Anacostia Park and Community Collaborative (APACC) has been leading the discussion about meaningfully engaging and including diverse voices in decision-making on important issues like climate change, land development and resilience. While these issues are often addressed through government plans and programs, community organizations like APACC’s members—and the people we serve—face the reality and impacts of these issues in our daily lives and work.
APACC is a diverse organization comprised of several types of non-profit organizations including environmental advocates, religious bodies and social service organizations, some based in Wards 7 and 8 and some with a broader focus. The goal of our initiative is to bring together organizations that are vested in the development of the area surrounding the Anacostia River to create and implement a vision of an equitable, sustainable, and resilient corridor, with a particular focus on the east side of the river.
I am the Community Partnership Manager for the East River Family Strengthening Collaborative (ERFSC), which is a member of APACC. Although ERFSC has not historically worked on environmental issues, our involvement with APACC is invaluable in ensuring that the voices of residents and communities affected by environmental issues are heard. These issues include planning for the future of the Anacostia River waterfront, responding to the effects of climate change and building resilience in East-of-the-River communities.
In recent months, ERFSC and our APACC partners have helped convene conversations between government agencies and local stakeholders. In February, we hosted a conversation with DOEE about its Climate Ready DC Plan at the Dorothy Heights Library, and in March we hosted a conversation between the National Park Service and many stakeholders about the future of Anacostia Park.
As a result of our work, ERFSC was asked to present at two conferences to discuss the ways in which climate change and the development of urban parks effects underserved communities, and how meaningful partnerships with diverse constituents can be created.
National Adaptation Forum May 9 – 11
Saint Paul, Minnesota
The Department of Energy and Environment (DOEE) asked APACC member organizations to participate with them in a workshop on equity-centered climate preparedness planning in St Paul, MN on May 8, in advance of the National Adaptation Forum May 9 - 11. ERFSC, along with and Groundwork DC and the Anacostia Waterfront Trust, were asked to participate on behalf of APACC.
This full-day interactive workshop engaged teams of local government representatives and community organization representatives from cities across the country as well as Toronto, Canada.
This workshop discussed how we can cultivate collaborative efforts across community-based organizations working in impacted communities and local governments dedicated to ensuring that equity is at the center of our engagement and planning efforts. We participated in various activities to assess if the programming and services that we offer are indeed strategies for effective community-led programming, or if those efforts are simply ways to ‘check boxes’ and satisfy outcomes with strategies that do not support sustainable change within communities.
We discussed DC’s Climate Ready Plan and shared the work of APACC and our February 2, 2017 convening of local community-servicing organizations and government entities where we discussed the plan and how to engage communities. Other city teams shared the work that they are doing to build partnerships between government and community based organizations.
The largest take-a-way from this workshop was the importance of nurturing authentic partnerships between community leaders/members and local governmental officials, and how essential this is in are fostering sustainable changes and creating equitable supports for families in the communities that we serve.
8th Annual Choose Clean Water Conference May 23-24
The Anacostia Watershed Society (AWS) reached out to APACC members to submit a joint proposal to present at the 8th Annual Choose Clean Water Conference. We were invited to discuss the activities underway in the Anacostia Watershed to restore the river and to improve access for the residents in those often-times underserved communities in the Anacostia Watershed footprint.
I presented our topic, “Diversifying Your Partnership: The Anacostia Experience,” alongside Jim Foster, Executive Director of the Anacostia Watershed Society, Pastor Keith D. Kitchen of Zion Baptist Church of Eastland Gardens, and Erin Garnaas-Holmes, Project Director with the Anacostia Waterfront Trust.
We provided the audience with insights on how to increase the diversity of partners working on climate, parks and clean water. We then led participants through an asset mapping exercise that reveal ways to foster meaningful relationships and create equitable supports for communities. We asked participants to identify the organizations that they are actively involved with, assess how meaningful their engagement and strategies are and identify potential new ways to equitably engage their communities and expand their outreach.
We also encouraged participants to ensure that planning and implementation projects are community-led, and that the voices of the residents are at the table as early in the planning process as possible.
As DC launches its resilience efforts and as DOEE works to continue to implement its Climate Ready DC plan, ERFSC and APACC will be ready to partner with these government agencies to help shape the community conversation about them.