Sunday, September 16, 2007

In Chapter 5, Agyeman does an in depth study of an organization called Alternatives for Community and Environment (ACE)—an organization which he identifies as a Just Sustainability association. Here are a few key reasons why Agyeman places ACE within the Just Sustainability Paradigm.

1) ACE is more proactive than reactive.
2) ACE uses very deliberative tools and techniques.
3) ACE focuses on a greater region (Boston) instead of a local community (Roxbury).
4) ACE builds coalitions with other groups in order to optimize its impact on the community.

Personally, I am most interested in the story that Agyeman tells about a group of young students who organized themselves around the asthma epidemic that plagued their neighborhood (Roxbury). After discovering that many Massachusetts Bay Transit Authority (MBTA) buses would remain idle in the streets of Roxbury for hours at a time, the students organized an Anti-Idling March and ultimately demanded that the MBTA pay for its reckless behavior (a sum of $1.3 million).

This case study demonstrates several important themes that we can apply to our work as socially and environmentally conscious members of society. First, we must understand that in order to initiate positive change within an area that we must humbly work alongside the members of the community in an accessible and genuine manner. Second, we must find an affective way to organize ourselves and then mobilize the community. For example, each key leader of ACE spearheads his/her own campaign and then relies on the support of local volunteers and community memhers to achieve goals. This model delegates authority and responsibilty so that ACE can adopt more issues and work with more people. Lastly, we must educate and empower residents in order to build a network of concerned people within the community. If we do not gain support from community members, then our plans will certainly fail.

In the end, I think that successful community planning truly depends upon active community involvement and that active community involvement depends upon the commitment level of the people spearheading a movement. We do not necessarily have a specific model of success to follow, but we do know that successful plans are usually carried out by people who are truly invested in their work—invested in the idea of social and environmental equity. In my mind, ACE experiences a great amount of success because the leaders of the organization are passionate about what they do and because they know how to transmit their excitement to the world around them.

No comments: