The Green Metropolis Opportunity Project was the initial project of Dr. Antwi Akom in his years at the Institute – a line of work that later evolved independently as the Institute for Sustainable Economic Educational and Environmental Design, which he co-founded.
The goal of the Green Metropolis Opportunity Project was to examine the ways in which urban social networks among schools, business, community-based and faith-based organizations respond to environmental racism, interrupt cycles of poverty, and facilitate meaningful educational and economic mobility for low income youth of color.
Black Americans are far more likely than whites to live in neighborhoods where industrial pollution is suspected of posting the greatest health danger. Historically, African Americans and other communities of color have been disproportionately impacted by pollution from landfills, incinerators, and polluting industries in their homes, neighborhoods, and schools.
The four phases of this project were designed to collectively improve the secondary and post secondary system in four core areas:
Phase One - Community Links
The goal of phase one was to better understand the relationships between environmental racism and educational achievement, including the core environmental and educational issues surrounding race, waste, and place in the San Francisco Bay Area. Phase one utilized GIS mapping and quantitative research methods to create a database to assess:
- the number of schools located next to or in proximity to superfund sites;
- the race, ethnicity, and socio-economic background of the children going to school there; and
- the extent of racial and socioeconomic disparities of commercial hazardous waste facilities in the San Francisco Bay Area.
Phase Two - Networks
Phase two gathered descriptive qualitative data to better understand how social networks and civic engagement create positive forms of social capital that bridge institutional barriers for low income youth and families. We examined how urban institutions (schools, business, community- and faith-based organizations) respond to specific and intensified forms of negative social capital (i.e. environmental racism) in order to facilitate and create healthy, livable, and sustainable communities.
Phase Three - Incentives
Phase Three was designed to assess the policy and legislative changes needed to address the adverse and disproportionate impact of environmental and educational inequity for low-income youth of color.
Three strategies began to be operationalized and evaluated:
- Train youth for eco-friendly ("green-collar”) jobs in San Francisco, Oakland, and Richmond in conjunction with community partners;
- Create Green Enterprise Zones to attract environmentally sound industry to the Bay Area.
- Support green business development, with a special focus on providing "green pathways out of poverty", by recruiting and training people with barriers to employment towards becoming gainfully employed in the green economy.
Phase Four - Academic Improvements & Employment Opportunities
The final phase of the project will be a series of educational and job-training pipelines connecting different parts of local community development with specific classroom/workshop modules that teach educational and environmental justice issues related to:
- Increasing college access for historically marginalized youth;
- Connecting historically marginalized youth directly to green jobs and the green economy, and;
- Providing technical assistance to community-based and faith-based organizations in order to strengthen social networks among disconnected youth, create new leaders for the 21st century economy, and facilitate access to post-secondary educational opportunities.