Project Overview

In these times of accelerating change, environmental crises, and social injustices, we are bombarded with negative news that can numb and overwhelm the spirit. How can we build hope and resilience? How can we face climate change? What can we do to address injustice? This three-part series of train-the-trainer workshops transformed the expertise of scholars in eco-psychology, social justice, and community organizing into powerful curriculum and training modules that provide participants with the educational background and practical strategies and tools to not only cultivate the hope and resilience needed for their own well-being, but also to gain valuable resources to become change agents and facilitate collective impact in their own communities.

Through partnerships with Portland Community College, the Greater Portland Sustainablity Education Network, and local experts from Portland State University and beyond, these workshops have tapped into a deep community need and have really modeled our motto: "Educate ~ Empower ~ Engage." We are grateful for all who have invested in these programs and for those who have participated within our college, in our community, and around the world. The details below highlight the partners, processes, goals, and outcomes of the workshops and how these have not only made a difference for those who have already participated, but also offer opportunities for other institutions and communities in the future.


Learning about environmental, social, and economic sustainability issues can be daunting and overwhelming, especially when considering how to create solutions to pressing problems. Our college and community determined that we would not be able to help address these issues without collaboration with the social sciences, particularly sociology and psychology experts that could help students learn about the critical issues of our times and explore opportunities for solutions. As a train-the-trainer model, we wanted to create a sustainability education workshop series that addresses the need for building greater personal capacity and leadership development related to overcoming psychological barriers that can inhibit empowerment and engagement in our lives, work, and communities. Transcending campus and discipline-specific sustainability issues, this model provides the knowledge, tools, and strategies necessary for participants to be able to engage proactively, empathetically, and heroically with campus and community needs, through honest conversations and innovative problem-solving.

This vision developed in partnership between the Greater Portland Sustainability Education Network (GPSEN) and Portland Community College, as a collaborative, cross-disciplinary and cross-sector program with institutions around the four-county region and with mentors in the international sustainability education community. Incubated through PCC, GPSEN was designated by United Nations University as a Regional Center of Expertise on Education for Sustainable Development in 2013. Since then, we have been co-creating valuable programs that offer opportunities for collective impact and advance sustainability education in our region. We have emphasized programs that support college students and are especially proud of the work that our regional College Network has achieved in leadership development by co-hosting and cross-promoting educational programs and events that focus on pressing social, environmental and equity issues.


1) Educate, Empower and Engage at least 25 students directly per train-the-trainer sustainability education workshop, with further participants trained via these students.

2) Offer trainings to promote attitudes and behaviors that build awareness, empathy and community responsibility.

3) Empower participants to recognize that they have the ability to address challenging issues and help demonstrate pathways to engage effectively in social change.

4) Develop train-the-trainer skills that allow participants to:

  • gain the psychological skills necessary to maintain hope and resilience during troubling times

  • receive support on how to handle climate change, on a personal and community level

  • understand the history of community and planetary environmental and social justice issues

  • consider issues of environmental ethics and how to navigate conflicting values and diverse experiences

  • nurture community-organizing skills to address tangible issues and engage in their communities

5) Increase understanding of local and international sustainability issues, including SDG 16 - Peace and Justice.

6) Establish interactive processes between institutions and community partners, for further engagement within PCC and across GPSEN’s regional College Network for partnership and network-building to increase collective impact.


With 2019 funding from PCC's District Student Council, our "Empowering Students for Environmental Justice" workshop, piloted this May, builds on two workshops that GPSEN and PCC developed together with eco-psychologists Kathy Stanley and Rebecca Lexa in 2016-2017, thanks to funding from PCC's Green Initiative Fund. The “Strategies for Hope and Resilience” and “Facing Climate Change” workshops, conducted at PCC Cascade, were well received and established the format and process for expert recruitment, curriculum development, event planning, outreach, and implementation.

We have developed a highly useful Call for Proposals and event planning form which help us partner with regional experts and address our core logistics in developing quality trainings. Our community outreach and student recruitment tools have been deepened through our community partnerships and GPSEN College Network. Volunteers are key to helping with setting goals and implementing key tasks for training development and event execution. We are grateful for their time and commitment.

We were excited to finally have had the opportunity to add our much-needed and long-desired environmental justice workshop to the series. Rather than working with our earlier eco-psychology trainers, we sought a community expert in environmental and social justice, a much-respected colleague from Portland State University: Kevin Thomas. He developed all of the curricula for our training, including extensive film and resource lists, and conducted our training at PCC Sylvania.


Each workshop took approximately 3-5 months to implement, once funding was secured.

September, 2016: Secured TGIF Funding for Strategies for Hope and Resilience and Facing Climate Change workshops

October, 2016: Call for Proposals for Trainers

November, 2016: Memorandums of Understanding signed

December, 2016: Meetings held to establish learning objectives and begin marketing

January, 2017: Curriculum developed, resources collected, and outreach conducted

February, 2017: “Strategies for Hope and Resilience” workshop conducted

February, 2017: Evaluated training and submitted report

March, 2017: Curriculum developed, resources collected, and outreach conducted

April, 2017: “Facing Climate Change” workshop conducted

May, 2017: Evaluated training and submitted report

March, 2019: Secured District Student Council funding for “Empowering Students For Environment Justice” workshop; Call for Proposals for Trainers

April, 2019: Created curriculum; organized training; and conducted outreach

May, 2019: Hosted district-wide Environmental Justice training

June, 2019: Evaluate training and submit report


To develop, coordinate, and facilitate these workshops, Portland Community College District Student Council funds paid $6,000 to create our “Strategies for Hope and Resilience” and “Facing Climate Change” workshops and $2,200 for our “Empowering Students for Environmental Justice” workshop. Expenses included:

• Stipends ($1,000 each) for three experts to create the curriculum and training materials for the “Strategies for Hope and Resilience”, “Facing Climate Change”, and “Empowering Students for Environmental Justice” workshops

• Honoraria ($100-250) to lead one-day trainings

• Create and print materials for all participants, with guidebooks and flashdrives ($300)

• Lunch and refreshments ($350/per workshop)

• Operational costs ($600) to coordinate logistics for registration, printing, catering, and the trainings, with 30 hours in staff time

• College Network volunteers helped identify learning objectives, sought trainers, coordinated registration, facilitated event-planning, and organized assessment tools, with an estimated 45 hours in volunteer time.


  • The three original train-the-trainer workshops registered 83 participants, with 62 participants completing the trainings

  • 45 Oregon Department of Environmental Quality employees participated in the Strategies for Hope and Resilience Workshop

  • The Strategies for Hope and Resilience workshop has been offered as a presentation to over 45 participants and a pre-conference workshop at AASHE, with 9 registrants, who offered very positive feedback.

  • A shortened version of the Facing Climate Change workshop was offered at the Global RCE conference, in Japan, with over 50 people attending and many asking if they could replicate the training.

  • Requests continue to offer each of the workshops again, pending funding for printing and meals.

Lessons Learned

  • It is essential to work closely with trainers to co-create curricula that meet shared learning objectives and offer interactive activities throughout the training.

  • Do not depend too heavily on films.

  • Increase incentives for students who register for trainings to attend. Attrition rates can be disturbing, so it might help to charge for participation vs. offering workshops for free.

  • Collaborate with student clubs and service centers to increase engagement and co-fund trainings.



Environmental Justice

Environmental Justice

Photographer credit: Kim Smith