Three evaluative tools to empower local communities in the environmental clean up of sediment contaminated sites
Funding:  U.S. EPA
Project Date Range:

Project Summary

 In spite of long commitment to community involvement and recent scholarship in the field, comprehensive efforts to evaluate "what works" and translate this information into improved practices is wanting. This project addresses this need at the level of theory and practice. The theoretical question this proposal addresses is: What are the comparative strengths and limitations of three practical and proven evaluative techniques to evaluate community relations processes and community satisfaction with progress toward policy objectives? We propose a comparative evaluation of three practical and promising evaluative tools. They are: the questionnaire, focus groups, and Q methodology. We propose to implement all three approaches in two real-world case applications (cases to be selected in collaboration with EPA and other stakeholders) and to perform three evaluations of each case. We then propose to have an body of local stakeholders assist in comparing the strengths and limitations of the three techniques. We also propose to give stakeholders and the scientific community practical guidance about how to evaluate community involvement programs in contaminated sediment sites using these three evaluative techniques. This project will improve community involvement and empower local communities to participate more effectively by providing feedback about the quality of the community involvement process and community satisfaction with the clean-up outcomes.

Read more about the theoretical background of this project.

The two case study sites are:

  • Toms River, New Jersey, Ciba Geigy Site
  • Waukegan, Illinois, Waukegan Harbor

The expected Results of the project will be comparisons of the strengths and limitations of the three methods for getting feedback on (1) effectiveness of community involvement processes in contaminated site clean-up activities and (2) community preferences for outcomes related to clean-up. This study is not intended to be an evaluation of agency or responsible party community involvement activities. While we will be collecting information about how participants view the involvement process and clean-up decisions at the site, we will focus on the effectiveness of methods of obtaining feedback. We will not be judging the involvement process or the clean up remedies proposed.

At the end of the project we will complete:

  • A Guidance document for how to use focus groups to gather feedback about how well the community involvement process is working and how satisfied are people with the clean-up decisions.
  • A Guidance document for how to use Q Method to gather feedback about how well the community involvement process is working and how satisfied are people with the clean-up decisions.
  • Information for local citizens and activists about participatory evaluation and the roles that citizens can play in ensuring a high-quality community involvement process and in understanding community opinion about clean-up decisions.
  • Recommendations for using focus groups, Q method, and mail surveys, including comparison of their strengths and shortcomings for different evaluation objectives.


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