Friday, February 2, 2018

Sharing green infrastructure insights: An update from Margo Davis

Recently, my Great Lakes Commission (GLC) coworkers and I formally kicked off our green infrastructure mentoring network with our first quarterly webinar. Although this was the first time the network has convened as a group, behind-the-scenes coordination and individual mentoring activities have been ongoing for some time now. My role in the Green Infrastructure Champions project — and the mentoring network specifically — has been a really interesting and rewarding opportunity.

Green infrastructure tour (in the rain!) during the Green Infrastructure Champions workshop in Detroit, Michigan. Photo: SEMCOG

The mentoring network was open to communities and organizations across the Great Lakes basin and at all stages of green infrastructure implementation. Some network members are taking the early steps in getting green infrastructure off the ground in their communities, while others have several successful green infrastructure policies and installations.

I am responsible for coordinating the network, which included matching what we are calling “Emerging Champions,” or mentees, with appropriate “Pioneer Champions,” or mentors. As part of the larger project, we held two green infrastructure workshops — one in London, Ontario, and one in Detroit, Michigan — that also served as opportunities to get communities and organizations involved in the mentoring network. The Emerging Champions submitted a needs form, identifying the specific area(s) in which they could use mentoring. I then looked for partners in the Great Lakes basin with expertise that spoke to those needs. Often, this meant reaching out to a person or organization already engaged with our Green Infrastructure Champions project to get contact information of others involved in green infrastructure across the basin to get the right fit of mentor experience with mentee needs.

Green infrastructure tour during the Green Infrastructure Champions workshop in London, Ontario. Photo: GLC

In addition to using contacts that the GLC has already established, I have been able to follow up with people and projects I have been introduced to through networking opportunities. I attended the Healing Our Waters Coalition’s Great Lakes Restoration Conference back in October, and as I reviewed one of the mentee’s needs, I immediately thought back to a project I learned about in a session in the conference. I thought the experiences would align nicely, and I was able to get in touch with team members from the project to get them on board to serve as a mentor.

It has been a great experience for me to connect with collaborators across the Great Lakes basin and explain our project to people with varying levels of background awareness of the mentoring network. I have reached out to communities, nonprofits, and consulting firms alike to help establish an effective network that will work to share information and reduce barriers to green infrastructure. The webinar was a chance to get a glimpse at how the network operates as whole, and I am encouraged that it will be a valuable opportunity for the members.

Rain garden at The Enclave at Victoria Hills in Ingersoll, Ontario. Photo: GLC