Building Partnerships to Connect Chicago Families to the Outdoors
Emilian Geczi believes that in order to solve our country’s most pressing environmental problems, environmental groups must bring diverse perspectives and partners into the conversation. And while many environmental groups do this, Emilian notes that these partnerships can often be one-sided, focusing more on inviting these partners into pre-established programs, rather than into a mutual discussion, where shared learning and joint capacity building can occur.
As coordinator of Chicago Wilderness’s Leave No Child Inside initiative, Emilian has seen the benefits of partnerships that result from true collaboration, where all groups listen to each other, learn what strengths and assets they each bring to the table, and build a collective investment in the health of a community’s environment and its people.
As a Toyota TogetherGreen Fellow, Emilian helped two neighborhoods within the city of Chicago develop similarly sustainable, action-oriented partnerships that connect children and families with their local natural resources. He identified lessons from existing coalitions, engaged Chicago Wilderness member organizations and partners serving families in two Chicago neighborhoods, convened the two new local networks, facilitated the development of shared action plans, and helped set the two networks on self-sustaining paths.
Emilian believes that conservation leaders need to connect broad strategic dots and develop a vision that motivates and inspires concerted action. Through this fellowship, Emilian was able to do just that.