Q&A from Peer Learning Session: Environmental Justice and Equitable Development


On December 8, 2022, the Urban Waters Learning Network (UWLN) Equitable Development and Anti-Displacement Collaborative hosted a learning session entitled, Exploring the Intersections between Environmental Justice and Equitable Development in Infrastructure Investments. The recording, panelist bios, and presentation slides from the event are available on the UWLN resources webpage. This blog post is a follow-up to the session to address some of the questions that were received as part of the registration process as well as those that were posed in the chat during the session. 

**Answers within the document were provided from the Dec 8 session panelists—Lubna Ahmed, Sonia Kikeri, and Cheyenne Holliday—as well as River Network Staff, Erin Kanzig, Renée Mazurek, and Diana Toledo.

Are there cities that are naming anti-displacement up front as they discuss infrastructure investments and other investments?

I am keen to learn of concrete examples of where local capacity has been enhanced such to garner access to funding for Green Infrastructure.

  • The Justice40 Accelerator aims to build capacity of frontline communities to access resources, including funding for community-designed solutions. At least 15 cohort member organizations are focused on green infrastructure. Cohort members receive funding, technical assistance, 1-1 navigator assistance for funding opportunities, access to educational materials, tools, and resources, and federal funding preparation workshops with guest speakers. 
  • Greenprint Partners also offers a “Green Infrastructure Funding Accelerator” to assist communities in preparing local, state, and federal infrastructure funding for green stormwater infrastructure initiatives. Learn more here

How can you ensure funding will be used equitably invested in predominantly minority areas?

  • Example from the State of Colorado: The new Colorado EJ Grant program is only available to those who are located within Disproportionately Impacted Communities (must be more than 40% low income, more than 40% people of color, or more than 40% housing cost burdened). Determination of eligibility is based on Colorado EnviroScreen, a GIS mapping tool that displays this data in an easy to understand way. This ensures funding is being targeted to communities most in need. There are other states like California who are doing this as well.

What are the top 3 steps needed to make equitable development take place ?

  • One perspective offered: (1) The community clearly identifies the gap that exists in equitable development, (2) the community develops a sustainable solution to address that gap (e.g. resources needed, capacity building, collaboration, etc.), and (3) the community implements the solution to address equitable development and reflects on lessons learned to ensure they can sustain the positive change.
  • An additional tool: Equitable Development Principles and Scorecard from The Alliance

How can the federal govt help further ?

How can NGOs and CBOs support and educate community members and the K12 community?

Do you have examples of community members being hired or trained in workforce development programs that promote climate resilience (and help to prevent displacement)?

What is the tradeoff between urgency for climate change, etc. and effective community outreach?

  • The key is good organizers and good development staff. Community members are ready to take action, it takes good organizers and resources to ensure they are equipped with what they need to act on the urgency they are feeling and experiencing from climate change
  • Talk to communities to identify their priorities and connect them to resources. Sometimes, it does mean slowing things down to get accurate/adequate engagement. 
  • We have to build community capacity; they hold true sustainable solutions already. 

Has anyone started thinking about both cumulative impacts and cumulative benefits? I worry that the “many problems” are becoming more familiar, but we still consider “one solution” to those many problems.

  • The updated Climate and Economic Justice Screening Tool (CEJST) was modified to try to assess cumulative impacts. Community Benefit Plans are an attempt to provide a framework to name intersectional benefits – which might be somewhat aligned with “cumulative benefits.”
  • Many community orgs have been working on getting legislation passed at the state level addressing cumulative impacts and benefits. New Jersey is a good example.
  • A grassroots coalition is working to develop cumulative impacts legislation for Minnesota

How do we ensure community benefit agreements and similar vehicles don’t become an accepted quid pro quo to impose unwanted projects on communities?

  • See the Emerald Cities Collaborative Justice 40 Playbook – The People’s Justice 40+ Community Benefit Plan: Step-by-Step Guide

What order of operations take place as funding opportunities are released? I feel like I either miss the announcement altogether, or if I am aware of the funding opportunity- I’m unable to decipher what they are trying to solicit because there are too many categories.

Stay tuned for more opportunities from the Urban Waters Learning Network and the Equitable Development and Anti-Displacement Collaborative in 2023 by joining us on our online communications platform: UWLN on Mobilize or sign up for our quarterly newsletter

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