Promoting Professional Development and Best Practice in EE
Supporting State Infrastructure
Supporting state and provincial “infrastructure” that enables educators to effectively teach about environmental issues [“state capacity building”].
Strong and well-coordinated leadership and infrastructure are essential to sustaining high-quality environmental education over the long term at the state, provincial, and national levels. This requires leaders at the state level who are working in concert on carefully planned strategies to advance their EE efforts and prepare more educators to reach broader and more diverse audiences. NAAEE is helping state leadership teams from within the NAAEE Affiliate Network to develop and grow the knowledge and skills they need to advance these efforts. Drawing on research on capacity building and input from state leaders, NAAEE and Affiliate leaders are identifying the ideal structures and programs needed on the state level to sustain environmental education for diverse audiences in formal and non-formal settings over the long-term. We developed an organizational assessment tool (OAT) for states to use to determine their strengths and gaps with regard to this model, and identify areas where training will assist them in building their capacity for effective and far-reaching environmental education.
In June 2017, ten states participated in a pilot weeklong Leadership Clinic to develop capacity-building skills, examine strategies for strengthening state infrastructure, and initiate an action plan. The content of the Leadership Clinic was guided by the key needs of the participating states, as well as cutting-edge issues that NAAEE and our research team have identified as needs in the field, including training in cultural competency, developing strategic partnerships, and using collective impact research to address key issues in the state; connecting EE and community resiliency; and organizational development. The Center for Diversity and the Environment served as a training partner, along with other expert nonprofit consultants.
A follow-up meeting for the 10 leadership teams was planned for the NAAEE conference, along with an Affiliate Workshop open to all state Affiliate leaders. After the cancellation of the conference, these two meetings were redesigned into a joint two-day Affiliate Leadership Workshop, which was held January 2018 at the Asilomar Conference Center in Pacific Grove, California. The agendas were blended so the 10 leadership teams continued to network and build on the outcomes of the June Leadership Clinic, and representatives from an additional 24 Affiliate organizations benefitted from their experiences. These 24 Affiliates have also completed the OAT and will use the results to identify priority goal areas for strengthening infrastructure and building their capacity to serve educators and increase environmental literacy in their states. Major emphasis was placed on showcasing successes and lessons learned, providing training in essential skills, and collaborating to address challenges common to all Affiliates. Leadership teams will continue to participate in advanced training and have the opportunity to work together and learn from each other as they develop next steps for their states. In 2018, states will have developed action plans to increase coordination, reduce duplication, train educators in new educational strategies that help teach about environmental issues, and nurture strong organizations and agencies.