Environmental Empowerment in Historically-Excluded Communities in the Washington, DC Region: Lessons Learned and Recommendations for Replication

Nature Forward works to reach families in their communities—near where people live, work, and go to school—and connect them to nearby nature through engaging, hands-on activities and trainings. We work with community leaders, partner organizations, and of course, empowered community members.

Since 2019, we have been building these programs in partnership with community-based organizations and community leaders in several specific locations – neighborhoods along Little Hunting Creek in Fairfax County, VA; along Long Branch stream in Montgomery County, MD; and along Oxon Run in Ward 8, DC. In fall 2022 we developed a report telling the stories of these programs, analyzing lessons learned, and making recommendations for replication. Scroll down to view and download our report!

In November 2022, our team presented the report at the Chesapeake Watershed Forum in Shepherdstown, WV. Nature Forward staff Gregg Trilling, Renee Grebe, Jamoni Overby, and Denisse Guitarra were joined by our partner Tamara Cobbs of United Community.

Many of these partnership programs are ongoing – learn more about them and upcoming events and activities on our Community Outreach Programs page.

Executive Summary

Nature Forward has developed multiple partnerships throughout the Washington, DC region with both watershed groups and social-service and community organizations excited to bring environmental programming to their communities (mostly comprised of people of color, in low to moderate income neighborhoods). This case study shares what we have learned through partnerships in three communities – how to plan, approach, and fund a new partnership; how to develop programming that meets the community’s specific interests and needs; and how to build on relationships and trust to deepen skill-building that empowers community members to engage in environmental decision-making around redevelopment, transit planning, stream restoration, park renovations, and more. We share insights, stories, and lessons learned that will be useful for other organizations, grant funders, or environmental agencies interested in replicating or funding similar projects.

Read the Report