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Greenworks 2.0: Office of Sustainability Got Community Input for their Next Plan
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Greenworks 2.0: Office of Sustainability Got Community Input for their Next Plan

This entry is from SBN’s The Good Economist August 2016 edition, published by Saleem Chapman.

The Office of Sustainability Gives Preview of Greenworks 2.0

The environmental community converged upon the Innovation Lab inside the Municipal Services Building on August 9th for a sneak peek at Greenworks 2.0, the forthcoming update to the city’s sustainability plan. Building upon the success of their neighborhood discussion held in the early spring, the Office of Sustainability hosted this open house to gather additional input as the skeleton of the report nears completion.

The Innovation Lab proved an appropriate setting as the newest iteration will feature notable changes. Greenworks 2.0, scheduled for released in October, will sport a more streamlined format, structured by eight vision statement. The vision statements focus on a wide range of themes: clean energy; waste reduction; safe and affordable transportation; and education, employment, and business opportunity. And while the first Greenworks focused primarily on government-oriented action, this latest version will have an expanded scope, becoming community focused. “Government will not address this issue alone,” said Christine Knapp, Director of the Office of Sustainability.

This theme of shared responsibility and collaboration resonated with the shoulder-to-shoulder crowd as many found themselves nodding repeatedly to Knapp’s message. Her presentation should best be described as a call to action than a showcase of work. She stressed the importance of strong partnerships as Greenworks 2.0 will urge a diversity of stakeholders – government, institutions, and citizens – to engage in the advancement of the city’s sustainability goals.

Cultivating such collective investment across a city as diverse as Philadelphia is no easy undertaking. However, the Office of Sustainability appears to have a strategy for success: engage early, engage often, and listen. Accessibility, proactive outreach, and robust dialogue has made this engagement process exceptionally inclusive. Greenworks 2.0 is intended to be largely shaped by the input of those outside of government, and the open house demonstrated, once again, a commitment to this goal. Sustainability staff interacted intimately with attendees, spending a gracious amount of time discussing their area of expertise, accepting feedback, and answering questions.

These best practices in government modeled by Sustainability show tremendous promise for the continued progression of the issue. Locally, a large criticism of the sustainability has been its struggles to connect with the needs and priorities of all neighborhoods. Many wondered whether the inability to cultivate a larger support base would be a ruinous, limiting factor as the challenges become even greater and the goals more ambitious. The keen intention towards inclusivity and seeking out diverse perspectives mobilizes a greater number of residents to view sustainability not as burdensome but as opportunistic. They begin to see it a framework to address other chronic issues.

Deliberate action to bridge sustainability’s long-standing disconnect extends beyond broad public engagement. The Office has prioritized evidence-based decisionmaking as a means of tailoring interventions and effective resource targeting. This requires a comprehensive understanding of how neighborhoods are currently performing, which makes this last innovation so exciting. Scheduled to follow the release of Greenworks 2.0, likely in early 2017, is a publicly-accessible data visualization tool that will display information on how neighborhoods are achieving in metrics such as tree canopy and recycling rates.

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Saleem Chapman is Policy and Advocacy Manager at the Sustainable Business Network of Greater Philadelphia (SBN). In this role, Saleem is leading SBN’s policy and advocacy function, engaging members in the campaign, mobilizing and building support amongst organizational allies, and working with policymakers to implement our recommended policies. Before joining SBN, Saleem spent numerous years as an environmental justice advocate, developing strategies to reduce the disproportionate environmental health risk of low-income and communities of color. View all posts by Saleem Chapman

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