Understanding Capacity-building Efforts to Address Environmental Justice Concerns Restricted; Files Only

Williamson, Dana (Fall 2020)

Permanent URL: https://etd.library.emory.edu/concern/etds/xs55md13c?locale=en


In the United States, environmental racism has plagued our society for decades. These environmental inequities are often a result of complexities related to a limited public health infrastructure, ineffective policy, poor city/regional planning, economic challenges, and issues related to social equity. The communities that are affected the most also tend to be overburdened with limited resources and poor infrastructure directly impacting their ability to counteract and respond to multiple environmental exposures. However, research suggests that when communities are empowered and skills are honed, they are better able to mobilize and counteract environmental risks. Thus, in addressing these issues from an environmental justice lens, solutions must be rooted in collaborative efforts with intentional focus on building capacity, community participation, and community decision-making.

Capacity building is fundamental for promoting solidarity in the development of local solutions to problems and enacting broader environmental decision making and policy change. While the literature is replete with studies that discuss the necessity of collective action, models for building capacity, evaluating capacity building approaches and measurement of capacity with respect to environmental change is lacking. Accordingly, this dissertation research systematically evaluates the field from a community capacity theoretical perspective (Chapter 2); assesses the degree to which communities have been strengthened to address environmental concerns (Chapter 3); and utilizes theoretical dimensions of community capacity to delineate approaches that have been implemented in striving for policy, systems, and environmental change (Chapter 4).

Findings from the systematic scoping review (n=58 studies) from Chapter 2, identified the implementation of activities that aligned with community capacity dimensions of citizen participation (96.4%, n=53), community power (78%, n=45), leadership (78%, n=45), and networks (81%, n=47); few articles identified a direct policy change (22%, n=13); and many articles discussed the policy implications of findings for future work (62%, n=36). Chapter 3 details the findings of a mixed methods evaluation of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Environmental Justice (EJ) Academy. This evaluation identified the degree to which EJ Fellows were able to implement Collaborative Problem Solving (CPS) Model Elements into the design and implementation of their community projects. Results indicate that more than half of EJ Fellows (55.9%) achieved moderate and 17.4% achieved high levels of implementation of the CPS Model Elements into their projects. Lastly, using a mixed methods approach, Chapter 4 focuses on the theoretical measurement of community capacity to gain an organized understanding of how dimensions are demonstrated and what strategies communities use in advocating for environmental change. From this analysis, the dimensions of “resources” and “sense of community” were significantly associated with achieving desired project goals and achieving community change. Taken together, these three studies make contributions to a broad understanding of community capacity theory, dimension related capacity-building strategies, as well as an orientation for building capacity for project implementation and community change.

Table of Contents

Chapter 1: Introduction and Review of the Literature

1. Introduction

2. Environmental Justice Background & Significance

2.1 Environmental Justice and Civil Rights

2.2 The Environmental Justice Movement

2.3 The Present State of Environmental Justice

3. Capacity Building Models

3.1 Definition and Rationale for the selection of Community Capacity

3.2 Community Capacity Theory (CCT) models

3.3 Community Capacity Measurement & Application

3.4 Community Capacity, EJ, and the Collaborative Problem-Solving Model

4. Advancing the Field & Dissertation Aims

5. References

Chapter 2: A Scoping Review of Capacity-building Efforts to Address EJ Concerns


1. Introduction

2. Methods

2.1. Historical Window

2.2. Language & Location

2.3. Eligibility

2.4. Data Abstraction

2.5. Measures

3. Results

3.1. Description of study population and setting

3.2. Study Design

3.3. Targeted Pollution Concerns

3.4. Environmental and Policy-related Outcomes Resulting from Advocacy Efforts

3.5. Theoretical Frameworks

3.6. General Strategies to Enhance Community Capacity to Address Pollution Concerns

3.7. Direct Community Change Strategies

3.8. Activities to strengthen specific dimensions of community capacity

4. Discussion

4.1. Community capacity as a theoretical lens to address EJ

4.2. Observations Concerning EJ Community Research Practices

4.3. Limitations

5. Conclusions

6. References

Chapter 3: An Evaluation of the U.S. EPA’s EJ Academy - The Utility of the CPS Model


1. Introduction

1.1 Theoretical Framework

2. Methods

2.1 EJ Academy Program Overview

2.2 Study Population and Data Collection Procedures

2.3 Measurement

3. Data Analysis

4. Results

4.1 Description of EJ Academy participants

4.2 The Collaborative Problem-Solving Model

4.3 Barriers and Facilitators of project implementation

4.4 Ways in which the CPS Model has strengthened community efforts

4.5 Community Changes

5. Discussion

5.1 EJ Academy Model and CPS Implementation

5.2 Alignment of CPS Model with other community-engaged approaches

5.3 Making Strides toward Environmental Justice

5.4 Strengths and Limitations

5.5 Research, Policy, and EJ Implications

6. References

Chapter 4: Community Capacity Building and Environmental Justice


1. Introduction

2. Methods

2.1 Participant Recruitment and Data Collection

2.2 Measurement

3. Data Analysis

3.1 Analysis to Assess Capacity Dimensions

3.2 Case study Analysis

3.3 Analysis to Assess Capacity Building Strategies

4. Results

4.1 Describing Participants’ Communities and EJ Projects

4.2 Bivariate Associations: Community Capacity dimensions and Community Change

4.3 Multiple Case Study Findings

4.4 Capacity building strategies

5. Discussion

5.1 Contributions to Conceptualizing Community Capacity

5.2 Community Capacity and Change Efforts

5.3 Strengths and Limitations

5.4 Implications for Public Health/Environmental Justice Research and Practice

6. References

Chapter 5: Summary and Synthesis of Findings

1. Scientific Contributions

2. Strengths

3. Limitations

4. Broadening Understandings of Capacity-building and EJ

4.1 Theoretical contribution of Scoping Review Findings

4.2 Alignment of Scoping Review Findings with Empirical Research

4.3 Contributions to Conceptualizing Community Capacity

4.4 Building capacity for community change

5. Implications for Research and Practice

5.1 Future Research

5.2 Implications for Practice

6. Conclusions

7. References

List of Tables, Figures, and Appendices

Chapter 1

Table 1: Overview of Goodman model

Table 2: Comparison of Community Capacity Models

Table 3: Metrics to Assess Dimensions of Community Capacity

Table 4: Community Capacity Scale Development

Table 5: Community capacity research measures and application

Figure 1: Elements of the Collaborative Problem-Solving Model

Table 6: Overview of the Community Problem-Solving Model

Chapter 2

Figure 1: PRISMA Flow Diagram

Table 1. Strategies to enhance community capacity

Table 2. Activities to strengthen dimensions of community capacity

Table 3. Review Article Characteristics

Appendix A: Systematic Search Strategy

Appendix B: Included Articles for Systematic Scoping Review

Appendix C: Content Abstraction Form

Appendix D. Examples of General Capacity-building and Community change Strategies

Appendix E: Activities to Enhance Dimensions of Community Capacity by Study


Chapter 3

Figure 1: Elements of the CPS Model & Additional teachings of the EJ Academy

Table 1: CPS Model Elements, Survey and Qualitative measures

Table 2: Participant and project description

Table 3 Descriptive statistics for CPS Model full implementation

Table 4: Nonparametric Bivariate Analysis, Mann Whitney U test

Appendix A: EJ Academy Project Evaluation Survey

Appendix B: Detailed Implementation of CPS Model Elements

 Chapter 4

Table 1: Theoretical Dimensions and Survey Overview

Table 2: Community Characteristics

Table 3: Bivariate Associations with Capacity dimensions and Outcome variables

Table 4: Typologies of case communities

Table 5: Cross Case Synthesis assessing Community Capacity Dimensions

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