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.