What does it mean to be a Catalyst?

Why do we use the term “catalyst” to describe the staff positions within the SSP? Because the task of becoming sustainable is one that must be accomplished by a People, not just a few people. The SSP staff (Regional and Community Catalysts) are just a few people who, even as a group, are most likely incapable of making much of a dent in the region’s sustainability. Although it is imperative that we make meaningful and measurable contributions to community sustainability through the work we do, our overarching goal is to catalyze broader engagement in this work, particularly at existing organizations and institutions. This is the essence of “catalytic leadership” and toward that end we are working with communities by partnering with tribal and city governments, village corporations, community-based conservation groups, small businesses, etc. We are also working with regional partners such as the USFS, SEALASKA/Haa Aani’, the Southeast Conference, the Southeast Alaska Watershed Coalition, and others.

It is easy to get absorbed in the details of achieving the material objectives of our projects: getting solar panels installed, restoring salmon streams, supporting triple bottom line business development, improving access to locally grown and healthy foods, etc. These are solid goals for “catalysts” because the material outcomes of our work will serve to grow the sustainability movement by demonstrating the mechanics of success. But let’s not forget to keep our eye on the equally, if not more important social goals of relationship building, growing trust, cultivating a sense of optimism and self-reliance, etc.

Sustainable community development may not be so much an engineering problem as it is a process of social transformation. Conscious and diligent work on community engagement should be a core part of almost all the projects we work on. We will know we have begun to make progress on this front when we see more cities, tribes, businesses, state and federal government groups, etc. practicing sustainability thinking – when we hear community self-reliance, prosperity and resilience being discussed in our offices, schools, coffee shops and grocery stores, .

If you are already seeing signs of a sustainable community development movement in Southeast, tell us about it by leaving a comment below.

Strategy Blurbs

Strategy Blurbs

Community Engagement and Empowerment Strategy –

Engage and empower communities to collaboratively plan natural resource management (NRM) to meet community needs over the long-term. Use specific projects to engage communities in NRM and/or engage community-based collaborative groups in holistic visioning and planning processes.

Tribal Collaboration Strategy –

Collaborate with tribes and native organizations on projects that engage native peoples in promoting the Tongass as a native place and integrate the restoration of traditional and cultural rights and activities in public land management.

Capacity Development Strategy –

Work on community, agency and NGO capacity development by providing access to various forms of capital in order to implement people and place projects, such as, connecting people to money, community organizing skills, job-training, communication skills, resource management knowledge, political power, etc.

Demonstrating the Transition Strategy –

Use demonstration projects to promote changes in agency budgets, policies and institutional norms that can enable communities to develop sustainable, prosperous and resilient ways of life in the Tongass National Forest.

Sustainable Material and Economic Systems Strategy –

Implement projects that include long-term, community-based planning for food, shelter, energy, transportation, trade, etc., integrate robust accounting methods (e.g. triple bottom line and life cycle accounting) and consider the potential impacts of large-scale issues such as economic globalization and climate change. Create projects and implement activities that foster sustainable business and market development.

Ecological Restoration Strategy –

Promote and participate in ecological restoration by providing funding or in-kind resources, engaging communities in identifying priorities and planning for outcomes, increasing local capacity for conducting restoration work, engaging volunteers and youth populations, etc. Design activities to serve as a useful rallying points for broad-based collaboration, provide useful information to adaptive management and recognize the importance of the non-material and “healing” elements of restoration work.

Conservation Science Strategy –

This strategy includes activities that provide research results and analytical tools that can fill critical information gaps and be integrated into social, economic and cultural development projects. The Audubon/TNC Ecoregional Assessment for Southeast Alaska is a key tool in this effort.

Conservation Policy Strategy – 

This strategy includes activities that promote policies and changes to institutional norms that can serve to create an enabling environment for sustainable community-based natural resource management.

Monitoring, Education and Adaptive Management –

Develop projects that promote methods of “learning by doing” (e.g. multi-party monitoring) and connect to the spheres of education, resource management and a broad range of socio-economic values. Adaptive management and education activities should increase the capacity of social, economic and environmental systems to adapt to change by institutionalizing a process of continued learning that is transparent, credible, communicable and relevant.

Storytelling and Media Strategy –

Develop activities that report on People and Place projects in such a way that cultural norms and identities are actively transformed to embrace the balance of social and ecological sustainability, prosperity and resilience. Showcase successes but do not shy from ongoing challenges. Attempt to contribute to a holistic narrative on demonstrating a transition to a sustainable and vital society.

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