Community Weaving

What Is Community Weaving?

Community weaving is a new way of looking at environmental education, where environmental outcomes are achieved by addressing community needs. Community weaving is different from traditional partnerships, collaborations and networks in that it demands the formation of new and deeper relationships between environmental education practitioners and community organizations that may not have traditionally thought of each other as partners. For example, many communities throughout Colorado are practicing environmental education - through healthy eating initiatives, urban gardening, spiritual organizations, art, and more - but they do not self-identify with environmental education. Currently, there is a lack of awareness of how to connect community partners with environmental partners and visa versa. Through community weaving, diverse organizations find alignment in their missions and work together for the mutual benefit of all entities. The benefits of community weaving are that it increases the relevancy of environmental education to a wider and more diverse audience, broadens the environmental community's own perspective of what environmental education looks like, and ultimately leads to a more efficient and systematic look at solutions to both environmental and social issues.  

Community Weaving in Practice

At the 2016 Advancing Environmental Education Conference, community weaving workshop participants learned about four successful community weaving partnerships and crowd-sourced ideas about the practices are that make community weaving efforts successful. Four best-practices were identified, including:

Create Organizational Value - Think about the internal culture of your organization and ensure that everyone is on board with open communication and acceptance of new and/or different perspectives before moving forward. An organization may need to do some work with its own staff addressing any internal issues before it is ready to work with new partners before connecting with those partners. Develop relevance for a new partnership effort throughout each organization by getting buy-in from all staff so that a community weaving effort goes beyond individual staff relationships and agendas and can live on when staff turnover occurs. 

Seek Reciprocity - The most successful community weaving efforts are those in which the organizations that are part of those efforts are equitable and balanced. It is important to find and recognize something of value that every partner can bring to the community weaving effort. An organization does not need to bring money to the table but can bring strengths and expertise in different areas needed for a successful partnership.  

Define Shared Vision - Community weaving efforts are challenging because each organization may begin with a very different mission and focus of work. Work with one another to find the common threads, goals, and purposes in the missions of each different organization. Consider realigning or expanding an organization's mission to better fit the community needs. 

Build Consensus - At the beginning of a new effort build consensus around how the work will happen, how conflicts will be resolved and what is expected of each partner.

Community Weaving in Action

Stories of Community Weaving

The information from the Conference Workshop mentioned above was captured in the graphic recording below (click here for a larger version of the graphic). Click on dots throughout the graphic to view short videos highlighting key community weaving examples and best practices. Then, click on the short video clips below to learn more about evaluating the strength of community weaving partnerships.

Click on dots throughout the graphic to view short videos highlighting key community weaving examples and best practices. Then, click on the short video clips below to learn more about evaluating the strength of community weaving partnerships.


Evaluating Community Weaving Partnerships

On August 30, 2016, Ana Soler with The Civic Canopy in Denver, presented on how to ensure our community weaving efforts are effective. Her webinar is broken down into four short video clips each highlighting a different step in the partner development and evaluation process.

Read more about community weaving in Colorado and the process that developed these resources below:

Colorado's Community Weaving Efforts

Through an EECapacity grant from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the Colorado Alliance for Environmental Education helped to put together a learning community of thought leaders in environmental education and the larger community. The goal of the team was to develop tools that others in the state (and around the country) could use to increase the relevancy of environmental education by engaging new and more diverse organizations in achieving mutually beneficial outcomes. Changing the way we look at environmental education is a large and long process; however, this work was one step in starting the conversation.

Project Process

In order to develop resources that others could use to begin new community weaving efforts, the learning community reached out to key community connectors to identify successful community weaving efforts that involved environmental outcomes. Successful community weaving efforts were defined as those involving multiple partners from diverse sectors, disciplines and backgrounds. After identifying an initial list of successfully community weaving efforts, the team began unpacking how to weave community needs with environmental education, including where to find new partners, how to make a partnership successful, and how to measure the success of a community weaving effort. In order to tease out these important pieces, a series of case studies were presented at Colorado’s EE Conference and through webinars in 2016.