Urban GreenWorks (UGW) is a Miami-based not-for-profit organization and a fund of the Miami Foundation. We exist to restore the economic, physical, and social health of under-served communities. Our focus is community food security and environmental restoration. UGW creates programs for communities plagued by poor access to fresh food, blighted and neglected open space, low urban tree cover, and an under-employed population of young adults. We provide environmental programs and green job training to incarcerated men and women, youth remanded by court to drug rehab and at-risk high-school youth in low-income neighborhoods.
Our activities take place primarily in the City of Miami's District 5, which encompasses Liberty City, Brownsville, Allapattah, and Little Haiti. The community (which was 76% African-American, 18% Hispanic, and 6% White, mostly at the low income to poverty level) has been going through the beginnings of what our friend, Ms. Paulette Richards, has kindly labelled "climate-change gentrification".
While our work has a focus in the City of Miami, our programs are designed to be shovel-ready, replicable, and sustainable, anywhere. We have worked with partners along the East Coast, the Mid-West, & the Caribbean.
At UGW, individual health is determined, in part, by the quality of the organizations that are charged with serving a community's resource needs. Are these organizations improving the community or maintaining a status quo? Do they have the tools to make meaningful change in health outcomes, especially as the current public health paradigm is shifting? Missing from under-served communities is the present inclusion into the discussion of factors that affect them. Too often, communities members are bought to the table after the fact, when life-changing decisions have already been made, on their behalf. Let's change that!
This new paradigm, "Planetary Health", according to the Rockefeller Foundation–Lancet Commission, is “the achievement of the highest attainable standard of health, well-being, and equity worldwide through judicious attention to the human systems—political, economic, and social—that shape the future of humanity and the Earth's natural systems that define the safe environmental limits within which humanity can flourish. Put simply, planetary health is the health of human civilization and the state of the natural systems on which it depends”.
Our nationally recognized horticultural therapy best practice model (Mustard Seed) is offering new opportunities for meaningful incite into and impact on individual lives. The positive results from working with at-risk youth, prison inmates, and victimized women, have us looking at applying it to veterans with PTSD.
We are always self-analyzing and adapting to the changing needs of our community. UGW began internal and community discussions, 2 years ago, about integrating the Whole Measures For Community Food Systems (WMCFS) into our core philosophy. Its a planning & evaluation tool that helps organizations to work productively and collaboratively towards mutual goals of community improvement. "When applied to a social or environmental change initiative, Whole Measures can serve as a foundation for a highly integrated, whole systems approach that effectively embraces a wide variety of values such as: social equity, biodiversity, human rights, ecosystem health, civic engagement, and economic vitality."
Finally, we connect all of the inputs we receive from within and outside of the organization and look at things as they relate to the bigger picture, if that is even clear. But really, the bigger picture is the inter-connectedness between all living things and the impact that we have on each other. The Life Web is vast and in the beginning Urban GreenWorks spent most of its time focused on our issues of the Environment & Food. As we adapt, UGW understands that there are many extenuating circumstances that affecting our work, and effecting the lives of the people we serve. Understanding these social determinants of health (SDOH) and developing creative, holistic, and sustainable programs that address them are how we look to serve our mission.