Using Collective Impact to Shape Environmental Education

In spring 2012, Earth Force received an exciting opportunity to build a Collective Impact strategy in the Midwest. Supported and funded by the Building Environmental Education Communities Small Grants Program through EPA Region 7, we awarded over $92,000 in grants to five communities throughout the Midwest.

As a result, partners in Columbia, MO; St. Louis, MO (2); Kansas City, KS; and Manhattan, KS, created diverse collaboratives to work towards a common agenda of engaging young people in multiple and meaningful environmental educational opportunities as a means of creating deeper educational experiences. These community leaders recognized the importance of coming together around a common goal in order to tackle tough issues and create positive change in their communities.

Each community is bringing big players to the table, including: city and state government, universities, grassroots organizations, non-profits, faith-based institutions, and of course, youth. Partners report that youth experienced more in-depth learning opportunities; together, the organizations built higher quality programs; and partners credit Collective Impact as a key component in creating sustainable partnerships that will last beyond a grant period.

“…When we first arrived, [it] got real!"

“…When we first arrived, [it] got real!”

One partner spoke of their experience, saying “…When we first arrived, [it] got real. We were in a real semi-wildlife habitat. The [aquatic] net was placed underneath the water and lifted, revealing the variety species of water bugs that inhabited the creek. The youth became active with these bugs and even could identify them.”

By bringing together groups of actors from different sectors to focus on creating more intentional and interactive experiences for young people, we are changing the educational landscape. To learn more about Collective Impact, check out Embracing Emergence: How Collective Impact Addresses Complexity in the Stanford Social Innovation Review.