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Assisting Community Sustainability in Small and Rural Populations through the DISC Tool
Swisher, K., A. Brookes, B. Duncan, L. Harwell, M. Mccullough, D. Olszyk, V. Salazar, L. Smith, AND Kevin Summers. Assisting Community Sustainability in Small and Rural Populations through the DISC Tool. Washington Tribal Lands and Environment Forum (TLEF), Spokane, Washington, August 13 - 16, 2018.
Communities want to be more sustainable — to be able to maintain economic vibrancy, health, and community environmental protection in an integrated way. Much of the current sustainability focus targets large metropolitan areas, and various tools have been developed to help them address their goals. The primary objective of this effort is to develop an application [Decision Integration for Strong Communities (DISC)] that offers relevant local information that is readily accessible, meaningful and impactful for communities in general while also ensuring that it addresses the unique priorities and constraints of small or rural communities (under 50,000 people). The DISC tool goal areas (local economy, environmental resource management, built environment, public health, community involvement, society, and resilience) include a wide variety of indicators that can influence how a community perceives and plans their sustainability policy. Collaboration and feedback with community leaders will shape these indicators; determining if DISC is a useful tool to improve sustainability in small and rural communities. While we will seek input from a variety of types of small community leaders, this presentation at the 2018 Washington Tribal Lands and Environment Forum in Spokane will provide a unique opportunity for interaction with Native American tribal community partners to obtain information which will help develop at tool to meet sustainability needs. Key Words: economy, society, environment, resilience, development
The EPA is developing an application named DISC (Decisions Integration for Strong Communities) to assist communities in meeting their coordinated economic, social, and environmental goals. We are conducting research to help determine the usefulness of this tool for smaller communities. The key to success for this tool is garnering support from communities, as DISC is only useful if communities utilize it. To accomplish this goal, we encourage collaboration among community leaders, residents, the EPA, and other sustainability groups; DISC encourages smart growth through equitable development, and assists communities in making financially sound decisions that diminish disparities, preserve open space and farmland, and strengthen existing communities. Identification of and working with representatives of communities who show interest in the tool is the primary objective. Since community engagement is the core of this research, proper target audience selection is crucial. Three major categories are being considered: communities who are most likely to implement new policies, those who are most likely to expand existing sustainability programs, and those who may need alternative programs or additional resources. Various socio-economic demographics determined these categories, and by selecting communities that fall within each and obtaining feedback on the application we can eliminate bias and ensure a more universally applicable tool. There are 7 goal areas within the DISC tool that inform the sustainability of a community. Local economy, environmental resource management, built environment, public health, community involvement, society, and resilience encompass a variety of sustainability indicators that can influence how a community perceives and plans their sustainability policy. Collaboration and feedback with community leaders will shape these indicators, leading to a suite of relevant information and resources that accomplish the goal of the research: determining if DISC is a useful tool to improve sustainability in small and rural communities. We especially seek input from Native American tribal community partners to obtain information as to how the tool may be related to their needs.