Education and Awareness Programs
What is it?
Education and Awareness Programs seek to inform municipal citizens and stakeholders on issues important to the municipality and the community, with the intent of creating some sort of behavioural change. Such programs generally seek to provide awareness of municipal initiatives, increasing understanding of how a decision was made, and in turn support for the initiative. This is a broad category, and can include everything from adult literacy to social marketing to classroom-based education.
How can municipalities use it?
Education and Awareness Programs can build broad awareness of the importance of the natural infrastructure system, along with solutions citizens can implement daily that reduce their individual impact on the system. Municipalities can incorporate education programs into strategies and plans as a key component of implementation. For example, a municipality can initiate a program that educates citizens on the naturalization of a particular park, ensuring citizens understand the benefits of the decision, thereby creating support for future naturalization efforts. As well, municipalities can support education programs through partnering with organizations that specialize in environmental education.
What are the advantages?
Education and Awareness Programs can have the following advantages:
Provides willing citizens with resources needed to adopt practices beneficial to natural infrastructure
Can proactively create support for yet-to-be implemented initiatives
Can be strategically targeted at specific initiatives where natural infrastructure understanding may be low
May be significantly less expensive, both financially and reputationally, than crisis management
Can decrease public resistance to regulatory changes
What should you watch out for?
No tool is a silver bullet. There are some considerations to be made about Education and Awareness Programs:
Resources are required to develop and administer education programs
Education alone does not necessarily lead to behavior change
Programs need to be ‘behaviourally focused’, with a clear indication of the desired change in behaviour
Programs may be very long term to generate the desired outcome
May not have time to implement a program in the face of rapid land conversion
How can it help maintain natural infrastructure?
Education and Awareness Programs can raise citizen awareness of the importance of the natural infrastructure system, and lead to support for municipal actions that protect the system. This helps to ensure that a municipality can continue to reach environmental goals. As well, education programs can encourage citizens to adopt “green’ practices and become stewards of natural infrastructure.
The Way We Green, Edmonton – Edmonton's 30-year environmental strategic plan includes education and outreach as the essential first stage of garnering the community support necessary to implement the plan.
Call of the Wetland, Calgary – The City of Calgary partnered with the Miistakis Institute, Alberta Conservation Association, and the Calgary Zoo to carry out a three-year citizen science project that educated citizens on wetland conservation issues, while gathering important information on amphibians in Calgary, filling a data gap.
Mayor’s Environment Expo, Calgary – The annual Mayor's Environment Expo is held in conjunction with National Environment Week with the goal to empower and educate Calgary’s youth to practice and promote environmental actions, shaping a healthier and greener city for tomorrow.
Riparian Strategy: Sustaining Healthy Rivers and Communities – The City of Calgary developed this document to guide the protection, restoration and management of riparian areas in the City. Part their plan includes educational programming.
Green Bylaws Toolkit: for conserving sensitive ecosystems and green infrastructure – This document is an important resource for understanding how municipalities and developers can safeguard the environment, from a regional to a site level. It clearly explains each tool, and provides case studies and examples of bylaws that are in use in British Columbia. This document describes the importance of public education as a proactive approach to preventing environmental harm.
Did we miss something?
If you know of a resource that should be on this list - or your municipality has a sample or case that should be here, please let us know!