Nurture Nature Center’s model for community dialogue programs, From Risk to Resiliency, has been in development since 2009. After three devastating floods hit Lehigh Valley, Pennsylvania, in 2004, 2005, and 2006, Nurture Nature Center hosted community discussions about flooding in three of the hardest hit communities, with support from the National Science Foundation and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Through this initial work, they found that their audiences were eager to learn about the science behind risks that threaten their communities and decided to expand their dialogue events to cover other environmental risk topics. The center’s method focuses on addressing topics of environmental risk that members of the local community are already concerned about and engaging them in learning the science behind that topic.
How to Use
The guidebook, From Risk to Resiliency: Better Communities Through Science Learning About Local Environmental Risks, emphasizes the importance of first speaking with community members to identify the most pressing topics. It offers ways to improve engagement, such as taking local knowledge into account when designing events, using art and exhibits to draw people in, and offering a variety of formats. The guidebook illuminates how terms common in scientific circles may have a different meaning to the public, such as theory, uncertainty, and values. At the end of each community discussion, the goal is to create recommendations that can be delivered to decision makers. The final pages of their guidebook include a checklist of the steps involved in holding a forum that can address the real needs and interests of a local community.