Hutchinson (pop. 15,000) has a long history of innovation and interest in managing our impacts to the environment. Using members of GreenCorps has been a way to complement the work of municipal staff teams that work on environmental issues.
The city has hosted two members:
- Kirstin (2013-14) worked in urban forestry
- Jamie (2015-16) focused on energy efficiency & air quality
John Paulson, Project/Environmental/Regulatory Manager, offered his perspectives on the experience from the host-site perspective.
GreenCorps members helped the city get some things done. Cities do many different things across various departments. Our experiences with Minnesota GreenCorps have allowed us to coordinate work with multiple departments centered on mutually beneficial goals. Being a host site has also greatly improved relationships with the public through outreach, education, and project specific implementation efforts. Projects include completing/updating tree inventories, establishing a tree-species diversification project, energy efficiency savings, educating the public, and more robust lighting inventory.
What are important elements of a successful member/host-site experience? Working with various departments and organizations, the member needs to be able to adapt the various priorities of each department while keeping an eye on the ultimate project goal. The host site plays an important role in developing the skills and guiding the member during that adaptation. The foundation of a successful partnership develops when the member and host site share responsibility for the member’s professional development. If the host site can focus on guiding that development, the project elements seem to move forward more easily.
Advice for host site applicants?
- Teach and train. One of my primary goals is that the member be better equipped with the necessary skills to be effective when beginning his/her career. It’s an investment that ultimately benefits both host site and member. Commit a little bit of time, more often, to keep things moving forward more easily.
- Ownership is a key elements of an effective and successful effort. When members take ownership of what they do, they do it better. Consider what would be accomplished without the member and it will help you to better appreciate the work he/she does.
For potential members. There is limited academic training that can substitute for real work experience. The potential to realize what one’s work passion is increases exponentially through hands-on experience. The variety of things members get to work on increases the likelihood of finding what you would love to do as a career. Pay close attention to the processes around you. Having the technical skills is only part of what you will learn and need for your career. How things get done is equally as important.
Developing future professionals. The GreenCorps Program is one of the best incubators out there for developing the future professionals of the environmental field. Learning through experience and discovery is arguably the most effective way of learning. Exposure to a variety of initiatives and projects prepares the members for the types of work that exist. The members have been able to provide the city the assistance needed to more effectively develop, implement, and replicate successful programs that are sustainable.