Oct 31st, 2016

Beautiful RVA: Community Collaboration for Collective Impact

Beautiful RVA logo

Beautiful RVA — Setting the Stage for Growth

One way the Richmond Region is approaching sustainable change is by working collaboratively for greater, collective impact. From food policy, to transportation, to healthy lifestyles, to workspaces, to poverty and to early childhood education, we can see collaboration isn’t a new thing for our region. We even have a regional collaborative created to bring nine area jurisdictions together around community priorities to make a better Richmond Region. Collaborations are fueling impact in our region. Now Beautiful RVA’s Ginter Urban Gardeners adds one more worthy program to the list.

Collaboration isn’t by accident or by coincidence. Organizations and their individuals see a need for it and respond by synergizing efforts in support of a common goal. Just as plants, birds, insects and rivers are part of our environment, so are our organizations, our government agencies and our businesses. Community initiatives that are in harmony with our eco-system and support present and future generations are the foundations for sustainable change. What possibilities exist when we collaborate to improve our shared public landscapes through urban greening projects?

Beautiful RVA arose because of a community-expressed desire to bring together organizations, government entities and individuals for the deliberate purpose of increasing local capacity to accomplish urban greening project in Richmond. In order for collaborations to be successful, they must have a common goal, consistent communication, shared projects and successes and the support of “backbone” organizations.urban gardening in the city

In collaborations, every organization doesn’t do the same thing; each organization supports a bigger vision of collective impact by contributing what it does best. For the Beautiful RVA collaborative social movement, success is improving the quality of life in greater Richmond through public horticulture, urban greening and beautiful place-making initiatives. The Richmond Garden Trail and the botanical makeovers of Broad Street and the Canal Walk are examples of collaborative partnerships for a greener, healthier, and certainly more aesthetically appealing RVA.

Underway since January 2013, Beautiful RVA delivers a twice-monthly e-mail digest of newsworthy greening initiatives, calls to action, appeals for volunteer services and invitations to offer citizen input on strategic public and private greening projects. If you want to learn more, you can easily subscribe to The Ripple Recap, which reaches over 300 subscribers throughout the Richmond Region and beyond.

Beautiful RVA community greening toolkitThe Community Greening Toolkit and the Ginter Urban Gardener training program are two Beautiful RVA projects funded by The Community Foundation. To help build an “enabling environment” for community-directed urban greening projects, the Community Greening Toolkit is an online repository of resources that citizens can use to help design, budget and plan beautification projects throughout the city.

Ginter Urban Gardeners

The Ginter Urban Gardener training not only teaches citizens how to garden, but also how to lead large-scale projects and coordinate volunteers. Most importantly, the training serves as personal development for citizens to learn how to work with the community, not for it. Trainees will envision projects and learn how to develop and maintain them. Lastly, graduates of the Ginter Urban Gardener training will have the opportunity to submit proposals to have Beautiful RVA fund their urban greening and beautification projects projects in their communities. Beautiful RVA is now accepting applications for the first cohort of Ginter Urban Gardener trainees (through November 30, 2016).

Collaborative efforts require stewardship. Someone has to take the lead. Many a collaborative effort or community initiative is launched, but those that take root and are sustainable are often nurtured with organizational time and resources. Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden is serving as a “backbone” institution in a shared leadership model that supports the Garden’s 2016 strategic plan to “expand the garden beyond its walls” and it’s desire to make sustainable collective impact in the Richmond region.

As a native Richmonder, I have seen many collaborations that have taken a top-down approach to change in our communities. One of the things I appreciate most about Beautiful RVA is its shared, collaborative focus on people, plants, places and process, all for the greater good — to create a more beautiful and more resilient community, where everyone may participate and we all enjoy the benefits.

We can’t wait to tell you more about the work that Beautiful RVA is doing and feature projects from our first cohort of Ginter Urban Gardeners. Look for more blog posts on the topic in the coming months.

About Duron Chavis

Duron Chavis serves as community engagement coordinator for Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden. He is also a collaborator in Beautiful RVA. You might see him out and about promoting urban greening and beautification or talking about food access issues.

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