Environmental Justice Primer for Ports Good Neighbor Roadmap: Step 6. Act, Measure and Sustain Progress
This step enables you to maintain momentum from the development of the Good Neighbor Strategic Plan by collaborating with the community on a near-term project, formalizing your Community Advisory Group and tracking progress. This section describes tips and resources for continuing to build strong local relationships as you work with community partners to move your Plan into action.
On this page:
- Collaborating on an early-win project
- Try It Out! Charter the Community Advisory Group
- Community capacity-building
- Tracking progress
Collaborating on an early-win project
The Waterfront South neighborhood in Camden, New Jersey, is located in an industrial area that includes two urban ports. In 2006, EPA awarded $250,000 to the non-profit Clean Air Communities to reduce community exposures to pollution in Waterfront South.
The project used educational outreach to help community groups understand local sources of air pollution, including port operations, and developed ways to further environmental health education in the community. EPA provided technical assistance and the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection provided funding for retrofits of diesel vehicles and equipment owned and operated by the South Jersey Port Corporation. The project leveraged regulatory agency resources to benefit both the ports and community while improving air quality.
For more information: Clean Air Communities Camden Waterfront Air Toxics Pilot Project
Engaging with the community on a near-term project builds goodwill and deepens relationships before tackling more challenging issues. The project could be working with the community to address a priority concern in an upcoming decision or identifying grant funding to implement a pilot program to address broader concerns. If possible, identify a strong leadership role with funding support for a central community organization. For example, depending on the project and the organization’s capacities, the community organization could lead local outreach, job training or monitoring. Investing in an early success with a community organization helps build a strong foundation for future collaborative problem-solving.
Try It Out! Charter the Community Advisory Group
Your port may have a longstanding Community Advisory Group in place, or you may have just begun to bring stakeholders together as part of a recent project. In either case, this is a good time to evaluate the Group’s membership, role and effectiveness.
Circle back to your assessment findings from Steps 1-3, and consider the following questions to identify areas to improve in your Community Advisory Group charter:
- Does the charter and process reflect the port’s community engagement policy identified in Step 1? What changes may be needed to empower the Group to ensure community goals are thoroughly considered during decision-making?
- Does the Group’s membership include representatives from a range of community groups? Were community groups identified in Step 2 that could be invited to join? Does the membership have enough balance among government, business and community sectors so that near-port community voices feel heard?
- Does the Group’s charter outline clear roles for meaningful input during the decision-making process? Does the charter clearly state the expected level of engagement from the Community Advisory Group? How will the Group’s input inform analysis, options and outcomes during decision-making? What role will the Group play in broader community outreach and engagement efforts?
- Does the Community Advisory Group’s charter and organizational structure, such as sub-committees, reflect priority community goals identified in Step 3?
Some community groups, while invested in port-related decisions, lack the resources to participate effectively. A port may need to consider creative strategies to support full and meaningful participation by these organizations. These organizations may lack full-time paid staff or office space, or face limitations on when and where staff can attend meetings if they are volunteering on top of work commitments. Finding creative solutions that address these logistical needs can allow community members to participate more effectively.
Community groups may also benefit from technical assistance to better understand the science and engineering of proposed decisions and potential impacts. Port agencies can pursue grants or other resources from partner agencies to enhance technical understanding so people can participate fully in discussions and offer informed input. In some cases, community members may be upset about cumulative impacts that have affected their friends and family. Making time to listen and document their concerns – even if they seem beyond the scope of port decisions and responsibilities – may be needed before being able to move into problem-solving mode.
The Good Neighbor Strategic Plan should include realistic timelines and performance measures that reflect community needs and concerns. Identify in advance a way to share regular progress updates such as an annual report card. To build and maintain trust with the community, the report card needs to be more than a marketing tool – It should be an accurate assessment of accomplishments and areas needing attention.
Performance measures to track progress in addressing community goals can use quantitative and qualitative indicators. Measures can include outputs that measure direct port actions – such as the number of trucks converted from using diesel fuel – as well as outcomes that measure changes in environmental quality – such as the measured reduction in particulate matter in an adjacent neighborhood. Refer back to the goals and performance measures identified in Step 3 and ensure a plan is in place for tracking and reporting progress.
Performance measures can also evaluate the effectiveness of community engagement processes. The text box below includes sample assessment questions for evaluation of community engagement impacts.
As you evaluate your community engagement effort, remember that the process is often as important as the outcomes. Reflect on these questions to assess to what degree your process achieved these goals.
- Incorporate public values into decisions.
- Did public input affect the analysis and options considered?
- Did public input affect the decision?
- What interests are at the table or being consulted?
- Improve the quality of decisions.
- Did the public provide quality information that improved the debate and decision?
- Did the public provide creative problem-solving?
- Did the public advance innovative solutions by reframing issues?
- Resolve conflict among competing interests.
- Did the public process resolve competing interests?
- Was conflict avoided because certain issues were avoided or certain stakeholders were not at the table?
- Was conflict addressed through discussion or adapting the approach?
- Increase government accountability.
- Was trust developed or nurtured among community members who participated?
- Was trust developed within the broader community?
- Educate and inform the public.
- To what degree was the affected community aware of the range of options and potential impacts?
- Was adequate assistance provided to help the public understand the technical information?