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Title: Growing Power?: Social Benefits From Urban Greening Projects

Author: Westphal, Lynne;

Date: 1999

Source: Westphal, Lynne M. Growing Power?: Social Benefits From Urban Greening Projects. 1999

Publication Series: Scientific Journal (JRNL)


In this study I investigated practitioners claims for social benefits of urban greening projects (e.g., tree planting, community gardens). Practitioners' claims of increased neighborliness, reduced drug dealing and other social benefits have led to interest in using greening projects specifically to achieve these ends.

Four sites that participated in a City of Chicago sponsored greening program in 1995 were selected for the study: two were sites where practitioners thought there were social benefits from the project, two were sites where practitioners thought there were no such benefits. Photo-elicitation and interview techniques were used to assess each site, including the greening projects. Project participants and nonparticipants were interviewed. Empowerment theory and the empirical literature on the meanings of urban green space structure the investigation and analysis.

Practitioners assessments of the benefits recieved modest support, but through lack of awareness of the full story on each block their assessments were not entirely accurate.

Empowerment theory was helpful in understanding some of the outcomes. The concepts of empowering processes versus empowered outcomes were particularly helpful. The postulation from empowerment theory of three levels of empowerment-individual, organization, and community-were problematic with these data. The empowering nature of each site's greening project and the organizing history of the block were important to achieving empowerment outcomes.

Metaphoric meanings of "clean" and "dirt" were found to be important to residents and a source of positive self- and group-image.

Keywords: urban greening, urban forestry, empowerment, social benefits

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Westphal, Lynne 1999. Growing Power?: Social Benefits From Urban Greening Projects. Westphal, Lynne M. Growing Power?: Social Benefits From Urban Greening Projects. 1999


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