With the growing interest in sustainable solutions at the local and national levels, communities are facing a relatively new challenge in how to optimize sustainability efforts for citizens and local organizations. Traditionally, networking events and coalitions have effectively connected individuals and organizations who share common ideas, goals or agendas. However, not everyone who has an interest in sustainability has the time to attend meetings or take on a leadership role in an organization. In an effort to accommodate those with busy schedules, a web-based tool has been developed to facilitate local sharing of sustainable ideas, information and strategies.
As more organizations explore the breadth and depth of approaches to building sustainable communities, the drive to connect and unify can cause strain, resulting in organizer burnout or uneccesary duplicated efforts. This situation, and the increasing accessibility of web-based tools, presents local communities an opportunity to rethink options that facilitate networking and leveraging of resources in a more collaborative fashion.
The intended use of ecoNetwork is to:
(1) offer individuals a way to customize their exploration of local projects and involvement opportunities.
(2) provide organizations a new way to market their projects and enhance their efforts through leveraged partnerships.
With ecoNetwork, an individual user can filter to their particular interests through an inventory of local sustainability efforts developed by different organizations. Registered users can tag favorite organizations or projects to a “watch” list, receive RSS feeds when information is updated, and even provide their own comments on an organization its specific activities.
Groups can create profiles for their organization and identify areas of sustainability that are relevant to their work. Once an organizational profile is created, they can add and describe their activities and even seek volunteers.
ecoNetwork was created in 2011 through a collaboration between the Cities of Omaha, Nebraska, and New Haven, Connecticut, to foster community connectivity by increasing the capacity of local eco-initiatives. The website developers contracted for this project were Rebel Interactive of Omaha. The project was funded through an Innovation Opportunity grant from the Urban Sustainability Directors Network. The basic template for the site was developed on an open-source platform. Other cities interested in building their own site will be provided access to the basic template and they may customize it to meet their unique local needs.