After conducting extensive research on our partnering organization Oregon Humanities, learning the “what,” “who,” and “how” of effective environmental engagement, interviewing with Executive Director of Oregon Humanities Adam Davis, and a series of brainstorming sessions, my team and I have created our engagement project proposal to wrap up our semester in ENVS 295. Essentially, for our theoretical project we would implement our own virtual Conversation Project surrounding how our personal connections to land and the biophysical world influence not only which lands we choose to protect and manage, but how we protect and manage them. This same Conversation Project would take place in the Portland metropolitan area, Eastern Oregon, and Southern Oregon. Therefore, this Conversation Project, as inspired by the recent actions taken by Oregon Humanities in response to the coronavirus, would be virtual to ensure more people can participate and to facilitate engagement across distances. Taking inspiration from the research of Broockman and Kalla, we would implement a series of surveys for participants to fill out over the course of six months, which would measure the long-term impacts of dialogical engagement. Lastly, we would compare the data taken from the survey geographically to understand how people think differently depending on the region in which they live.
This particular post explains “how” we would plan to implement our project, for more information on “what” our project encompasses and “who” we would want to be involved, check out my other team members’ posts!
Before we are able to launch the Conversation Projects, we need to spread the word about them. Therefore, our first step in bringing this to reality would be to meet again with Davis to discuss strategies for advertising. Some potential ways to advertise include posting our upcoming Conversation Projects on the Oregon Humanities website, advertising them in newspapers, radio stations or on social media, and directly reaching out to indigenous tribes and environmental interest groups in the various locations the conversations will be held.
Because our Conversation Projects will be over a video conference platform, it may be beneficial to have a trial run in order to work out any kinks before the actual conversations. After we ensure smooth sailing, we would then launch the conversations. The conversations would be led by a trained facilitator, who could possibly be an Oregon Humanities employee or an ENVS 295 student who has taken on this project, given they have received the proper training.
The conversations would begin by the facilitator asking participants to imagine a particular place they feel connected to, and they would encourage participants to jot down their thoughts or even sketch out a picture of the landscape on a piece of paper. Then, participants will be asked one-by-one to share their location with the group and the reasons why they hold it dear. After this sharing of personal experiences and memories, the facilitator would then ask the participants to imagine their landscapes being developed and destroyed, and then to share their thoughts and feelings. Then, the facilitator would transition the conversation to asking questions surrounding why we choose to protect and manage certain pieces of land over others, who should be the ones to manage and protect these lands, and how should we protect and manage various natural areas. Potentially, participants who connected with the same sorts of landscapes could be placed into a breakout room, where they will discuss management and protection of these specific areas, and return to the rest of the group afterwards to debrief. At the end of the conversation, the facilitator will provide resources for participants to take further action on this topic and the link to the first survey.
Due to the virtual nature of our conversations, the surveys will similarly be online. The easiest way for participants to answer the survey and for us to receive results is to have the survey in a Google Form format. In order to get the survey to the participants, the conversation facilitators will share the link to the survey directly after the conversations finish. On this initial survey, participants will be asked for their email, and facilitators will inform participants that in providing their email they consent to receiving the future surveys. Moreover, participants will be told that the purpose of the surveys is to assess the long-term impacts of conversation-based engagement, and that they were organized by Environmental Studies students of Lewis and Clark College. While they are voluntary, participants will be encouraged to fill them out, and perhaps we will offer an incentive for them to do so. Therefore, we would send them the online survey one day, one week, one month, three months, and six months after the date of the conversation. Participants would fill it out and send their results to us via email.
While our theoretical project is ambitious, as it involves numerous components, it would be a fascinating, hands-on study of the effectiveness of conversation-based engagement and how location impacts thought and responsiveness. Although our team does not actually get to see this project to life, we hope that future students will be able to do so. At least, we hope that the groundwork we have worked so hard to lay out will be of inspiration to future 295 students, and they may use our ideas as a jumping-off point.