What is your motivation for completing the Community-Based Environmental Management (CBEM) Certificate program?
Having worked on community-based conservation projects before coming to Duke, I was very cognizant of the fact that the nature and degree of local community involvement is often a determining factor in the success of environmental work. I pursued the CBEM certificate because I wanted to build skills and knowledge in integrating local needs and interests with environmental management efforts.
What have been some of the most interesting courses or projects you have been involved in as part of the CBEM Certificate program (can include your MP and/or your summer internship)?
The courses that I took in Environmental Conflict Resolution and Participatory Techniques both involved simulations that allowed us to actually practice the techniques for stakeholder engagement, facilitation, and negotiation that we learned. I was also able to practice outside the classroom as a volunteer scribe in a regional visioning process as part of my work in the Participatory Techniques class.
Tell us a little bit about the project that you did for the CBEM Practicum and about your MP, particularly any aspects that were CBEM-focused.
My CBEM practicum involved an organizational assessment for Roanoke River Partners, an economic development organization centered on sustainable ecotourism in the Roanoke River basin of North Carolina. Through interviews with the board and site visits to the Roanoke basin I helped the incoming Executive Director identify strengths and weaknesses of the organization as well as strategies for growth and increased community engagement.
For my masters project, I tested an emerging planning technique called backcasting. I used this technique to explore the future of water supply in the Cape Fear River basin. This process involved interviewing professionals from various agencies and organizations working in the basin to understand socio-ecological trends and dynamics in the Cape Fear. I then designed and facilitated a participatory backcasting workshop attended by environmental and policy experts from the basin. Throughout this collaborative visioning process, I used skills and knowledge gained in my CBEM courses and projects.
What have been the three most valuable “lessons learned” about how to work with communities that you have taken away from the CBEM Certificate program?
- Most of all: listen.
- Genuinely and respectfully seek to understand. Ask informed and thoughtful questions and think about how those questions might be perceived by individuals and in the context of the community’s history.
- Look for opportunities for mutual gain.
These are pretty general things that I might have been able to say coming in, but now I feel that I have the skills to actually do them well.
How has your participation in the CBEM Certificate program informed your decisions about the career path you would like to take after leaving the Nicholas School?
My experiences in the CBEM program have confirmed my belief that more inclusive processes produce more effective environmental outcomes in the long run. Expanding the meaningful participation of communities in environmental management is definitely challenging enough to make up a lifetime of interesting work!