Pioneering conservationist and Open Space Institute founder Dick Pough placed a high premium on community-based conservation. Pough knew that grassroots organizations were crucial to protecting land, air, and water in the communities where people lived.
Through its Citizen Action program, OSI’s oldest and longest-running program, the organization remains true to Pough’s original sentiment: community conservation matters.
Citizen Action allows OSI to reach diverse audiences who are passionate about conservation. The program addresses a range of issues that are central to OSI’s mission, and leaves a positive and lasting mark at the community level.
“At its core, community conservation is the touchstone of the environmental movement,” says Jessica Watson, director for OSI’s Citizen Action program. “By reaching out and connecting to people where they are – in cities, suburbs, rural areas – Citizen Action is cementing the future of the conservation movement. Community conservation remains a top priority for us today. The Open Space Institute may be best known for conserving huge swaths of land for future generations, but our commitment to grassroots activism gives these practices longevity by engaging the next wave of environmental stewards.”
Now in its fourth decade, Citizen Action has mentored, trained, and launched more than 150 grassroots startups in New York City, the Hudson Valley, and beyond. The program offers members nonprofit status, legal tools, financial stability, fundraising ability, and a new mentorship component. In recent years the program has evolved to meet the changing needs of its member groups.
“OSI realized that the work we were doing with these community organizations was important, but that many of them needed more than fiscal sponsorship. They needed broader guidance on how to operate independently and be successful,” says Watson.