What Are the Precursors to Watershed Civic Engagement: Can Grass Roots Environmental Organizations Be Grown?

Author(s): Ziogas, I.; Cossman, R.; Ingram, R.

If one is to create and partner with a grass roots organization where there is none, what are the precursors to civic engagement? This project identifies the necessary and sufficient conditions of civic engagement, particularly as it relates to environmental stewardship. Specifically, we are revealing the parameters surrounding the organic emergence of grassroots environmental groups. We are also interested in their financial viability and organizational longevity given conditions of minimal exogenous intervention and/or support by formal instruments of environmental governance. The set of hypotheses we introduce hinges on the appearance of an immediate perceived threat, coupled with the presence of high individual capacity for action in the context of a well-connected, quasi-informed, community. Our model incorporates insights from the wider civic engagement literature and is tested against new primary data. Our initial findings strongly support our claims. As we demonstrate, the likelihood of civilian involvement in regards to environmental action is contingent on the magnitude of the perceived source of degradation, the size of affected communities, and the socioeconomic capacity of those communities to engage the problem. However, it should be noted that even under those specified conditions, organizational success is not guaranteed and is not always correlated with organizational longevity; contradicting expectations, we find that when an environmental group rapidly manages to achieve its immediate goals, it tends to fade and decay, perhaps due to the lack of incentives for its continuing presence.

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