Environmental Organization Community Analysis

We seek to connect groups who are dedicated to improving community well-being and the environment for all.

This project is an effort to understand and connect the work of organizations improving our environment in the Rochester Region. The definition of an “environmental organization” is shifting and an intersectional approach that recognizes the role of the social and natural environment in the work of many organizations is needed. The end result will be a publicly available database of organizations, a better understanding of what is being done to build a more sustainable and just community, and a research process that models community participation and engagement.

Ultimately we hope this project will lead to a more connected environmental movement locally, the application of resources in ways that lead to change for those that need it most, and a shared vision that has been developed and adopted by the community.

Rochester Environment Directory

Learn about and connect with the organization in our region that are doing the work of creating a sustainable and just future.

Research Questions

  • How can we create an equitable, inclusive, and collaborative local movement?
  • Who are the environmental organizations in the region and how do we identify them?
  • What are their priorities, core activities, strategies, and challenges?
  • How do local organizations define “environmental justice”, “sustainability” and “climate justice”?


In doing this work we aim to adhere to principles and practices that lead to just and equitable solutions. This begins with approaching things from a perspective where community members are equal partners in the research. Additionally we will use a broad definition of an environmental organization and an intersectional lens that will ensure equity and inclusivity.

To better understand who is doing what, where they are doing it, and how they are doing it, a research team will use a reflective process of inquiry to establish methods of research. Proposed methods include document review, surveys, and interviews. Relationship building will be central to our approach.

Project Outputs

We plan to produce the following:


  1. Structures for implementing an equitable, inclusive and collaborative research process that is driven by best practices.
  2. A definition of the movement we are studying that includes the concepts of sustainability, environmental justice, and climate justice.
  3. A publicly available directory of organizations with basic information about their areas of focus.
  4.  An analysis of the priorities and challenges present in the data from organizations.
  5. A set of materials, printed and digital, that communicate the key findings of the landscape analysis. 

Project Benefits

Shared Definitions
  • Common framework for communication
  • Connect to larger movements nationally and globally
  • Easier to connect around the same issues or across issues
  • Easier to connect with resources
  • Highlight common challenges
  • Illuminate soultions that are working
  • Identify gaps and opportunities
Network Building
  • Collaborative Opportunities
  • Resource sharing

Project Team

Principal Investigators

  • Tonya Noel
  • Adrienne Perovich
  • Chris Widmaier

Research Design Team

  • Dr. Kathleeen Donovan
  • Ann Howard, JD
  • Dr. Jane Coggshall McConnochie

Advisory Committee

  • Calvin Eaton
  • Antonius Chess
  • Jennifer Lowenstein
  • Carter Remy
  • Nathan Hayes
  • Sally Howard
  • Julio Jordan

Project Sponsors

This project is made possible with generous support from the following organizations:

  • Emil Muller Foundation
  • Rochester Area Community Foundation

Please reach out if you are interested in supporting this project.


Project Origin

This project began as a conversation between the Rochester Ecology Partners (REP) board of directors and representatives from the Rochester Area Community Foundation (RACF). We recognized that a project like this would benefit both organizations as REP, a newly formed organization, seeks to understand where it fits into the ecosystem of local organizations and RACF builds a strategy around sustainability and environmental justice as a program area. For several months a team of volunteers convened by REP, in collaboration with RACF, have worked to develop a proposal for funding and launching the project. The Emil Muller Foundation provided intial funding to launch the project.

Project Status




Over the summer we solidified the language we would use to define who we are trying to engage. “We seek to connect groups who are dedicated to improving community well-being and the environment for all”, seems like a simple statement but it represents careful consideration of how we communicate an intersectional approach that is inclusive and focused.


 With this definition established we moved forward with finalizing our research plan. Feedback sessions were held to get thoughts from the community about our plan. Once we had this feedback we began building a set of survey items that would address our research questions.We identified three levels of information we are trying to gather and analyze. The first being basic information for a public directory. The next level of data we identified was more specific factual data about the structure, priorities, and impact of organizations. The third and final level includes thoughts and ideas organizational leaders have about the challenges and opportunities of working to improve community well-being and the environment for all. 


As we developed the survey instruments we built our capacity to engage the widest community of people possible. Two researchers were hired to build our list of groups. One focused on establishing our database while the other focused their attention on community outreach by visiting community events. Our current list of groups to engage includes almost 200 organizations across all nine counties.


This fall our advisory committee addressed two important questions. The first being around data privacy. The question was, “What data will be public?”. Early in the project we decided it was essential for groups to voluntarily be included in any directory or analysis. Recognizing that some of what we were asking might be sensitive we decided that we would only make the basic information available publicly and all other information would be shared as part of an aggregate. We also discussed how members of the advisory committee are defining “Environmental Justice and Sustainability”. The results of this discussion will be included in our final reporting.


In November we began engaging groups from the list we have gathered to request their inclusion in a public directory and interest in sharing more information through a survey and an interview. Our next step is to follow up with organizations that haven’t responded yet and to share the survey / schedule an interview with those who have agreed to participate. 


Looking forward to project completion later this winter we have begun building a website that will host the directory, establishing analysis protocols, and building a final report outline. An additional activity that I hope to incorporate is a few short case studies of how this project is leading to a more connected community and activities that wouldn’t have happened (or couldn’t happen otherwise).



We have established a research team, an advisory committee and a growing list of collaborators (reach out if you would like to join us). A research plan has been drafted and a plan for gathering community feedback is being implemented.

The research and advisory teams’ initial discussions were centered around building a culture and processes aligned with the Jimez democratic principles of organizing. Following discussions were about the communities we are attempting to engage and the processes that would best respect their cultures and norms.

Understanding community based participatory research was an important next step and the following definition from the Kellogg Foundation was adapted to our project, “a collaborative process that equitably involves all partners in the research process and recognizes the unique strengths that each brings. CBPR begins with a research topic of importance to the community with the aim of combining knowledge and action for social change to create a more connected environmental movement locally, the application of resources in ways that lead to change for those that need it most, and a shared vision that has been developed and adopted by the community.”

An especially important consideration that emerged was the wide geographic range we are attempting to survey and the diversity of communities across the nine counties. We decided that we would begin with engaging the environmental community in Monroe and Ontario counties and refine our processes as we expanded to neighboring counties. This approach aligns well with our available resources and provides the opportunity to gather more resources as we demonstrate success.
In May our advisory committee considered a draft research plan that outlined the scope of the research and methods that would be in the project. An important question that has emerged over and over since the project started was discussed – How do we identify organizations that are involved in the movement to create a more just and sustainable future?

A decision was made that inclusion in the project will be based on self identification. People will be able to self identify whether or not they have an organization based on a very basic definition of an organization as people working together towards a common goal and whether or not they are members of the community of organizations we are hoping to connect. The latter part of the definition is not as simple. When taking an intersectional approach, it is difficult to put a box around the movement with words like “environmental”. Traditional environmental organizations are narrowly defined and often only refer to nonprofits led by middle and upper class white people. Additionally organizations doing work that aligns with frameworks like environmental justice, just sustainabilities, and just transition don’t capture the full scope of organizations that exist to have a positive impact on human and natural ecosystems. The advisory committee agreed that feedback from the community and additional study was needed before decisions could be made.

Project Updates

Launching the Greater Rochester Environmental Community Directory

Rochester Ecology Partners is happy to announce the launch of the Greater Rochester Environmental Community Directory. Over 100 groups dedicated to improving community well-being and the environment for all have agreed to be listed and more are expected to join as they learn about the directory. The directory can be found at rochesterenvironment.com.

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Environmental Organization Landscape Analysis Feedback Sought

The Environmental Organization Landscape Analysis project is an effort to understand the work of organizations that are working to create a more just and sustainable environment in the Rochester Region. Our project team is looking to get feedback from community...

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Community-Engaged Learning Award

The St. John Fisher College Community-Engaged Learning Program recently awarded Rochester Ecology Partners a Reciprocity Award for our work with students in Dr. Jim Bowman’s community writing course. Channing Harell, Brooklyn Kicherer, Hailey Rice, and Chloe Wu piloted survey questions and analysis for our newly launched Environmental Organization Landscape Analysis project. Their work informs how we go about building a better understanding and stronger network of the organizations creating a more just and sustainable Rochester.

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Emil Muller Foundation Grant Will Foster A Better Understanding of Environmental Organizations in the Greater Rochester Region

Rochester Ecology Partners (REP) was recently awarded a $20,000.00 grant from the Emil Muller Foundation for a project that will lead to a better understanding of environmental nonprofit organizations in the Rochester Region. The Environmental Organization Landscape Analysis this grant supports will lead to greater alignment and collaboration between organizations and partners from other sectors. This project furthers REP’s mission of connecting all people to nature where they live, work and play by fostering relationships and developing publicly available resources for community members seeking to influence a more just and sustainable future for our community.

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