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Arboriculture & Urban Forestry Online
Volume 29, Issue 3 — May 2003

Urban Greening and Social Benefits: A Study of Empowerment Outcomes    (View PDF)

Lynne M. Westphal

Abstract: This paper provides a framework in which to consider social benefits of urban and community forestry projects. The framework clarifies who gets the benefitsAn individual? An organization? A community? Further, the benefits can be derived from passive and/or active experience of the urban forest. Examples of social benefits in each category are reviewed. The paper also presents findings from a research project that investigated practitioner claims for social benefits of urban greening projects. Practitioner assessments of the benefits received modest support in the research findings, but their assessments were not entirely accurate, leading to some true and some false claims of social benefits. Empowerment theory structured the investigation and analysis and provided insight for implementation of projects that aim for providing social benefits. The concepts of empowering versus empowered people were particularly helpful. Specifically, the empowering nature of each site's project organizer, the openness of the project process, and the overall organizing history of the block were important to achieving empowerment outcomes. The paper concludes with recommendations for practitioners interested in fostering empowerment through urban and community forestry projects.

Keywords: Social benefits; empowerment; community; volunteers.

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