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Public Involvement Network News

Note: EPA no longer updates this information, but it may be useful as a reference or resource.

Working Together to Achieve Results:  EPA’s Environmental Justice Collaborative Problem-Solving Model

Nicholas Targ, Associate Director for Environmental Justice Integration, Office of Environmental Justice

Despite increased attention to environmental and human health issues in minority and low-income communities since the signing of Executive Order 12898, “Federal Actions to Address Environmental Justice in Minority Populations and Low-Income Populations,” (Feb. 11, 1994), many communities continue to suffer disproportionately from the interrelated environmental, public health, economic, and social concerns endemic to the issue of environmental justice.

Due to the complexity of environmental justice issues, frequently no single stakeholder (e.g., government, communities, business, or industry) has the means or ability to address the situation.  In addition, the affected community may lack the clout, organizational structure, and/or expertise to bring the necessary groups together to improve conditions.  Therefore, environmental justice concerns tend to persist in the absence of a plan of action and coordinated efforts on the part of many.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) designed the Environmental Justice Collaborative Problem-solving Model (CPS Model) and the Collaborative Problem-solving Cooperative Agreement Program (CPS Program) as vehicles for change— to help serve as a roadmap and catalyst for concerted, collaborative work to address these vexing and complex environmental and public health concerns.

Environmental Justice Collaborative Problem-solving Model

The CPS Model offers a flexible, but structured, process that community-based organizations and others can use to establish and maintain partnerships capable of producing meaningful results.  Seven elements form the core of the CPS Model.  These include the following:

  1. Visioning and Strategic Goal-Setting;
  2. Community Capacity-Building and  Leadership Development;
  3. Consensus Building and Dispute Resolution;
  4. Development of Multi-Stakeholder Partnerships and Leveraging of Resources;
  5. Constructive Engagement with Other Stakeholders;
  6. Sound Management and Implementation; and
  7. Evaluation.

Recognizing that the elements are interrelated, the model should be applied in a strategic, ongoing, and iterative manner.  Collectively, the elements establish a system that can help communities work effectively and collaboratively with others in environmental justice situations, where relationships are sometime highly stressed.

Environmental Justice Collaborative Problem-solving Cooperative Agreement Program

EPA’s Office of Environmental Justice (OEJ) established the CPS Program in 2003 to assist community-based organizations develop and implement locally-based solutions to environmental and/or public health concerns in collaboration with others.  Specifically, the CPS Program provides:  (1) $100,000 directly to each selected applicant; and (2) technical assistance in the use of the CPS Model.

The first round of 30 awards, which OEJ made in 2004, included a diverse group of community-based organizations that faced an equally diverse set of issues.  Among others, the communities included:

However different the projects may be, a defining feature of each community-based organization is the desire to collaborate with others to improve local environmental and/or public health conditions.


Environmental justice issues can be highly resistant to change without a plan of action and concerted, collaborative efforts.  Working together, however, communities and others can identify assets and opportunities and produce results.

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