For 111 years, the Sierra Club
has worked to build effective coalitions to advance its conservation goals. But
these ad hoc issue-based coalitions usually faded away when campaigns ended or
individuals moved on to other challenges. Club leaders saw the growing need to
build more permanent strategic partnerships, and in 2002 the Environmental Partnerships
program was launched in a dedicated effort to broaden and diversify the base
of active public support for environmental issues.
Volunteers and staff have enthusiastically embraced the objectives of the program,
working with partners on current issues of common concern, but also investing
the time and energy necessary for building long-term trusting relationships with
diverse constituencies and communities. Program staff lend support to existing
conservation efforts, as well as break new ground with constituencies like labor
unions, religious groups, Latino organizations, and hunters and anglers.
Everyone wants healthy communities with open space and clean air and water for
their families," says Melanie Griffin, national director of the program. "It’s
a matter of listening to people’s concerns and learning how to present
positive solutions in terms that they can embrace. It isn’t always
easy. We are used to being advocates and taking action at every turn.
relationships means taking the time to listen and respect different
At the national level, the Partnerships program has sponsored joint TV ads on
energy policy with the National Council of Churches, produced a video with famed
football personality Pat Summerall on the natural alliance between the Sierra
Club and sports enthusiasts, and helped organize workshops, trainings, and rallies
with a number of labor unions.
Perhaps the broadest partnership effort undertaken in the past few
years is the national education campaign aimed at exposing the Bush
effort to pack America’s courts with extreme, ultra-right wing judges.
Partnership staff and volunteers have been working with the Club’s Legal
Program to educate members and the public about the importance of the courts
and the serious risks posed by the lifetime appointments of judges who believe
that environmental laws are unconstitutional. "You know you are representing
mainstream America when you’re sitting at the table with the NAACP, AFL-CIO,
Planned Parenthood Federation of America, and the Mexican American Legal Defense
Fund," says Griffin. "This powerful partnership is about protecting
our communities and our civil rights from a well-funded, orchestrated campaign
to politicize America’s courts—it’s no wonder so
many different constituencies are speaking out."
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