Introduction

The inaugural 2016 National Funding Resources and Training Summit to Revitalize Vulnerable Communities brought together a  diverse range  of  stakeholders  and sectors to provide participants with a  wide array of  best practices, networks,  resources, tools and techniques  to build  healthy, sustainable and economically thriving  communities. The Summit sought to  foster  the building of long‐lasting, collaborative partnerships and expand the collective capacity to support our  most vulnerable communities on their journey of moving from “Surviving to Thriving.” The Summit sounded a call to action to shift paradigms and rewrite the false narratives that say  investing in these communities doesn’t make sense  and doesn’t yield positive results. Communities, when given the opportunities, tools, and resources, can speak  for themselves and move  from surviving to  thriving creating positive economic  change, reducing negative environmental exposures and improving health  outcomes.

To  further level the  playing  field for all vulnerable and environmentally overburdened communities, and empower them to move from merely  surviving to thriving, the Summit was organized under the following set of guiding principles: 

  • Establish a community driven approach in the conceptualization,  development, organization, and implementation of  the  October  25‐ 26, 2016 Summit.
  • Build upon the model of  community‐based, community driven processes to solve local problems, identify risk and reduce  exposure to pollution.
  • Empower communities to develop their own environmental expertise  and  organizational capacity to address their self‐identified needs and concerns.
  • Ensure that the definition of community emphasize multi‐stakeholder partnerships between local residents, grassroots and community‐based organizations, the businesses sector and government.

To increase accessibility, the opening and closing plenaries and one session from  each track were video streamed live over the  two‐day Summit.  Remote participants  were  able to  download content,  ask questions, post comments through a variety of communications channels including social media, email updates, and  interactive activities via the Summit website.

The Summit  interactive  technology team pursued  a  three  pronged  approach  to engaging  in‐person and remote participants before, during,  and  after  the two‐day event. Prior to the  event, the primary  communications channels used to  promote the  Summit  and  build community were the Summit website and social media. Both channels also remained active and engaging  during the two‐day Summit, while also serving as valuable resources for the emerging Summit community as demonstrated by sustained engagement  and activity following  the  event. In  addition to the  website and social media activity, two full days of Summit activities were streamed live via webinar, creating a highly  engaging  environment and rich  interactive experience  for Summit participants unable to attend  in person.  The  webinar  supported live  video  from inside the presentation room (including shots of presenters  and audience),  live audio from  inside the room  and remote participants on the phone, all media  presentation, and interactive polling  and  chat applications to  mirror active  participation in  the room.

Over 300  in‐person participants and 110 remote access participants attended from a variety of stakeholder sectors (e.g., federal/tribal/state/local government,  non‐governmental organizations, EJ  communities; business/industry, and academia.   Participants represented geographic diversity ranging  from  the  Pacific  Northwest in  Seattle, WA, the upper mid‐west in Minneapolis, Minnesota;  the Gulf Coast in New Orleans, LA; and  the Northeast  in New York.

The  Summit dialogue  was  framed with four  plenary discussions and organized around the  following  three tracks that were developed  collaboratively through cross‐sector  planning  workgroups:

  • Just Transition Workforce Development Training
  • Business Opportunities & Access to Financial Resources
  • Health and Environmental Resources

The plenaries and tracks are summarized in this synopsis. More  detail, including track‐leads, speakers, partners, sponsor and exhibitors,  is provided in the Program Agenda  and Eco‐Café Guide.    

In addition, Infinite Earth Radio  has released a  series of companion podcast episodes featuring Mustafa Ali and several of the Summit’s track leads. The multi‐part series  takes  a deep  dive into  environmental justice, the Summit’s three tracks, and how to  move vulnerable communities from surviving to thriving.    
Listen in on iTunes,  infiniteearthradio.com.