Maximizing Engagement Across the Rural/Urban Divide
Environmental engagement takes a variety of different things into account when considering different approaches. Three things we’ve looked closely at over the summer and have applied to our research on and work with Healthy Democracy are the who, the what and the how of engagement. The what focuses on the specific problem and issue, the how on the connections with people that you build, and the who on who the audience and participants are. In our work with Healthy Democracy we have come up with a plan to expand on and increase the impact of some of the work they do by using the engagement tools we have learned about in this course. There will be separate posts covering the what and the how and this post will cover the significance of the who with our approach.
When we discussed the who of engagement in this course one of our main focuses was on stakeholder analysis which we learned about from the Luyet article A Framework to Implement Stakeholder Participation in Environmental Projects. In this article he highlights the importance of taking stakeholders into consideration, engaging with them, and how to identify them. Stakeholders are identified as actors with agency who not only will be impacted through projects but have an important voice in the process. When it comes to identifying stakeholders in the process of improving democracy in Oregon around environmental issues, identification is quite broad. Our focus is on the divide between rural and urban living Oregonians and their different opinions which are relevant and important to any projects attempting to bridge that divide
Healthy Democracy is focused on uniting Oregonians with the work that they do. There is a significant divide between rural and urban populations in the state. In the 2019 legislative session many republican legislators fled the state so that there wouldn’t be a quorum and multiple more progressive leaning bills couldn’t be voted on. This was done to represent and work for their constituents who felt underrepresented in politics. I think that this is one example of not only the divide between the interests of rural and urban parts of the state, but also how broken aspects of the democratic process are here. Much of Health Democracy’s work is to improve upon these relationships and foster better communication strategies and understanding for future disagreements.
For the who of our project, we focused on expanding the work of Community OregonThe goal of Community Oregon is to bring people together who come from a variety of experiences and knowledge backgrounds and help them build skills to communicate effectively both with each other and people they encounter in their day to day lives. We felt that this approach was very effective for beginning to foster connections between different people across the state, but could reach more. Community Oregon focuses on working with community leaders and gives them skills and perspective that they can bring back to their communities. While this is beneficial, there are more people across the state than just leaders who can benefit from improving their communications and understanding of people with different experiences and perspectives.
Our approach uses Zoom and meets once a month to increase the accessibility and frequency of these meetings. With this change, the hope is that more people outside of community leadership will be able to participate. Narrowing the divide between rural and urban Oregon can begin with scholars and community leaders but ultimately is dependent on as many Oregonian’s as possible with no ties to activism making an effort to increase their understanding and camaraderie with one another. Real change comes from everyday Oregonians and our increase in scope works to include more of them in the process of Community Oregon–improving our democracy in the process.
Luyet, Vincent, Rodolphe Schlaepfer, Marc B. Parlange, and Alexandre Buttler. 2012. “A Framework to Implement Stakeholder Participation in Environmental Projects.” Journal of Environmental Management 111 (November): 213–19. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jenvman.2012.06.026.