Issue Paper 2
A framework for bringing environmental organisations and ethnic community groups into partnership

 

It is only recently that ethnic communities and the environmental organisations have become aware of the opportunities available to them through engaging in partnerships.

BEN's experience in this area has identified the following as a framework for developing partnerships:

1. Create awareness of opportunities that a partnership can bring to both ethnic communities and environmental organisations.
2. Build cultural awareness, equality and trust, between the partners
3. Identify roles and responsibilities in relation to developing projects, resources and initiatives
4. Develop training for organisational personnel and ethnic community leaders
5. Promote employment and decision-making opportunities for ethnic community members


1. Create awareness of opportunities that a partnership can bring to both ethnic communities and environmental organisations

Initial considerations when developing the framework for partnerships should include the following for the partners.

Ethnic Community groups:
• may be unaware of the opportunities that a partnership with an environmental organisation can bring
• may have an interest but are not sure how to define it and connect with the relevant organisation in the environment sector
• may lack confidence and knowledge about the environment sector and its issues in general and therefore will not approach the sector

Environment sector organisations are usually keen to work with ethnic community groups but find it difficult to know where to start. Very often they lack confidence about:
• cultural and religious aspects of communities
• making the right contacts within communities
• the most effective way to connect with communities and groups to inform them of opportunities: whether to send information on activities/events, or run consultations to discover what groups may want. Either approach may incur problems of capacity and jargon.

Equally, due to their obligation through Equal Opportunity policies, organisations have been prompted to conduct more consultations in recent years and there may be a danger of driving away ethnic community groups through over consultation and a cynicism about whether appropriate change to services will follow.

2. Develop cultural awareness, equality and trust, between the partners

Cultural awareness is an important starting point for any involvement with ethnic community groups. For organisations that have not previously engaged with ethnic communities it is important that they seek initial advice on how to proceed. The following are various ways of raising cultural awareness, which can provide an environmental organisation with the confidence to work closely with ethnic community groups.
• Environmental staff approach the partner ethnic community organisation
• Survey of needs of the organisation carried out by a consultant with the necessary skills.
• Diversity training delivered by a trained person
• Training delivered after it has been tailored to the organisations need

Commitment to cultural equality at all levels of a partnership is the basis for long-term success.

In order for any partnership to develop it is essential that there is an element of trust and transparency between the partners and an understanding of what both parties hope to gain from working together.
Initial trust can be built by:
• Environment organisation staff/ representatives visiting ethnic community events and activities and by informal meetings with community leaders/representatives.
• Likewise ethnic community leaders and representatives can be invited to visit environmental organisation offices and sites. Taster activities and events enable group leaders and groups to gain an insight into the workings of the partner organisation.


3. Identify roles and responsibilities in relation to developing rojects, resources and initiatives

In order for a clear understanding of what both the ethnic community group and the environmental organisation want to achieve in the partnership it is important that roles and responsibilities are established so that misunderstandings within the partnership are kept to a minimum. Commonly this is through the formal structure of a Memorandum of Understanding should the partners be developing a project where joint funding is sought. However, a simple list of roles and responsibilities can be drawn up between the partners prior to any event that the partners are involved with. For example the environmental organisation’s role may be to set up and run environmental activities with the ethnic groups role to advertise the event within the local community.

4. Development of training for organisational staff and ethnic community leaders

Well-resourced training support is important, especially for people who have not worked with a broad range of ethnic groups.

Training in environmental awareness is also important for members of the engaged ethnic groups, particularly the link workers as it substantially increases their confidence when engaging with environmental organisations.

As the partnership develops it is important that additional training needs are addressed when they arise as new initiatives and projects are developed.

5. Promote employment and decision-making opportunities for ethnic community members

In order for partnerships to become truly effective and sustainable between environmental organisations and ethnic community groups opportunities for employment and decision-making must be considered.

By encouraging employment and decision-making opportunities for members of the ethnic community groups in environmental partnerships the capacity of the groups to become further engaged is greatly increased. Both through the community having role models and through them being able to have a better understanding of the environment sector.

An example of this is the development of an Environmental Development Worker post within Minority Ethnic Women’s Network Cymru (MEWN Cymru) that was set up in partnership with the Countryside Council for Wales.