Greenprint Process

Best Practices

Skyline of Los Angeles against a backdrop of snowcapped mountains.
Los Angeles skyline Downtown Los Angeles skyline with snowcapped mountains at sunset. © TNC
Group of manitees swim in clear, turquoise-hued water under branches draped with moss.
Manatees Manatees at Blue Springs State Park in Florida. © John Winfree

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These three topic areas are most critical for ensuring a successful greenprint:

  1. Process and Engagement
  2. Mapping and Spatial Analysis
  3. Implementation and Action

Process and Engagement

  • At the beginning of a greenprinting process, it is important to clearly identify at least one way that the greenprint will be used. Additional use cases may emerge, but designing the greenprint from the beginning with a target use in mind is critical. The use case may be anything from helping certain policymakers or agencies to make decisions or persuading a particular group of the value of multi-benefit conservation. Engaging potential users is essential, and user-centered design should be a core part of the greenprinting process. This helps ensure that the greenprint’s goals and approach—and any recommendations or tools developed—meet users’ needs and that the greenprint will be adopted and used by those most responsible for implementation.

  • Greenprints are inherently interdisciplinary and are focused on identifying opportunities to provide multiple benefits. Engaging agencies, organizations, and businesses focused on different elements of these benefits will help develop cross-sector partnerships and leverage expertise that will result in a stronger greenprint and more successful implementation. The planning process should maintain flexibility to account for diverse perspectives and varying expertise and background knowledge.

  • Many greenprints rely on narrower practitioner-focused engagement. However, particularly when a greenprint is intended to help make decisions about important community spaces, access to open space, equity considerations, or public health, it is important to engage more broadly with community members. There are many ways to approach this as outlined in the Greenprint Toolbox section on equity-driven engagement.

  • Using shared and accessible language is important for building consensus and keeping partners and community members from feeling alienated by more technical content. Providing translated materials and translation services and support can also be an important part of accessibility—especially when project goals and process are focused on equity. In some greenprints, using alternative terminology, for example focusing on “community health” rather than “climate resilience,” may allow room for more perspectives while meeting the same core goals. However, it is important to maintain a fundamental commitment to scientific rigor in data and analysis. In some cases, avoiding value-laden language will increase access and partnerships and prevent alienation of organizations and individuals with varied interests. In other cases, where all partners are more aligned, less neutral language may be more motivating. Working with trusted core partners to identify the kinds of language that will help facilitate communication and build consensus is an important early outreach goal. It is important to anticipate that engagement may bring up sensitive and contentious issues and to design a process that can accommodate, and not exacerbate, conflict.

  • Defining the roles and decision-making process early in greenprint development allows for a more streamlined process with fewer conflicts. Important roles to define include: designing the overall process, leading engagement, analyzing data, developing reports and tools, and managing and implementing the greenprint after it is developed. Often Greenprints are led by a small core team of partners along with a steering committee or advisory team composed of representatives from a Greenprint target users or audiences. It is important to communicate early and frequently about who is responsible for making key decisions, how decisions will be made, and what level of consensus is required from partners. It can be helpful to develop and share graphics that illustrate roles and decision-making processes. One model of defining roles is the “RASCI” model, which outlines who is responsible, accountable, supporting, consulted with, or informed.

  • Trust in the greenprint process and products is key for support and implementation. Transparency in the entire process is critical for building trust, and it is important for expectations of the process and products of a Greenprint to be clear and realistic. The goals and intentions of the process, and ultimately the plan, should be stated clearly and early in the process. The decision-making and partner/community involvement process should be transparent, with clearly established ground-rules for shaping and making decisions. The data and methods for the spatial analysis should be made available for review, while taking data sensitivities into account. Data that may not be appropriate to share more widely includes locations of sacred sites, high-resolution demographic or health data, specific locations of highly sensitive species, or very technical data that requires specialized training or technology to interpret.

  • Given the place-based nature of Greenprints, paying attention to details like meeting locations and times, providing amenities like food and childcare, and choosing a skilled and culturally competent facilitator can make a big difference. It can also be useful to avoid zero values or blank spaces or project maps to ensure that spatial representations include something for everyone. These choices help draw out important information in the greenprint development process and encourage support from diverse partners and potential users. If potential users do not see themselves reflected in the greenprint process and materials—from the photos featured in the document to the icebreaker used at meetings—they are less likely to support and use the greenprint.

Mapping and Spatial Analysis

  • Greenprints can address an enormous range of conservation goals/values from habitat connectivity to farmland protection to flood mitigation. (See list in key questions.) It is important to understand which of these values and goals are most important to partners and users and are most relevant in the greenprint region. Looking at ways to meet multiple conservation goals can reveal synergies that could be gained through new partnerships and trade-offs that may exist between values.

  • It is important to use data that reflects the best available science and analysis. In some cases the Greenprint process may reveal data gaps that can create an opportunity for partner organizations to develop novel data that can advance project outcomes. Ideally the data used in Greenprints are recommended by experts, trusted by partners, used in other plans or by agencies and funders in their own decision-making, and peer-reviewed (if applicable). Data incorporated should generally be publicly available, except when sensitivities related to the data (for example: sacred sites, sensitive species locations) mean that it should not be widely shared. In many cases, it is helpful for Greenprints to use fewer, higher-quality datasets to support clear and concise data analysis and representation. Some existing data sources, such as EJScreen, synthesize a variety of existing data in ways that may be very useful for greenprint analysis if the way the data are synthesized reflects project goals.

  • It is important to understand disparities in access to the benefits of conservation and disparities in exposure to environmental risks. Incorporating demographic data from the US Census, environmental risk data from EPA’s EJScreen, or health data from CDC PLACES can help identify important disparities that should be taken into account in decision-making about conservation. In some cases, it may be very important to look at the potential for conservation actions to lead to gentrification and displacement. When equity-related data (and potential consequences) are not taken into account, conservation investments can sometimes serve to exacerbate inequities faced by socioeconomically vulnerable frontline communities. It is very important to seek input from environmental justice or equity experts on how to incorporate equity-related data into a greenprint.

  • Spatially representing conservation goals highlights areas where multiple benefits overlap. This is critical for identifying priority areas for investment. Spatial representation can take the form of maps, data hubs for shared information, or interactive mapping tools. In some cases, it is important to be very careful in communicating about maps that show priority areas so that landowners do not feel that their property is being “targeted” and so that partners focused on different conservation goals can still see their efforts reflected in shared greenprint products.

  • Existing conservation plans and efforts can provide a natural starting point for a greenprint. These could range from priority resource protection areas identified in a county’s General Plan or by a coalition working to protect a watershed. Building on the momentum of other efforts and incorporating existing plans, data from these planning efforts, or goals can help a greenprint gain traction and credibility in a community and leverage existing relationships, data, and analysis.

  • Relevance is important when determining the boundaries of a greenprint. The extent of the planning area must be appropriate for the culture, economy, society, and institutions of the potential greenprint users, and can be defined by political, ecological, or administrative boundaries. Whether it is at a neighborhood scale or multiple counties, grounding a greenprint within a regional context helps to inform the location and type of conservation investments and ensure they contribute to larger goals. It is important to understand that defining a greenprint in a way that crosses traditional boundaries (like a county or regulatory jurisdiction) can be both an opportunity to implement projects at a scale that fosters collaboration and an obstacle to implementation as more partners (and partners with potentially opposing objectives) will need to be cultivated and engaged.

Implementation and Action

  • Beyond the greenprint development, it is important to create opportunities for partners who were or would like to be involved to have the forum to collaborate and advance implementation ideas and actions. Holding periodic meetings and gatherings to provide updates on projects and funding, adjust greenprint content as needed, and identify opportunities to align on shared goals and projects helps to advance implementation. Branding or marketing completed implementation actions as “greenprint wins” can provide credibility and momentum to advance other priority greenprint projects.

  • The best Greenprints can fail to be implemented if they are not designed to support decision-making. Detailing discrete activities and implementation needs that contribute to the conservation goals of the greenprint will provide end users with opportunities to advance projects. It is important to provide examples and guidance for how the greenprint can be used in different circumstances by different groups. These examples could include ways that the greenprint can be used to support a grant application or ways that it can be used to support policy development and advocacy for public funding for conservation.

  • Greenprints should allow current and future partners the flexibility to advance complementary goals through their own organizations or collaborations. A greenprint process should respect the need of partners and their respective organizations to advance their own priorities and missions in ways that are related to, and ideally complementary to, a greenprint.

  • It is important to address as early in the greenprinting process as possible how the greenprint will be managed after it is developed. If the greenprint involves an online tool or data hub, that will need to be maintained and updated. No matter what form a greenprint takes, it is important to try to assess how it is being used and to adapt, if possible, to changing partner needs. Ideally, there will be funding and other resources to support this work after the greenprint is developed.