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About UNEP
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United Nations Environment Programme
Division of Technology, Industry and Economics
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Information on completed IETC Project (2000-2004) for archival purposes only. For current on-going projects, please see http://www.unep.or.jp/

 

Innovative Communities

An "Innovative community" is one that has the means to stimulate, nurture and develop innovation in its people. It can productively harness its people's innovativeness in such a way as to compete successfully in the marketplace, and promote sustainable lifestyles among its residents. Innovative communities are able to bring in new methods, ideas, etc. to improve their environment, and initiate changes through human intelligence. It has the ability to utilize its resources to ensure that present and future members of that community, as well, as those in adjacent communities, can attain a high degree of health and well-being, economic security. It has the resiliency to respond to changes in the larger environment. It is innovative communities that are in a position to foster and achieve community sustainability.

In recent years, considerable attention has been given to the position and role of the community as an important element in the success of local environmental management processes. Almost every chapter of Agenda 21 emphasises the need to include communities as a key stakeholder or as a source of knowledge and inspiration.

The success of implementation of policies developed at the international and national levels has largely depended, and continues to depend, on how well they are understood and interpreted at the local level, and how appropriate action plans are developed by local actors by reflecting their local needs, in order to promote local actions that have positive global impacts. Take any of today's environmental problems faced by the inhabitants of Earth, and its causes and pressures can easily be traced back, directly or indirectly, to urban areas. The forces and processes that constitute 'urban activity' have far-reaching and long-term effects not only on its immediate boundaries, but also on the entire region in which it is positioned.

Many initiatives undertaken in cities and communities have indicated that there are certain core elements - partnership, sustainability, knowledge management, efficiency etc. which form an integral part of an innovative community - that need to be highlighted as preconditions for successful local environmental management.

With this in mind, the project attempts to highlight the concept of innovativeness within whole communities (and not just individuals) that will enable them to understand and analyze the environmental problems they face, identify, collate and enhance local resources that they have access to, and implement and manage environmental projects.

Needs:

  • Need to highlight the criticality of community dimensions of environmental management
  • Need for understanding and implementing global MEAs with clear programmes and projects at the local level, clearly taking communities and stakeholders into consideration.
  • Need for methodologies and tools that will enable the mapping of local resources and knowledge

Objectives:

  • To define the boundaries of a community, and understand the core elements that make it innovative
  • To understand the implications of global MEA processes and obligations from a community perspective, and delineate the roles and responsibilities at the local level.
  • To highlight the decision-making and implementation capabilities that is enabled by innovativeness in a community

Results:

  • Better understanding of the global-local continuum in terms of policies, programmes, projects and plans
  • Strengthening capacities at the local level to intrapolate and implement MEA obligations
  • Integrative and interlinking capacities within communities (through participation and partnership) for decision-making and problem-solving
  • Ability to adopt resources/knowledge from outside in order to solve environmental problems in the community

Outputs:

  • The Innovative Communities Folder - will be a loose-leaf folder containing case studies and insights into how innovative communities operate, including the driving forces and factors that enable/foster such communities
  • Working Paper Series - will cover summarized overviews of themes, background information and other related issues to complement the folder. Other formal publications, such as books and manuals, will also be explored.
  • Toolbox: a number of management and knowledge-based tools for innovative communities will be developed, particularly related to community resource mapping
  • Training sessions - local government officials, and related stakeholders will be trained in local environmental management and in the development of innovativeness in their target communities
  • Online Database - will contain information that can be accessed via a web browser and will contain links to additional information that can also be searched.
  • Presentations and displays - will be done in symposia and workshops, emphasizing and correlating community dimensions to global agendas and processes.
  • Networking - will be facilitated linking institutions and organizations that have participated in identifying and documenting innovative communities for further interaction.

Activities:

The project aims at identifying the core elements of innovativeness in local environmental management practices and developing the basic framework of ''innovative Communities''. In order to identify innovative approaches, information collation wil1 be conducted through research, meetings/conferences, and field studies.

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