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Environment Overview

Challenges Facing Environmental Organizations Today

Environmental groups work to protect the environment and build a sustainable society while attempting to serve communities and constituent groups apparently polarized around conflicting goals. Shifting political winds can affect funding and undermine hard won legal or legislative victories. One challenge environmental groups constantly face is the need to forge common ground in a deeply adversarial environment.

Here is a way one community came together to talk about the environmental issues facing their region.

A Future Search in Tuolumne County, California

In Tuolumne County, California-where polarization over environmental and development issues had built seemingly hopeless rifts in the community-a future search brought environmentalists together with business leaders, government agencies, community members and others for three days of engaged dialogue. Future search was chosen by a local elected official who felt the polarization had become unbearable. A planning team met for the better part of a year to bring the necessary voices around the table. The future search resulted in a natural resource team, which is still meeting and working on behalf of the community-over 5 years later! Participants found it so valuable, that it was brought to other communities in the region facing similar issues.


Future Search as a Tool for Environmental Organizations

The effective use of resources and effective mobilization of constituencies is critical to environmental organizations.

Future search brings all elements of an organization or community together in a collaborative dynamic that can help communities and non-profits grapple effectively with both internal and external issues. It can help like-minded people build an effective constituency for change. At the same time, it is powerful for discovering common ground in situations where real or imagined conflicts have made dialogue difficult or impossible. Future search builds on shared perspectives without requiring participants to compromise their beliefs or values in any way.

Ways Future Search can Help Environmental Organizations:

  • Build more effective organizations,

  • Move deadlocked issues forward by engaging all involved parties in a way that builds deep buy-in and wide support,

  • Engage all voices - staff, board members, donors and volunteers, community members, agency counterparts, business leaders, even adversaries - to build a common vision and commitment,

  • Support engagement in communities where polarization has seemed to stifle all hope or in situations where capacity and resources seemed at an all time low,

  • Bring large groups of people together in successful dialogue where they can learn about and appreciate their commonalties, rather than focus on their differences,

  • Lay the groundwork - based on an honest assessment of realities - for moving into effective and collective action,

  • Help groups build effective coalitions to address large scale challenges,

  • Establish solid working relationships among varied sectors (government, NGO's, scientists, citizen groups, commercial interests, and more),

  • Help groups devise legislative or policy strategies for regional, national, and international issues,

  • Bring together all voices to design management plans to preserve habitats, save endangered species, protect watersheds, conserve undeveloped land, and reclaim urban and commercial sites.







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