Prevalent poverty in developing countries throughout the 1950s and 1960s prompted the need to redefine what development truly meant. They needed to understand what areas of governance should be improved to combat poverty. For the first time, governments shifted their view from concluding GDP (gross domestic product) growth as the leading indicator of their economic health. Reduction in inequality, unemployment, and poverty were included to give a broader definition of what
development should be.
But therein lies a problem. How to sustain economic development? According to the World Economic Forum, the key to growth is the participation of people.
Although decades have passed since inequality, unemployment, and poverty were included in the broad definition of development, another element should be mentioned: environmental sustainability. Recent environmental catastrophes have mostly affected developing countries when climate change is the effect of developed countries’ rapid consumption of fossil fuels. That topic, however, is reserved for another article.
On the one hand, this article aims to help community leaders encourage community involvement and participation in pushing efforts towards achieving sustainability.
It has to start from somewhere. Many sustainability efforts are already in place, but they have to be implemented even at the community level. And, citizens can’t just rely on the government and private institutions. They must also do their part.
Community involvement and participation in sustainability efforts are divided into four levels: information, participation, empowerment, and consultation.
The information involves two essential parts: establishing clear goals and plans and equipping the community with the correct information.
Community leaders should initially establish goals and plans organized into a program that can be easily understood and followed by businesses and citizens in a community. Clear, well-defined goals and objectives can help everybody in the community to develop strategies to achieve sustainability. Its importance can be seen in the results of the two efforts.
First, a clear program can help organizers determine which strategies can improve their efforts. This eliminates the implementation of strategies that do not work. Second, a clear program fosters successful communication between community leaders and others involved. If people can understand what’s expected of them, they can be motivated to participate more.
If put together, community leaders can equip the community with the correct information about environmental sustainability. People need to understand why it’s required, what actions can help, and how to execute those actions. People are often hesitant to act on unfamiliar topics.
With clear goals and plans, and the correct information, it’ll be easy to convince people to participate. They will be motivated to join because the issues you’ve presented to them concern them, too.
To allow participation, make your program easy to follow and enjoyable to execute, to a degree. For example, integrate sustainability and socialization efforts or provide means for people to efficiently perform actions such as providing recycling bins in key areas around the community.
However, participation will hit a plateau if community leaders don’t know how to empower people. You can empower people in your community in a variety of ways.
When people participate, some of them would want to contribute their ideas as well. Your job is to be open when they do. Participation fosters a positive attitude that encourages people to form innovative ideas.
Recognizing efforts and rewarding them is another way to empower people in the community. If you provide the right information successfully, you can motivate people based on their environmental concerns.
However, according to the Network for Business Sustainability, if people are motivated to participate based on rewards, they will eventually stop in the long run. If you use rewards to empower people, choose rewards that can benefit the environment, too.
Finally, community leaders must consult with the authorities or municipal partners, especially if local governments are working with companies with the same sustainable goals. They can help you get the materials, equipment, and funding you need. At the same time, people in the community can be motivated if they see local leaders participating in and supporting sustainability programs.
Also, consultation with local businesses can help sustainability efforts move forward. Some actions need their support and investment. Moreover, some companies can help. There can be a hydrocarbon remediation center in your county or region. Or there can be a local business that’s recycling for profit.
The key to a successful consultation is finding a committed partner, whether a municipal office or a local business. But aside from them, collaboration with organizations that focus on sustainable goals is the most significant help you can get. Contact them and show your interest in their efforts. Inform them of your intent to apply their strategies in your community, too.
Successful Sustainability Efforts Need Everybody’s Involvement
People can’t expect change to happen only through the efforts of their leaders. For sustainability to be successful, it needs the involvement and participation of everybody. Anyway, leaders need supporters and allies.