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Lessons Learned from the Baltimore Community Environmental Partnership

The work of the Community Environmental Partnership in Baltimore was a learning experience for all of the people who participated. The Partnership tried a lot of new things -some of them worked and some didn't. A few lessons learned from this work are listed below. A complete list of lessons learned by the Baltimore Air Study can be found in their Case Study.

If you have lessons you can share with others, send them to us and we will post them on this lessons learned page for others to learn from. Building effective partnerships and addressing complicated local issues requires new insights and new skills. If we share our experiences and learn from each other, our progress towards healthy and sustainable communities will be much faster.

Lessons Learned:

  • Bringing community stakeholders and science experts together to address community concerns is a key to success. Both the local knowledge of community residents and the science and tools of experts are needed to understand and to find the most effective ways to improve a local environment. Developing a dialogue between residents and experts also helps to build the consensus that will be needed to take action

  • Don't skimp on the time spent at the beginning of a project clarifying goals. Make sure all the participants are clear about their own goals and communicate them to the other members of the partnership. Make sure participants are clear about how the goals set by the partnership relate to their own goals. If the goals of the project match the participants goals, the resources and energy will be sufficient to sustain the work

  • Building a strong partnership with a full range of stakeholders and broad community participation is key to mobilizing the new resources that will be needed for detailed local assessments and for implementing local solutions. No single community group or level of government has the resources to address local issues, so building a partnership and learning to work together will be essential. Local community organizations and local government can form the core of the partnership with others outside the community providing resources not available at the local level

  • Plan for adequate time and resources to build and sustain the partnership. Working in a broad partnership using science at the community level will be a new way of doing business for most of the participants. Take time to build the trust, develop the organization, and provide the information and training that all the participants will need to work effectively in a partnership.

  • Once goals for the partnership are clarified, make sure the partnership has the resources and scope to meet the goals. For example, if improving the health of the community is a goal, a broad partnership that can address all of the important factors affecting community health will need to be formed. Any attempt to improve community health by addressing environmental issues by themselves will probably not be able to produce results and will lead to disappointment.

  • Be prepared to take a step-by-step approach to building the consensus on environmental issues in your community. Communities may decide to focus on their main concerns first and take on other areas in the future. It will take time to complete a fuller picture of the local environment that everyone can agree with.

  • Be prepared to be creative in solving problems. The information, analysis tools, and solutions that communities need to improve their environments do not come ready made. Your partnership will probably have to find ways to collect data and use and adapt tools designed for other purposes to answer your questions. If it is broad enough, your partnership will have the resources to find answers, but only if it is prepared to be creative. Making progress at the local level will depend on effective sharing among communities so when you develop new approaches, please share them so that other communities do not have to reinvent the wheel. If you have ideas you can share with others, send them to us and we will post them on this website for others to learn from.

  • Communicate and involve the broader community in the work of the partnership on a regular basis. Regular communication gives the broader community an opportunity to provide input into the work of the partnership, participate in partnership activities, and learn from the work. Identifying community needs, taking advantage of community knowledge, and mobilizing the community to take action all will depend on maintaining a close and active relationship between the partnership organization and the community.

  • Pay attention to the long-term capacity of the community to address environmental concerns. Identify areas of community capacity that need strengthening and organize the work of the partnership to help build capacity in these areas. In addition to knowledge and training in environmental areas, include other issues that will be important to long-term capacity such as fundraising, organizing, and leadership skills.

  • Recognize that the work to understand and improve local environments will take a sustained long-term effort and getting to measurable results will take years. Partnerships should take a long term perspective and develop plans accordingly. The contributions of outside partners may vary according to their priorities, but they should be adjusted to fit into the partnership's plan for sustaining a long-term effort.

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