Civic engagement and green champions throughout New Jersey are fueling Sustainable Jersey fever. In less than two years more than 300 of our 566 municipalities have enrolled in Sustainable Jersey. Right now, though, we have an extraordinary opportunity to showcase and promote this model community building program.
By casting a vote for Sustainable Jersey in the Strong Communities Competition, you can propel Sustainable Jersey to the national spotlight.
Sustainable Jersey is one of eight finalists in the Strong Communities: Engaging Citizens, Strengthening Place, Inspiring Change competition. The competition was developed by CommunityMatters and Ashoka Changemakers.
The event aims to be much more than a competition for bragging rights; it is meant to build a community of social innovators, provide a forum for exploring community building skills, and inspire on-the-ground change. Bill Roper, President & CEO of the Orton Family Foundation and the driving force behind the CommunityMatters annual conference, said this about the Strong Communities competition:
The vitality and quality of life in small towns and urban neighborhoods throughout America are threatened by an array of challenges: one-size-fits-all development, decreasing social capital and disconnections between neighbors, struggling local economies, and rampant or sluggish growth. Just as troubling is the loss of unique local character and values – communities’ heart and soul. Even successful and established communities face serious challenges like changing economies, lack of affordable housing, substandard education and a global energy crisis.
Ashoka Changemakers and CommunityMatters know that when citizens rise to meet these challenges with creative solutions and collaboration, their communities thrive. Through the Strong Communities competition, we invite you to tell us how citizens can connect, collaborate, and build vital, enduring places. We want to hear ideas from a diverse array of voices: the newcomers and the experienced, teens and seniors, artists and conservationists, architects and economists, the outspoken and the quiet, and the affluent and struggling. We’ll invite eight finalists to attend the CommunityMatters ’10 Conference to scale-up their work and collaborate with other leaders in the field.
If you are a member of your town or city’s Sustainable Jersey green team, you know the power of this program in catalyzing community spirit, grassroots leadership, cross-sector creativity and collaboration, and transformative change. Sustainable Jersey is a powerful organizing theme: it is a roadmap toward sustainable community design and practices, and it is a certification program for municipalities in New Jersey that want to “go green, save money, and sustain their quality of life.” As noted by the program developers at the Municipal Land Use Center at the College of New Jersey and the NJ League of Municipalities, Sustainable Jersey “provides tools, training and financial incentives to support and reward communities as they pursue sustainability programs. The program uses the framework of ‘municipal certification’ to break new ground in establishing meaningful community partnerships and developing effective intergovernmental coordination.”
The eight Strong Community finalists will participate in the Community Mattters conference, which is “a four-day conference of novel tools and solutions, instructive discussions and hands-on experiences for citizens and community builders.” Here, finalists will “showcase their work, meet other innovators, and develop community building skills.” Winners will be selected via an online public voting process. The $5,000 prize is a plus, but the program recognition could help Sustainable Jersey scale-up any number of exciting program elements.
VOTING in the Strong Communities competition starts today (9/22) and you have 15 days to vote.