could include a boundary map of your targeted area and the number of existing community assets such as:  green spaces (parks and recreation), healthy food sources, stormwater infrastructure (green roofs), community gardens, water sources (rivers, lakes, ponds, etc.), school gardens, etc. From there you can annotate this visual resource with specific details, such as, accessibility to healthy grocery stores, parks and recreation, community gardens etc.  Many universities and colleges may already have this information which your garden can utilize to its advantage in deciding what role it can play in its programming and educational outreach (See Resources and Case Studies).

  • Identify community engagement programs/projects, past and on-going, that are in close proximity to your garden. Implement a plan to create programs/projects that are more accessible to communities and demographics that are not in close proximity to your garden. There may be programs that more distant communities would like to be involved in but can’t be due to financial constraints and distance. This process can start by contacting clubs, churches, environmental organizations, or other external organizations to see if you can host a workshop or event within that community to gage interest.

  • Through surveying and gathering feedback from program leaders (internal and external), determine future goals that can address a community need and ways to measure success. Organize information and data you ascertained through the data collection process to formulate metrics, indicators, and relevant SDGs. For example:

 

Issue

Relevant SDG

Externally Driven Metrics

Indicators

Food Deserts-Lack of Access to Healthy Food Sources

Goal 2-“Improved nutrition…promote sustainable agriculture”

“On average, how far do you have to drive or travel for healthy food?”

Percentage of households in the community that report having a stable and healthy food supply throughout the year.

 

  • Use your credibility or long standing history in the community to facilitate some work in ways that other organizations might not be able to (municipally, financially, or otherwise). Take on a facilitator role instead of imposing an institutional objective. Support existing organizations, small and large, in providing practical tools, resources, and equipment that can aid sustainable community development.

As part of the self-audit process your garden should look for multiple “YES” answers to the following: 

  • Educational videos and webinars online on sustainable horticulture practices.
  • Demonstrations, workshops, events on how community members can install sustainable infrastructure and practice sustainable agriculture at home. 
  • Urban Gardener program(s)
  • Master Gardener program(s)
  • Community Supported Agriculture (CSA)
  • Composting and Recycling program(s)

 

Mobilize various networks, agencies, clubs, and organizations connecting them to projects of interest. The garden can play a facilitating role in a number of networks. Look for multiple “YES” answers to working with the following:

  • Local garden clubs, birdwatchers, nature and hiking groups concerned with environmental issues
  • Citizen Science Networks
  • Volunteer Networks   
  • Local and State government agencies
  • Colleges and Universities
  • Regional Organizations interested in land use and land planning
  • Nonprofit conservation groups
  • Regulatory or State Heritage programs
  • Neighborhood Associations in Public Housing
  • Instead of providing a report to your community participants, make them a part of the decision-making processes, thus fostering a more inclusive process.  

  • Invest in personnel that have community ties. Proven program leaders in the community should become garden ambassadors and in some cases should be hired to lead that program on a regular basis. Programming focused on providing emerging professionals and youth with career advancement opportunities should be utilized to identify leaders for community-based projects.

Create a position such as a Community Engagement Coordinator to help establish a trusting relationship with a network of leaders from the different areas you are attempting to engage and to form partnerships with. Having a full time employee or team of employees/garden volunteers dedicated to community engagement will help your garden cast a wider net and have a larger, more diverse impact. This will also help in identifying leaders from these communities that want a career in public horticulture and that you could potentially hire. 

  • Ensure that the Community Engagement Coordinator’s chain of command within your organization gives them adequate amounts of autonomy and authority so that they can effectively maintain trust in the community. Ensure, too, that institutional trust extends beyond the Community Engagement Coordinator, so that programs can continue if individual persons leave the organization.

 

  • Become a part of the conversation about concentrated poverty, connecting with other institutions about what your garden can bring to the table in terms of expertise in horticulture, the desire to learn about urban ecology, the desire to empower citizenry to build more resilient communities around public horticulture and sustainable agriculture.

  • Do not brand any of your community projects as distinctly “YOUR GARDENS” project. Every project should be understood as part of a larger collaborative leadership model and effort. Community-based projects outside garden walls are a collective of like-minded organizations and individuals. This also helps build trust amongst the communities you hope to work with long-term.

  • Use the strategic planning process and meetings with your board and leadership staff to create policy and guidelines for potential partnerships.

  • Utilize program pilots to build momentum and provide flexibility to adjust programs in response to lessons learned.

 

 

 

5. Evaluate/Revise/Monitor and Maintain Success

 

  • If a particular approach does not seem to be working and is not garnering the support that was expected, either by the number of participants or people expressing anecdotally less- than- positive feelings about it, move away from it and move on to another approach. Avoid rigidly adhering to a program that does not seem to be the appropriate one for the community that is targeted.

  • Perform a mid-course evaluation of a community outreach program. If a program is not working as had been intended, do not be afraid to report the issues for fear of losing funding. Go back to that funding agency, indicate what the situation is, and see if there is a mid-course correction that can be made. 

  • Attempt to obtain an external evaluator to eliminate the bias of staff that are invested in programs and tasked with completing evaluations. For smaller gardens with fewer resources and staff members that cannot hire a consultant or facilitator, consider forming a consortium with other small gardens or non-profit organizations with like-minded missions to come up with non-biased scorecards or evaluative processes to indicate community programming performance.

  • There are many conferences and workshops dedicated to sustainable community development all over the country, and sending a staff member to participate and report back is an alternate way of gaining insightful information. Research colleges in the area with a focus on social justice or urban affairs – many graduate programs have professional outreach projects that could aide a smaller organization in establishing metrics for evaluation. Other possibilities are social or community based nonprofits in the area dedicated to supporting marginalized groups.

  • Track and evaluate distance from garden to project sites. Be sure to also evaluate and monitor site facilities, land leased, and other important factors to ensure safety and quality control. 

  • Revise survey questions and other methodologies to gage participant in long-standing programs outside garden walls (e.g., age, education level, interest in horticulture, environmental concerns, etc.)

  • Interview program/project participants to collect qualitative information on what needs to change or what requires more staff time or financial resources.

  • Establish metrics/scorecard for programs in order to compare over the course of time how a program is impacting participant’s attitudes, practices, and overall lifestyle. 

 

 

 

6. Report Communicate and Educate

 

  • Communicate on behalf of the larger community through a monthly E-newsletter to shine a light on local initiatives and examples of good collaboration.

  • Highlight powerful stories of individuals in your community who are making an impact in public horticulture in your external communications digitally (garden website, e-blasts) and in print (newsletter, magazine).

  • Regularly communicate educational opportunities inside and outside garden walls, being sure to emphasize career advancement opportunities for community members. For example, certifications and job training that can be obtained from participating in a garden-related program. Share stories of those who participated in a community-garden related program and that are now committed to the horticulture profession.

  • Ensure all departments, staff, and volunteers are informed of all events, workshops, and external opportunities in advance to gauge interest in who would like to be involved and what role they’d like to play in that specific program.

  • Regularly meet and communicate with external partners that are involved on community outreach projects to ensure missions are aligned and leadership roles are clearly defined. This should include an update on program/project status and estimated date of completion and post-evaluation criteria.

  • As your garden expands into new areas and gets involved with new networks and organizations, communicate regularly with community leadership personnel and volunteers for updates on progress and mid-course corrections or concerns with associated projects.

  • Utilize built-in evaluation frameworks to report internally on the status of each program/project and changes that need to be made.

  • Communicate to your stakeholders, particularly your board, what kinds of impacts you are making in your region and how that reflects more positively on your garden as a more inclusive and trusting institution.

  • Target relevant audience (e.g., ethnic communities, millennials) through specific target marketing and communication strategies that address their preferences for mobility and information consumption.

 

 

 

7. Resources and Case Studies 

 

 

Community Engagement Webinars:

 

https://publicgardens.org/resources/jennifer-schwarz-ballard-chicago-bot...

 

Toolkits: 

 

https://resources.depaul.edu/abcd-institute/resources/Pages/tool-kit.aspx

 

http://empatheticmuseum.weebly.com/maturity-model.html

 

UN Sustainable Development Goal 11:

 

https://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/sdg11

 

Evaluation Resources:

 

http://www.betterevaluation.org/en/evaluation-options/evaluation_framework_templates

 

http://www.betterevaluation.org/en/evaluation-options/stories_of_change

 

Resource for increasing access to healthy, local food and improving food security works based on local knowledge, assets, and needs:

 

http://sustainableagriculture.net/publications/grassrootsguide/local-food-systems-rural-development/community-food-project-grants/

 

Academic Research & Publications:

 

Wilder, L., & Walpole, M. (2008). Measuring social impacts in conservation: Experience of using the Most Significant Change method. Oryx, 42(4), 529-538. doi:10.1017/S0030605307000671

 

https://publicgardens.org/resources/new-approach-conservation-using-community-empowerment-sustainable-well-being

 

https://publicgardens.org/resources/culturally-grounded-indicators-resilience-social-ecological-systems

 

Books:

 

Chris Masner, Sustainable Community Development: Principles and Concepts

 

Jane Silverstein and Chris Maser, Land-Use Planning for Sustainable Development, Second Edition (Social Environmental Sustainability), 2nd Edition

 

Donald A. Rakow and Sharon A. Lee, Public Garden Management: A Complete Guide to the Planning and Administration of Botanical Gardens and Arboreta

 

Sharon A. Lee, Don A. Rakow, & Meghan Gough, have written a book for Cornell University Press to be titled, ‘Public Gardens and Community Revitalization.’ It should be coming out later in 2018.

 

A publication supported by U.S. Department of Agriculture agencies working together for sustainable places in collaboration with the Michael Fields Agricultural Institute (MFAI), the National Center for Appropriate Technology (NCAT), and the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC). Authored by Margaret Krome (MFAI), George Reistad (MFAI), and NSAC’s policy staff:

https://publicgardens.org/resources/building-sustainable-farms-ranches-and-communities

 

Jerry W. Robinson, Jr.  and Gary Paul Green, Introduction to Community Development: Theory, Practice, and Service-Learning. Relevant chapter from that book:

https://publicgardens.org/resources/sustainability-and-community-development

 

 Presentation:

 

 https://publicgardens.org/resources/public-gardens-agents-social-empowerment

 

 

The Public Gardens Sustainability Index Working Group is made up of diverse field-wide professionals. Does your expertise lie within an Attribute area? Help us build content for Principles and Best Practices. Have success stories? Let us collect your Case Studies. Contact Sarah Beck: trosenbluth@publicgardens.org

 

Case Study 

Franklin Park Conservatory

 

Franklin Park Conservatory & Botanical Gardens leads Columbus, Ohio’s Growing to Green initiative, a program that supports community garden development through training programs, grant assistance, and free resources for garden leaders.

Franklin Park Conservatory and Botanical Gardens Growing to Green program started in 2000 to promote sustainable community garden development and city beautification. Since then, they have helped establish almost 300 gardens in the Columbus area and have expanded to include the central Ohio area. The program offers a free 8-week training program for community garden leaders, publishes the “Columbus Community Garden Resource Guide”, and partners with the city’s Get Green Columbus program to pair trained community garden leaders with no workable land to vacant lots throughout the city.

Growing to Green has helped build a more sustainable Columbus in many ways. The community gardens created by the program have not only revitalized neighborhoods, but they have also improved food security throughout the city. In just 2010, the community gardens donated over 15,000 pounds of fresh produce to local food banks and soup kitchens. The program also features health and wellness education and works to unite diverse cultures throughout the city.

Because Growing to Green is part of Franklin Park Conservatory, they are able to offer expertise and resources that many community gardeners might not have access to. By training and supporting new garden leaders, Growing to Green helps ensure the long-term sustainability of community gardens throughout the region. 

 

 

Holden Forests & Gardens

Holden Forests & Gardens, composed of Cleveland Botanical Garden and The Holden Arboretum, has three programs to help create vibrant green communities in Cleveland and northeast Ohio:

1) Green Corps is an agricultural work-study program that teaches high school students about academic achievement, community service, and career opportunities through urban farming. Established in 1996, Green Corps employs youth to plant, grow, harvest, and sell food in their communities on urban farms throughout the city.

2) The applied ecological research program at Holden Forests & Gardens studies ways that soil and plants can boost the ecological and social value of vacant lots in Great Lakes cities. Vacant to Vibrant is a project that tests low-cost, low-maintenance urban greening projects to manage stormwater and revitalize communities in Gary, IN; Cleveland, OH; and Buffalo, NY.

3) Holden Forests & Gardens helps grow urban tree canopy through its community forestry program. In addition to planting trees and training neighborhood tree stewards, a new Tree Corps program will teach adults skills that will help them gain employment in tree-related career paths.

 

Queens Botanical Garden

New York City is widely considered to be one of the most diverse places on the planet, with residents from hundreds of different countries living within close proximity of each other. Queens in particular has a broad mix of ethnic populations, which have led some to consider it the most culturally diverse area in the world. Yet, when Susan Lacerte became the Executive Director at Queens Botanical Garden, she noticed that the diversity of the borough was not reflected in the Botanical Garden’s attendance. To address that, Lacerte started The Ambassador Program to reach out to ethnic communities and find out what they wanted in their public garden.

By engaging the leaders of various ethnic groups throughout the borough, she discovered that each culture had their own values and desires, and worked with them to integrate what they wanted into the Garden. One of their most successful programs involved outreach to the local Chinese community. Lacerte found out that there was a strong desire among Chinese residents for a place to practice Tai Chi, so the Garden started hosting Tai Chi classes. Today, nearly 300 people visit the Garden to practice Tai Chi each day, and not all of the participants are Chinese.

Not only has the Queens Botanical Garden become a place where people of different ethnicities can practice their customs and traditions, it has become a place where people can share ideas and learn about other cultures. Now, tours through the beautiful green space in one of the most densely urbanized places in the world consist of people of all colors and backgrounds. By reaching out to the various populations of the community, the Queens Botanical Garden has become a successful community institution that serves the borough’s entire population.

 

Phipps Conservatory and Botanic Gardens

Homegrown is a Phipps program dedicated to increasing community access to fresh produce, promoting better food choices, and improving the overall health of families and children. Since its inception in 2013, the program has installed 200 vegetable gardens at households in underserved neighborhoods and provided mentorship and resources. Currently, Phipps is operating Homegrown only in Homewood, but plans to expand the program in the future. Homegrown supports participants over a two year period, equipping them with the resources they need to become self-sufficient gardeners. Each family receives help with installation and the following free materials: 

• Raised-bed building supplies 
• Soil, seeds and plants 
• Garden tools 

After gardens go in, Homegrown keeps in touch throughout the season, offering participants: 

• Regular check-ins and garden visits to answer questions
• Gardening and cooking workshops 
• Help getting started again the second year

 

Chicago Botanic Garden

Since its first full year in 2008, Chicago Botanic Garden's Windy City Harvest program has expanded its adult training and production operations to six sites and created one of the country’s most robust education and job-training programs in sustainable urban agriculture. Over seven years, Windy City Harvest has achieved the following:

  • Developed a training curriculum and management protocol that draws on the best practices in sustainable agriculture and incorporates the CBGs expertise in working with both accomplished and high-need students

  • Worked with 71 adults who graduated from the Apprenticeship program (with 14 more scheduled to finish in 2014), including 12 young men from alternative sentencing backgrounds

  • Placed 90 percent of all graduates to date in related seasonal and full-time jobs at places as diverse as Midwest Foods (wholesale distribution center), Uncommon Ground’s rooftop farm, FarmedHere (commercial aquaponics production), and local community farms such as the Talking Farm’s Howard Street site in Skokie

  • Developed a network of business, nonprofit, and funding partners that support program work and employment of graduates

  • Produced and harvested more than 300,000 pounds of premium produce for sale through wholesale, retail, and government-subsidized channels (e.g., Women, Infants, and Children’s distribution sites, and markets that take Illinois Link cards and senior coupons)

  • Presented the Windy City Harvest Apprenticeship model at multiple local, regional, and national conferences

In addition to being a multi-layered program in which participants learn about urban farming, entrepreneurship, and life skills, CBG also meets annually with the city of Chicago, Cook County and state legislators to inform them of their program’s impact along with testimonials from program participants. 

 

Brooklyn Botanic Garden

The Greenest Block in Brooklyn contest promotes streetscape gardening, tree stewardship, and community development in Brooklyn through block and merchant associations and other groups. Prizes are awarded for residential and commercial blocks and for greenest storefront, best window box, and other greening efforts. Judges that are involved in this community greening program are local elected officials and community leaders from a diverse set of neighborhoods. In addition, The Brooklyn Urban Gardener (BUG) certificate program is an annual ten-session course that covers the basics in urban gardening and community greening. It connects the educational resources of Brooklyn Botanic Garden to the greening efforts of Brooklyn’s communities. Upon completing all coursework and required volunteer hours, graduates are certified as Brooklyn Botanic Garden BUG volunteers. Certified BUGs then continue to support greening projects at schools, senior centers, block associations, community gardens, and other organizations. BUG students can expect an experiential, train–the–trainer program. Using a hands–on, participatory education model, the course includes instruction in sustainable horticultural practices suited to the urban environment, street tree stewardship, community engagement practices, effective teaching methods, and an overview of the greening resources available in Brooklyn. The training is free.

 

PHS Philadelphia LandCare

PHS Philadelphia LandCare is a nationally recognized model of landscape treatment and urban revitalization that addresses the widespread challenge of land vacancy plaguing the city’s neighborhoods. As part of a strategic approach to neighborhood redevelopment, PHS works with community-based organizations and city agencies to transform Philadelphia’s vacant land into neighborhood assets. The LandCare program cleans, greens, and stabilizes vacant lots to help return them to productive use. To date, this initiative has installed and maintained interim landscape treatments to over 12,000 parcels covering over 16 million square feet of vacant land in key transitional neighborhoods. Since its inception, more than 800 properties have been developed into new uses, including housing, commercial properties, and green space amenities. The LandCare program targets vacant parcels in key target areas throughout the city and includes neighborhoods with public safety issues and ones that lack open space and green amenities.