The guidebook outlines five characteristics for "environmental education that successfully engages communities" in building community partnerships that advance community priorities and well-being:
- "Community Centered" and "anchored . . . within the context of community interests, issues, and capacities"
- "Based on Sound Environmental Education Principles" and "proven practices of the field"
- "Collaborative and Inclusive", valuing and incorporating diversity and equity
- "Oriented Toward Capacity Building and Civic Action"
- "A Long-Term Investment in Change", committed to building sustainable relationships
Each characteristic has several guidelines or indicators that provide more information about how each characteristic appears in community engagement practices. The North American Association for Environmental Education (NAAEE) developed the characteristics and guidelines through a deliberative process of "critique and consensus" across diverse groups of stakeholders and an interdisciplinary group of experts in education, partnerships, equity, and many other areas relevant to community science. They build on best practices across education, social change, community development, communication, sociology, management, government, and business.
How to Use
The guidebook was designed "by environmental educators, for environmental educators" who want to partner with communities to strengthen community environmental quality, social quality, prosperity, and capacity to pursue community goals. The five characteristics and related indicators provide a clear and helpful set of guidelines for strategizing, assessing, and adapting collaborations with communities, which can transfer to building collaborations for community science as well. Each characteristic and indicator or guideline also has a much more detailed description with case studies to illustrate the guidelines in practice.
The last half of the guidebook provides 25 tools and additional resources for better understanding and enacting some of the principles to build effective community partnerships. These include tools that address many of the attributes and outcomes of community science described in our framework for community science. Resources focus on how to map, assess, and build with community strengths, determine organizational readiness for community partnerships, and enhance all partners' capacity for effective change. They also include resources on how to design for civic engagement, why and how to build equity into all partnerships and effective approaches to do so, and how to address and resolve conflicts as they emerge. Each resource can be referenced and used on its own or in connection with the rest of the resources and guidelines.