Supporting Local Sustainability Movement in Monona


Following the project-based research model, we offered three service learning capstone courses at the Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies, where we completed the full cycle of the model: diagnosing, prescribing, implementing,  and evaluating. In the end, our goal was to build the capacity of TNSM, a relatively new grassroots nonprofit organization by the time we collaborated in the project, in designing and implementing civic engagement activities around the issues of environmental sustainability.

Spring 2011 – We conducted a survey throughout the city of Monona. Twelve UW seniors, the course instructor Randy Stoecker, and an academic staff resource person Katherine Loving, and I went door to door with fourteen Monona residents distributing surveys in April. We reached nearly 3,100 households, and twenty percent of those households returned surveys–a very good response rate for a one-shot cold-contact anonymous survey. You can read summary analyses below (as Microsoft Word files). We then organized roundtable discussions during a public event in organizing community events focused on sustainability.

  • Project Background and Methods
  • Awareness of The Natural Step Monona
  • Civic Participation
  • Resident Involvement in Local Government
  • Sustainability Practices
  • Community Issues

Fall 2011 –  Informed by the survey findings, TNSM decided to focus on water as their campaign. After successfully convincing the City of Monona in proclaiming the 2012 as the Monona Year of Water, the capstone course helped design a community organizing strategy where we approached community-based organizations and encouraged them to do any water sustainability project of their choice, together with their members of the group. Students prepared campaign materials, made initial contacts with CBOs, and engaged them. TNSM then followed up for further engagement for their water sustainability project in support of the Monona Year of Water.

Spring 2013 –  This capstone course was to evaluate how CBOs’ water sustainability project have made impacts on their members, and their organizations. We conducted an in-depth interview with seven leaders of the participating CBOs.

Other resources: