By Idalia Cabrales

While sustainable design is starting to become standard, underserved communities are still disconnected from sustainable practices. Individuals who identify as a minority, person of color, or low income are most vulnerable to this disconnection. Facilitating the process of understanding each group’s unique needs and experiences is the first step to understanding how sustainable practices get adopted.

Facilitating this process includes having a dialogue in each group’s own language to ensure that underserved communities can be easily involved in the decision-making process. Without valuable conversations and stories from underserved groups, moving toward a healthier future for all will be delayed for years to come.

Below are five equitable engagement suggestions for facilitators:

  • Acknowledge that some communities are not familiar with the planning process; facilitators need to set the tone by creating a safe space for community members to share their expertise with others. Invite community members to have speaking roles at events regarding their experiences and their hopes for the future.
  • Provide translators at workshops, community events, and meetings in the community’s language to encourage active engagement.
  • Interpret all outreach materials and media throughout the process in the community’s language to ensure awareness of activities, workshops, meetings, etc.
  • Make it easy for people to connect with facilitators and programs by removing barriers that limit community attendance. Examples include accommodating activities on communities’ schedules, options for childcare, serving meals, etc.
  • Prioritize maintaining new relationships by not forgetting about the work you did! Organize events that bring your organization and the community together to share progress on what has and has not happened.

For effective and ethical work to take place, include underserved communities in the dialogue and activities that impact their lives.

About the Author – Idalia is Brendle Group’s planning intern and a recent graduate from the University of Missouri- Kansas City with two degrees – Urban Planning and Design and Spanish foreign language. As an urban planning student, Idalia gained experience working on community revitalization projects. She is passionate about helping deprived individuals find a healthy and safe place to live.

At Brendle Group, Idalia is supporting a variety of projects where she helps with planning analysis and engagement. When Idalia is not balancing project work and school assignments, she enjoys gardening and learning about plants.