Growing Bonsais: Developing and Implementing Tools for Community's Self-identification and Activation around Public Spaces

Beyond Green has its roots under the umbrella of the Civic Innovation for Social Transformation course at The New School. It is the result of a year-long collaboration between three transdisciplinary graduate students and the Catalyst Program, a longstanding past initiative from Partnership for Parks that helped create many self-determined park communities. From 1996 to 2016, Catalyst manifested this through 4-year stints of engagement with underserved parks, during which time people became connected to park spaces, skill-building programs, community groups and organizations, and other key resources. The goals of our partnership through the Civic Innovation course were twofold: first, to grasp the underlying principles and values of Partnerships for Parks and analyze Catalyst’s model of civic innovation, then to discover ways of using this model and its principles and values so that their effect could be amplified.

During the summer of 2016, after the course-based collaboration, Beyond Green and Partnership for Parks identified an opportunity for further collaboration: In January of 2016, Visioning Leadership Assistance from Partnerships for Parks was awarded to Green Shores NYC, an organization established through an earlier Catalyst project round, which now activates a greener, cleaner, more connected and accessible East River Waterfront in Queens, New York. Western Queens proved to be the perfect place for Beyond Green to run a pilot program of the Community Builder Kit’s community scan implementation model. This pilot program aimed to aid Green Shores NYC in encouraging community participation on the design of Rainey Park, a prominent East River waterfront park in Western Queens. Green Shores NYC was gearing up to a visioning event in the fall of 2016 and sought Beyond Green’s help in supporting the identification and development of stakeholders and long-term stewards, perhaps even a “Friends Group” for Rainey Park.

After our summer explorations in Western Queens, we designed a series of posters meant to communicate the results of the community scan to the different organizations and neighbors in the neighborhood.