From Risk to Resiliency — A Model for Community Engagement

Nurture Nature Center’s model for community dialogue programs, From Risk to Resiliency, was developed with support from National Science Foundation and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. NNC’s work in dialogue began in 2009 with an NSF-funded Flood Forum Project that took place after three devastating floods hit the Lehigh Valley, Pennsylvania in 2004, 2005, and 2006. NNC hosted community discussions about flooding in three of the hardest hit communities. Through work on the Flood Forum Project, NNC recognized that people were eager to learn the science behind risks like flooding that threatened their homes or communities, and NNC has expanded its dialogue events to cover other local and regional environmental risks topics.

The intent of our dialogue program is to ground discussion in sound science and to deliberate for improved community resiliency. NNC’s format is to offer a science-based presentation that does not advocate for any one side, followed by deliberative discussion. People value the opportunity to share their own stories and experiences with others.

The From Risk to Resiliency guidebook can be found here.

Key Highlights From Our Dialogue Programming

  • Urgent local environmental risk motivates science learning
  • Recruit attendees using personal community connections and intensive neighborhood-based outreach
  • Motivate people to participate by sharing their feedback with decision makers
  • Design programs to reflect community expressed perspectives and needs for practical information
  • Gather knowledge and experience (stories) of community before forum; use this knowledge to develop forum programming
  • Talk to decision makers before forum. Base questions, in part, on what information they need or want to know
  • Use exhibits and art to help draw nonscientists into conversation and science learning, particularly if exhibit reflects their experience
  • Hold events in community meeting places to help engage people and value their sense of community
  • Draw on expertise of scientists who participate as one of many expert voices in conversations about science and factors that mitigate risks