Neighborhood sustainability: Start with a vision for the future

neighborhood sustainability

The Board of the Mitchell Park Neighborhood Association in Tempe, AZ, teamed up with three students from the School of Sustainability at Arizona State University to determine a project that enhances neighborhood sustainability in Mitchell Park.

This neighborhood sustainability project turned a course assignment into an applied research project with a local community. Anna, Emily, and Amra used a framework that they were learning in their “Sustainability & Society” class with Dr. Wiek to jointly work with the Mitchell Park board on three key questions:

(1) What are the issues of the neighborhood? What are their root causes? How are they related and how did they come about? Who is affected by them? Who benefits?

(2) Where do we want to be in 20 years? What would Mitchell Park neighborhood look like when the issues are resolved? How can sustainability principles guide the crafting of this vision?

(3) How can we get there? Students proposed a strategy to resolve the issues as envisioned.

The neighborhood’s key sustainability issues relate to: residents’ desire to foster social connectedness to increase a sense of safety, address homelessness, and support prevention of childhood obesity. The vision for 2030 envisions a vibrant community-network that clusters around a community garden. The network partners contribute their unique assets and talents: the local restaurants offer cooking classes on healthy and sustainable food; the homeless shelter mentors homeless people to work in the garden and sell the harvest; children from neighboring schools help in the garden and take cooking classes; the local residents engage in those and contribute additional activities. The first step to work towards this vision is to reach out and start fostering the relationships with key network partners.

The board wants to continue the collaboration with students to work on the social connectedness and identify how the emerging community garden can bring people together beyond gardening.