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Illustration of the NOAA ELP Vision of A Resilient Community depicting a city along a coast and river with the following depicted: trees being planted as urban heat island abatement; an aquarium with people restoring a nearby coastal wetland to mitigate flooding; sustainable design with green infrastructure; a healthy community with people biking and exercising outside; a city hall with youth and adults presenting their ideas to officials; a shoreline that is protected with restored oyster reefs; students on a boat mapping coastal resilience assets; community members engaging in citizen science; a house adapted to severe storms, flooding, and rising sea levels; people preparing their community for a flood; K-12 schools where teachers and students are creating a rain garden; a university where researchers study resilience solutions; and a science center where youth have convened a climate summit. The NOAA logo is in the top right corner of the illustration.

NOAA's Community Resilience Education Theory of Change

1
Introduction
What is a theory of change & who should use ours?
What's our vision of a resilient community?
Navigate the pathway to change
Explore the causal pathways
Access the report and related resources

NOAA’s Environmental Literacy Program (ELP) Community Resilience Education Theory of Change communicates the overarching philosophy guiding its grants program. ELP supports projects that both inspire and educate people to use Earth system science to increase ecosystem stewardship and resilience to extreme weather, climate change, and other environmental hazards. 

A theory of change is broad in scope and begins with a problem statement and ends with a goal. In between, causal pathways systematically lay out the steps, or short-, mid-, and long-term outcomes that must be met to achieve the end goal.

How did we develop this theory of change?

We consulted numerous sources in the development of this theory of change. The community resilience education projects funded by ELP served as the primary basis for the theory of change. We also consulted relevant theories of change from other programs and conducted an extensive review of published literature in related fields.

Who should use this theory of change and how?

This theory of change serves multiple purposes and audiences. It demonstrates the ways in which the ELP fills a gap in resilience-building approaches more commonly underway. NOAA’s other resilience investments are focused on creating and promoting the use of science-based information and training for adults to apply that information within the context of their professions. While building the capacity of adults to use this information in a professional context is essential, so is equipping community members with the environmental literacy necessary to make informed decisions about the place-based challenges they face outside of a professional context. When community members engage in informed decision making, the efforts of resilience practitioners and local or state officials engaged in building community resilience are further supported. Our theory of change outlines how this occurs and therefore, may be useful by our colleagues at NOAA, other government offices that support resilience efforts, resilience practitioners, and philanthropic organizations with similar interests. We also see the applicability of this resource to education professionals and environmental non-governmental organizations.

Our grantees can use this as a framework for understanding and mapping how their local efforts contribute to a broader, national effort to increase resilience. More specifically, we intend for our grantees, their partners, and ELP applicants to use this resource to inform project-level logic models and related evaluation, ensuring that their project’s activities and outcomes are aligned with the overall ELP outcomes and goals.

Finally, we will use the theory of change to aggregate effective approaches and outcomes identified by our grantees in the future and help us continue to demonstrate the value of education in community, city, state, and national efforts to build community resilience to extreme weather, climate change, and other environmental hazards.

The Community Resilience Education Theory of Change is a living document that will be updated regularly to reflect progress made by ELP, as well as other contributions to the field of community resilience education.

Where can you find more information?

The “Report on the NOAA Office of Education Environmental Literacy Program Community Resilience Education Theory of Change” contains the complete theory of change, an overview of the Environmental Literacy Program history and evolution, an in-depth literature review, and an explanation of how to navigate the theory of change. A comprehensive glossary and bibliography are also included. Online readable versions of the reports are available below. Print-friendly versions and section-by-section breakouts of the reports are available on the “Reports and other resources” tab.

Full report (PDF)

Accessible, plain-text report (PDF)

Authors: Genie Bey, Carrie McDougall, and Sarah Schoedinger, NOAA Office of Education

Suggested citation: Bey, G., C. McDougall, & S. Schoedinger. 2020. Report on the NOAA Office of Education Environmental Literacy Program Community Resilience Education Theory of Change. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Washington, DC. doi:10.25923/mh0g-5q69


Do you have feedback for us on the theory of change? Email us at oed.grants@noaa.gov or contact us on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram.

The ELP theory of change outlines the conceptual framework for the ways in which community resilience education can lead to increased community engagement and civic action, ultimately leading to a healthier, more resilient, and equitable society.

 

Illustration of the NOAA ELP Vision of A Resilient Community depicting a city along a coast and river with the following depicted: trees being planted as urban heat island abatement; an aquarium with people restoring a nearby coastal wetland to mitigate flooding; sustainable design with green infrastructure; a healthy community with people biking and exercising outside; a city hall with youth and adults presenting their ideas to officials; a shoreline that is protected with restored oyster reefs; students on a boat mapping coastal resilience assets; community members engaging in citizen science; a house adapted to severe storms, flooding, and rising sea levels; people preparing their community for a flood; K-12 schools where teachers and students are creating a rain garden; a university where researchers study resilience solutions; and a science center where youth have convened a climate summit. The NOAA logo is in the top right corner of the illustration.
ELP Vision of a Resilient Community
Credit: NOAA Office of Education & Jessica B. Bartram, licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 4.0offsite link

In this illustration of the "ELP Vision of a Resilient Community" the ELP and end goals of the ELP Community Resilience Education Theory of Change are brought to life through a portrayal of the future. The illustration includes all of the major institutional players, such as museums, aquariums, K-12 schools, universities, and other educational and community-based organizations that are involved in community resilience education. It also depicts the key approaches that have been identified as effective. Here, children, youth, and adults are learning together and directly engaged in activities that improve the resilience of their community.

NOAA’s ELP resilience education projects...

  1. Build collective environmental literacy;

  2. Focus on current and future place-based environmental hazards;

  3. Support local and state government resilience efforts through use of resilience plans and creation of new partnerships between education institutions and local or state government offices charged with resilience planning;

  4. Incorporate scientific information, including NOAA’s resilience assets;

  5. Explore and implement community-scale solutions to improve community resilience;

  6. Integrate social, historical, economic, and ecological factors into teaching about the ways human and natural systems interact; 

  7. Integrate the history, culture, and lived experiences of diverse community members; 

  8. Promote equitable and inclusive resilience planning that ensures historically marginalized voices are incorporated in the process and contributes to overall community health;

  9. Use active learning;

  10. Use social learning approaches that cultivate social cohesion; 

  11. Facilitate opportunities for civic engagement and enable audiences to take action in their communities; 

  12. Inspire hope and empower agents of change; 

  13. Build capacity within education systems to address community resilience; and

  14. Develop successful community resilience education approaches that contribute to the ELP Community of Practice. 

Definition of community resilience education

Educational approaches that develop community-level environmental literacy to understand threats and implement solutions that build resilience to extreme weather, climate change, and other environmental hazards. Environmental literacy here includes the knowledge, skills, and confidence to:

  1. reason about the ways that human and natural systems interact globally and locally, including the acknowledgement of disproportionately distributed vulnerabilities;
  2. participate in civic processes; and
  3. incorporate scientific information, cultural knowledge, and diverse community values when taking action to anticipate, prepare for, respond to, and recover from environmental hazards, including mitigating and adapting to climate change.

The "Pathway to Change" diagram maps the major outcomes identified in the six causal pathways and relates these to the problem statement, interventions, and goals. This depiction can be thought of as the abstract of the entire theory of change.

Theories of change typically include an end goal that is idealistic and far-reaching. The end goal here is large in scope, and it cannot be accomplished by NOAA or ELP alone. Therefore, an intermediate goal that articulates how ELP contributes to the end goal has also been written and is referred to as the ELP goal. Interventions provided by the agency and program show how both are working to address the challenges laid out in the problem statement to achieve the end goal.

 

Pathway to Change diagram, part 1 of 2, that shows how the problem statement leads to NOAA's interventions leading to ELP’s interventions, leading to short term outcomes. Full text of the diagram exists in Appendix B of the report.
Pathway to Change, part 1 of 2
Credit: NOAA Office of Education & Jessica B. Bartram, licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 4.0offsite link
Pathway to Change diagram, part 2 of 2, that shows how the mid term outcomes stem from the short term outcomes and lead to the long term outcomes, which further lead to the ELP outcome or ELP goal, which finally leads to the end goal. Full text of the diagram exists in Appendix B of report.
Pathway to Change, part 2 of 2
Credit: NOAA Office of Education & Jessica B. Bartram, licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 4.0offsite link

A text-based version of the Pathway to Change is available in the report.

 

Causal pathways systematically lay out the steps, or short-, mid-, and long-term outcomes that must be met to achieve the end goal. Six causal pathways have been identified based on the approaches and outcomes from community resilience education projects that ELP has funded and assumptions gleaned from our literature review. 

These causal pathways are not the only means to achieve community resilience through education, nor are they meant to be prescriptive. Successful projects may achieve outcomes in several different causal pathways and not all projects will achieve all of the long-term outcomes in a pathway. Most of the short- and mid-term outcomes encompassed in these pathways are already occurring in existing projects, whereas the long-term outcomes are aspirational and may occur with more effort (i.e., more than one project) and over a longer time period. Community resilience education projects can be evaluated based on pathway outcomes, although impact evaluation would likely include outcomes specific to project goals and context.

These diagrams illustrate the outcomes we have identified in each causal pathway. In total, more than 100 outcomes were identified across the six causal pathways and the Pathway to Change. Text-based versions of the Pathway to Change and the six causal pathways are included in the appendix of the report.

Diagram depicting short, mid, and long term outcomes that lead to the ELP outcome of NOAA’s ELP Community of Practice advances effective community resilience education both in individual projects and collectively through regular collaboration among grantees and sharing of findings within and beyond the community of practice.
Causal Pathway 1: ELP Community of Practice Advances Effective Approaches
Credit: NOAA Office of Education & Jessica B. Bartram, licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 4.0offsite link
Diagram depicting short, mid, and long term outcomes that lead to the ELP outcome of government policies and budgets provide resources (funding, personnel, etc.) to implement educational components of resilience efforts.
Causal Pathway 2: Resilience Planning and Policies Integrate Education
Credit: NOAA Office of Education & Jessica B. Bartram, licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 4.0offsite link
Diagram depicting short, mid, and long term outcomes that lead to the ELP outcome of resilience policy decisions and implemented preparedness, adaptation, and mitigation strategies incorporate the values of society, improve community health, and bolster socioeconomic equity.
Causal Pathway 3: Active Learning Enables Community Engagement in Civic Processes
Credit: NOAA Office of Education & Jessica B. Bartram, licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 4.0offsite link
Diagram depicting short, mid, and long term outcomes that lead to the ELP outcome of communities are more socially cohesive and implement resilience plans and practices that are more culturally relevant and represent diverse community values.
Causal Pathway 4: Understanding Cultural and Historical Context of Place Builds Social Cohesion
Credit: NOAA Office of Education & Jessica B. Bartram, licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 4.0offsite link
Diagram depicting short, mid, and long term outcomes that lead to the ELP outcome of educators and students have taken actions that reduce their community’s vulnerability to the identified environmental hazard(s), making a positive impact on their community and providing a model for other members of their community to follow.
Causal Pathway 5: Student-driven Action Projects Implement Resilience Measures
Credit: NOAA Office of Education & Jessica B. Bartram, licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 4.0offsite link
Diagram depicting short, mid, and long term outcomes that lead to the ELP outcome of youth act as agents of change to increase resilience in their community.
Causal Pathway 6: Youth Summits Empower Agents of Change
Credit: NOAA Office of Education & Jessica B. Bartram, licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 4.0offsite link

Text-based versions of the causal pathways are available in the report.

The “Report on the NOAA Office of Education Environmental Literacy Program Community Resilience Education Theory of Change” contains the complete theory of change, an overview of the Environmental Literacy Program history and evolution, an in-depth literature review, and an explanation of how to navigate the theory of change. A comprehensive glossary and bibliography are also included. There are several versions of the report available below. 

Report on the NOAA Office of Education Environmental Literacy Program Community Resilience Education Theory of Change-Cover Image
Cover image: Report on the NOAA Office of Education Environmental Literacy Program Community Resilience Education Theory of Change
Credit: NOAA Office of Education & Jessica B. Bartram, licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 4.0offsite link

Authors: Genie Bey, Carrie McDougall, and Sarah Schoedinger, NOAA Office of Education

Suggested citation: Bey, G., C. McDougall, & S. Schoedinger. 2020. Report on the NOAA Office of Education Environmental Literacy Program Community Resilience Education Theory of Change. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Washington, DC. doi:10.25923/mh0g-5q69

© Any version of this publication may be redistributed non-commercially in any media, unchanged and in whole, with credit given to the NOAA Office of Education.

All images credit: NOAA Office of Education & Jessica B. Bartram, licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 4.0offsite link

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Do you have feedback for us on the theory of change? Email us at oed.grants@noaa.gov or contact us on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram.

Published on
July 30, 2020