Public Lab Wiki documentation


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Public Lab respectfully draws on multiple rich lineages of organizing with a site-specific focus for community self-determination.

We lift up indigenous movements for land defense, poor people's struggles for land reform / tenure, the lived expertise of HIV patients that changed medical research, and Public Lab's own predecessor organization Grassroots Mapping as ancestors in this work. We lift up the methods and ethics of Freirian organizing, action research, participatory planning, and public participation geographic information systems (PPGIS) as we develop methods and ethics.

Public Lab's community science projects are place-based and led by local residents. This is for several reasons, including: 1) people near the site through time have priceless lived experience; 2) governance is geographic by what environmental regulations are in effect and which electoral district you're a constituent in; and 3) place offers a container for multiple standpoints to offer views on the same place. Stand for what you stand on!

This page is a place to collect and organize resources on organizing. Visit the organizing tag page to see the latest community posts about organizing on Public Lab, and get updates on this topic by following:

Follow Organizing

Lead image from the Appalachia Barnraising in 2017

On this page you can:

Learn about different methods for community organizing, including tactics for place-based organizing and organizing-related activities

Join the conversation
  • Ask a question, answer a question, or follow future questions on organizing
  • Post an issue brief that describes your local place-based concern

Read stories from organizers doing community science

Find further reading and resources on organizing

Methods for community organizing

Tactics for place-based organizing

We recommend this sequence of steps, even if you skip a few, for attracting and organizing a group of people around place-based research.

Tour the area

Move through the area together

toxic tour Wilmington CA

Image: Emmett Institute at UCLA School of Law, CC BY NC

Mental mapping

Invite each person to draw a mental map of landmarks, personal situated memories, infrastructure

hand drawn map

Historical land use mapping

Start investigating what's happened previously on this site as the best way to focus future study designs

Winnipeg land use historical map

Image: Manitoba Historical Maps, CC BY

Aerial mapping

Capture a portrait of the landscape with you and the group in it. Bonus, this is really fun!

kite aerial photography

Annotating aerial maps

Add the points that emerged from touring the site, drawing mental maps, and overlaying the historical maps

annotated map

Image: by @eustatic

This content will likely elicit the next round of questioning, which will provide some direction for your group to:

More methods for organizing

Methods published on Public Lab and tagged with organizing will appear on the organizing methods page at


Activities on Public Lab that have been tagged with activity:organizing will appear here

Activities should include a materials list, costs and a step-by-step guide to construction with photos. Learn what makes a good activity here.

Join the conversation

Questions from the community

  • See if other community members are asking questions like yours
  • Ask a question so other community members can offer support
  • Sign up below to be notified when someone asks an organizing-related question

Questions tagged with question:organizing will appear here

Title Author Updated Likes Comments
What strategies have been implemented to use citizen science successfully in litigation? @julia_e_masters about 2 years ago 1
How do you turn results about environmental pollution into personal actions that people can take? @bhamster about 3 years ago 2
How do you make results from environmental monitoring personally meaningful to people? @bhamster about 3 years ago 2
Has anyone organized "walking tours" or "community walks" as part of their grassroots organizing practice? @amocorro about 3 years ago 2
What methods have you used to raise initial public awareness of a local issue? @bhamster about 3 years ago 8
For US Environmental Protection Agency Community Advisory Groups (CAGs): Does the EPA have to engage the local communities in the Superfund vicinity? And if so, what does that process need to look like? @amocorro over 3 years ago 3

Post an Issue Brief

Share information about a local environmental health concern and get support from the Public Lab community by writing and posting an Issue Brief. Visit “Write an Issue Brief” to find information on what an issue brief is, see examples, and learn how to write one.

Stories from community organizers

Further reading and resources