ICA USA creates toolkit to celebrate close of coastal stewardship series in Uptown Chicago

ICA-USA recently completed the Out and About Uptown’s Coast series, a public educational series offered from May 2017 through April 2018, supported by an Illinois Coastal Management Program (ICMP) grant administered by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) with funding from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). The series focused on increasing awareness, access, and stewardship of the coastal zone in Uptown, the Chicago community in which ICA-USA is based. Specifically, the project aimed to raise public awareness of Uptown’s public lakefront and parks, educate residents on ecological and environmental relevance of the area through a multidisciplinary lens, and provide opportunities for residents to meaningfully engage with these resources.

The project team used ICA’s Image Shift theory and tools, a part of the Technology of Participation (ToP®) methods, to design an innovative educational series tailored to residents, workers, and visitors in the Uptown community. The educational series consisted of nine events, each featuring local experts sharing historical and present-day content expertise on a topic related to the coast during ‘classroom’ time, followed by an experiential learning component to help embed the learning.

Overall, ICA partnered with 18 local experts across nine sessions that collectively drew in 219 participants. The session topics included Urban Ecology, Cycling Uptown, Underutilized Community Spaces, Urban Agriculture, Alternative Transit, Historic Preservation, Mental Wellness, Eco-Justice, and Green Infrastructure. Through pre-event and post-event surveys, participants reported an increased understanding of environmental issues, ways to access and provide stewardship to the coast, their role in creating a more sustainable environment, and the health benefits of the coast. The area of greatest increase in understanding was regarding ways to provide stewardship to the coast.

To document the series and provide guidance to organizations or individuals who aim to design multidisciplinary educational events that are tailored for the community or demographic they are working with, especially around issues of sustainability and environment, ICA-USA staff produced a series toolkit. The toolkit provides instruction on how to use the Image Shift tools to help with all parts of a project, outlines the process of curating topics and partnerships to reach those that might otherwise not be interested in coastal-related events, describes educational content shared by partners, and provides insights resulting from pre- and post- survey response data. The toolkit will be published and shared pending clearance from partners.

ICA-USA aims to continue to partner with Uptown organizations and local experts to design engaging and transformational community programming.

This post was written for ICAI’s monthly bulletin the Global Buzz, June 2018.