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Action Model Toolkit

Section 2

Build a Development Community

You already know some of the issues affecting your community. Now, learn how to create a team of people who share your concerns and want to do something about them — a Development Community.

Development Community Basics

Create a team.

Right now, you might feel alone and overwhelmed by the idea of making big changes in your community. Just remember that other people out there share your pride in where you live and will want to help — you just need to bring them together.

“I firmly believe that the success of any community action lies with the enthusiasm of its people.” — Participant in the Linnton, Oregon Action Model

What is the Development Community?

It’s a group of people who also want to help. Your Development Community might include:

  • Other concerned citizens
  • Business owners
  • Developers
  • Planners
  • Government agencies
  • Local or state health departments
  • Nonprofit groups

Finding Members and Support

Where can I find members for my Development Community?

Some good places to start are local resources and organizations like:

  • Chamber of Commerce
  • Community centers
  • Organizations (like the 4-H Club, Boys and Girls Clubs, and Salvation Army)
  • Local hospitals and health clinics
  • City Council

Ask questions.

When you contact possible members of your Development Community, tell them about your ideas and ask a few questions.

  • What are the problems that you want to fix? These may be the same or different from your own goals.
  • What would help solve them? See what their ideas are for improvements.
  • Do you know anyone else who might be interested in our project? This is key. You’ll get more names of people who might want to join the Development Community.

You can give people some background on the Action Model with this handout [PDF - 205 KB] or this more in-depth article [PDF - 2.8 MB] from the Journal of Environmental Health. You can also refer them to the Toolkit you are using right now.

Finalizing Your Team

How big should the Development Community be?

There’s no right number. Development Communities can range from 10 to 30 people.

How do you know you have your complete team? Whenever you talk to a new possible member, ask if they have recommendations for other potential members. When those recommendations tend to be people you’ve already contacted, that’s a sign you have formed your Development Community.

Meet in person.

Once you have some members, meet in person. You could start with 1-on-1 meetings to build trust. Then you can get the larger group together.

Keep in mind that early meetings don’t have to be formal. You don’t need to decide anything right now. Just get to know each other and understand each other’s concerns and perspectives. Stay open to new ideas.

You can try meeting at the library, community center, senior center, or at a local health agency.

Get state and federal support.

Invite some experts to meet with your development team too. To start, email the ATSDR Land Reuse Team to get in contact with someone in your regional ATSDR office. You can also reach out to members from other organizations like:

  • EPA Brownfields Program, which focuses on cleaning up old factories and industrial sites
  • EPA Environmental Justice Program, which helps make sure all people — regardless of race, color, national origin, and income — live in a healthy environment
  • Health departments in your local area and your state, which focus on keeping communities healthy
  • State environmental protection agencies, which focus on the environment and its effect on people’s health

Take next steps.

Once you have your Development Community assembled, it’s time to hold an Action Model workshop and create your Action Model. Learn more about it in the next section.

Next: Prepare for Your First Action Model Workshop

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