Future Search and the Environment
Environmental groups work to protect the environment and build a sustainable society while attempting to serve communities and constituent groups that are often polarized around conflicting goals. Shifting political winds can affect funding and undermine hard won legal or legislative victories. One challenge environmental groups constantly face is the need to forge common ground if the community has deeply adversarial factions.
A Future Search in Tuolumne County, California
In Tuolumne County, California where polarization over environmental and development issues had built seemingly hopeless rifts in the community, a Future Search brought environmentalists together with business leaders, government agencies, community members and loggers for a tumultuous three days of engaged dialogue. Future Search was chosen by a local elected official who felt the polarization had become unbearable. A Planning Team met for the better part of a year to bring the necessary voices around the table. Their work resulted in a natural resource team, which is still meeting and working on behalf of the community over 5 years later. They call themselves, “In Our Back Yard.” Participants found it so valuable that it was brought to other communities in the region facing similar issues.
How Future Search can be a Tool for Environmental Organizations
The effective use of resources and effective mobilization of constituencies is critical to environmental organizations. Future Search brings all elements of an organization or community together in a collaborative dynamic that can help communities and non-profits grapple effectively with both internal and external issues. It can help like-minded people build an effective constituency for change. At the same time, it is powerful for discovering common ground in situations where real or imagined conflicts have made dialogue difficult or impossible. Future Search builds on shared perspectives without requiring participants to compromise their beliefs or values.
Ways Future Search Has Helped Environmental Organizations:
- Build more effective organizations
- Move deadlocked issues forward by engaging all involved parties in a way that builds deep buy-in and wide support
- Engage all voices – staff, board members, donors and volunteers, community members, agency counterparts, business leaders, even adversaries – to build a common vision and commitment,
- Support engagement in communities where polarization has seemed to stifle all hope or in situations where capacity and resources seemed at an all time low
- Bring large groups of people together in successful dialogue where they can learn about and appreciate their common issues, rather than focus on their differences,
- Lay the groundwork – based on an honest assessment of realities – for moving into effective and collective action,
- Help groups build effective coalitions to address large scale challenges,
- Establish solid working relationships among varied sectors (government, NGO’s, scientists, citizen groups, commercial interests, and more),
- Help groups devise legislative or policy strategies for regional, national, and international issues,
- Bring together all voices to design management plans to preserve habitats, save endangered species, protect watersheds, conserve undeveloped land, and reclaim urban and commercial sites.
Water Resources on Cebu Island – Philippines
In the province of Cebu, a crucial factor in the sustainability of social and economic development was the efficient management of its water resources and water regeneration capacity.
The Future Search objectives related to the encapsulation of situational issues in Central Cebu, relating to water resources and land-use management. The outcomes included their identifying the feasibility of a strategic management program for how to use and manage the water resources and land in Central Cebu.
Khabarovsk Region, Eastern Siberia
A Future Search titled “Development of Eco-Tourism in Khabarovsk Region” was sponsored by Green House, an NGO working on “Project Social partnership – A Step to the XXI Century” and funded by the Eurasia Foundation. Stakeholders included environmental NGOs, education, region administration, tourist business, mass media, youth and national parks. They achieved common ground and a shift from very depressive mood to optimistic and resourceful approach.
Waste Management, Catalonia, Spain
A Future Search for the future of Waste Management in Catalonia, Spain was organised by ACITRE (Catalan Association of Special Waste Treatment Plants) with the support of the Waste Management Division of the Environmental Department of the Catalan Regional Government. Stakeholders included local administrations, associations of councils, ecological groups, the media, business confederations, unions, universities, industry, citizens, and students.