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Using Neighborhood Self-organization
Incentives and neighborhood self-organization were the innovative approaches used to identify the project area and site. Rather than a mandated or regulatory approach, the project used educational outreach, cost share incentives, and administrative support to create the conditions that would catalyze a neighborhood to self-organize and propose their neighborhood project for consideration.
Colfax contracted American River Watershed Institute (ARWI) to implement the outreach and organizational phase of the project. ARWI researched self-organization and consulted a USFS sociologist, Ron Hodgson, to refine an incentive approach.
The Colfax Project demonstrates that a community will self-organize and take action as a community to increase fire safety if there is motivation, means (resources: financial and logistical support), and the opportunity to take action is offered.
ARWI conducted a series of community workshops and public outreach through the press and mailings to provide citizens the motivation to organize their neighborhoods to compete for the cost share funds. Neighborhood meetings were held to further support interest. Finally, a leader from neighborhoods served as the "sparkplug" to increase motivation.
ARWI then provided the information that described the opportunity. The elements of the grant opportunity were:
The Hillcrest Blvd. neighborhood near Colfax High School emerged from almost a dozen neighborhood candidates with the most robust response, linking 19 consecutive parcels and landowners into a partnership that culminated in a successful neighborhood shaded fuel break that significantly increases fire safety. The successful neighborhood is also in proximity to Colfax High School and Colfax Elementary School, magnifying the importance of the increase to fire safety. The discussion of this approach is detailed in the Final Grant Report (PDF*, 5.2 MB).
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