Rust to Green celebrates 5 years in Binghamton and seeks to understand community impact

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From Cornell Cooperative Extension of Broome County:

Cornell University’s Rust2Green (R2G) Binghamton Partnership is marking its 5th year of programming by celebrating and evaluating R2G’s impact in Binghamton and the surrounding area.

R2G is based on the premise that rustbelt cities like Binghamton and other areas impacted by social, economic, and/or ecological crises are not places defined by decline but reservoirs of creativity, entrepreneurship, adaptation, and resilience; and that collaborative university-community partnerships can augment these assets to build resilient and sustainable futures. In 2013, an initial group of Binghamton local leaders began meeting together with partners from Cornell’s Community and Regional Development Institute, and Departments of Landscape Architecture, Natural Resources, and Development Sociology.

Over the ensuing years, a core group – consisting of campus and community partners – came together:  Dr. Shorna Allred and Heidi Mouillesseaux-Kunzman, Cornell University; Robert Murphy, Broome-Tioga Workforce NY; Beth Roberts, Cornell Cooperative Extension of Broome County; George Homsy, Binghamton University; and Juliet Berling and Sean McGee, City of Binghamton. 

With community input, the core group has collectively shaped R2GB’s mission, spearheading actions and projects to better understand how the floods of 2006 and 2011 were experienced in Binghamton, and how to capitalize on the Chenango and Susquehanna Rivers as valuable assets. 

The “Living with Water” project was formally launched in 2015, when Cornell students and visiting students from Thailand conducted a set of interviews with Binghamton leaders and community members about the 2011 flood. 

Now, five years later,  R2G Binghamton has hosted a flood resiliency summit, developed and hosted a reading of a play to support understanding of diverse flood experiences, conducted surveys, focus groups, and interviews with diverse community members, and engaged Binghamton residents through several community meetings to share findings and develop potential design scenarios to increase access to and engagement with Binghamton’s rivers.

Data collected is currently being used for several grant applications. For more information about the Rust2Green Binghamton initiative, visit the project online at: www.rust2greenbinghamton.com/

In marking this 5-year milestone, Cornell’s Office on Engagement Initiatives, which supports community-engaged learning, leadership and research, is funding a participatory evaluation of R2G’s impacts in Binghamton and Utica. (R2G was launched in Utica, NY in 2010, and is now celebrating its 10th year anniversary as R2G Utica, Inc., an independent non-profit organization dedicated to placemaking and community development.) 

To gain a deeper understanding of R2G Binghamton’s impacts, hearing directly from the community is key. That’s why the evaluation begins with a spontaneous community ‘brainstorm’ that has been underway and will continue through Sunday, March 8, 2020. Participants are being asked to make as many short statements as come to mind describing ways they’ve noticed R2G affecting them and/or the Binghamton community more generally. 

As happens with brainstorming, the more ideas and contributions, the better. Once the brainstorm ends, all the responses received will get sorted and grouped into a follow-up survey asking people to then rate the importance levels of R2G’s impacts across its 5-year timeframe. To add your voice, by the March 8, 2020 deadline, go to the R2G Evaluation Project impact collection platform at this link:  https://participant.groupwisdom.tech/project/836/brainstorming 

Regarding the evaluation project, Rust2Green Binghamton co-founder and faculty lead, Dr. Shorna Allred said, “It is a pleasure to work with the greater Binghamton community to help address flooding and support the many exciting community and economic development initiatives underway in Binghamton, through increased opportunities for residents to interact with their beautiful rivers and waterfronts. We look forward to understanding impacts from the perspectives of local residents, and to exploring ways to strengthen positive outcomes over the coming years.”

Bob Murphy, Rust2Green Binghamton co-founder and core team member, said, “The R2G Binghamton initiative has increased our understanding of how Binghamton community members see themselves in connection to the rivers, and the opportunities they seek for living, working and playing near the rivers. 

Cities all over the country are utilizing rivers and waterfronts to create vibrant community spaces and economic development. The evaluation project will help us understand how we can better capitalize on these opportunities for the greater Binghamton community.”

To share how the R2G Binghamton initiative has impacted you, go to the R2G Evaluation Project impact collection platform at this link:  https://participant.groupwisdom.tech/project/836/brainstorming 

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