The City of Durham only has eleven years left in its current waste management contract. In prioritizing investment in green infrastructure, the city has the opportunity to reimagine its approach to this issue and transform it into a more equitable, sustainable system. A FUSE Executive Fellow will help the City Manager’s Office explore a potential model for the future of waste reduction and the circular economy (and the creation of an Ecopark), centering racial equity and community input in its design and implementation.
ABOUT THE FUSE EXECUTIVE FELLOWSHIP
FUSE Corps is a national nonprofit working to expand social and economic opportunities, particularly for communities that have been limited by a history of systemic and institutionalized racism. FUSE partners with local governments and communities to more effectively address pressing challenges by placing experienced professionals within city and county agencies. These FUSE Executive Fellows lead strategic projects designed to advance racial equity and accelerate systems change. Since 2012, FUSE has led over 250 projects in 40 governments across 20 states, impacting the lives of 25 million people.
When designing each fellowship project, FUSE works closely with government partners and local stakeholders to define a scope of work that will achieve substantive progress toward regional priorities. FUSE then conducts an individualized search for each project to ensure that the selected candidate has at least 15 years of professional experience, the required competencies for the role, and deep connections to the communities being served. They are data-driven and results-oriented and able to effectively manage complex projects by developing actionable roadmaps and monitoring progress to completion.
Executive Fellows are hired as FUSE employees and embedded in government agencies for at least one year of full-time work. Throughout their fellowships, they receive training, coaching, and professional support from FUSE to help achieve their project goals. FUSE Executive Fellows bring diverse perspectives and new approaches to their projects. They build strong relationships with diverse arrays of stakeholders, foster alignment within and across various layers of government, and build partnerships between governments and communities.
The City of Durham, North Carolina is prioritizing investment in and engagement with low-wealth communities and communities of color that have been historically excluded from or harmed by policy decisions. Through the Equitable and Green Infrastructure Program (EGI) the city is working to deploy infrastructure solutions that address disparities and promote environmental justice. Throughout 2021, the City Council and Departments outlined $50 million dollars in potential projects that would make progress towards the city’s green and equitable infrastructure commitments.
This included reevaluating the city’s approach to waste reduction and the circular economy. The city’s landfill closed in 1992, and since then Durham has been shipping waste to a privately owned landfill in another county. The equity impacts of this model are twofold:
- Landfills (and the associated negative health and economic impacts) in North Carolina are more likely to be located in or near low-income communities of color.
- Durham residents need to have access to a personal vehicle to use the services available at the waste disposal & recycling center (dispose of hazardous household materials (e.g., paint, pesticides, herbicides), oil and grease, appliances, electronics, tires, etc.) that are not accepted by curbside waste pickup, meaning there is a racial and economic disparity in who can safely dispose of these materials within the city.
With just a few years remaining on the current contract, the city has prioritized developing new, sustainable, and equitable solutions to waste management. Rather than an inconvenient and necessary evil, Durham envisions building a new hub for waste reduction, reuse, and recycling – a circular economy that ensures easy and safe management of hazardous waste; diverts reusable materials from landfills; fosters economic opportunity for businesses that can capitalize on diverted materials; and creates high quality, entry-level employment and jobs and training opportunities for individuals with physical and developmental disabilities – an Ecopark. City-owned parcels in proximity to the existing Waste Disposal and Recycling Center, as well as the Solid Waste Administration/Annex building, offer the potential for use in support of these goals and the added benefit of cleaning up and rehabilitating former disposal areas that exist in an area identified by the Climate and Economic Justice Screening Tool as disadvantaged communities.
Durham will partner with FUSE Corps to assess the build-out of the Ecopark based on local data, community input, and potential funding streams (EPA, Closed Loop Foundation, Recycling Partnership, etc.). The FUSE Executive Fellow will advise on how the Ecopark will advance Durham’s green and equitable infrastructure agenda while addressing its long-term waste management needs. This work will equip Durham with the framework, data insights, and communications tools necessary to develop, resource, and implement this new waste reduction solution.
PROJECT SUMMARY & POTENTIAL DELIVERABLES
The following provides a general overview of the proposed fellowship project. This project summary and the potential deliverables will be collaboratively revisited by the host agency, the fellow, and FUSE staff during the first few months of the fellowship.
Starting in April 2023, the FUSE Executive Fellow will develop relationships with critical project stakeholders, including the City Manager’s Office, the City Council, the Waste Management Department, the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ), community organizations, the private sector, and members of the public. The Executive Fellow will gain an understanding of the needs and constraints of all stakeholders, while also reviewing and evaluating best practices and promising models from local governments that have developed Ecoparks (Kent County Michigan, Prince William County Virginia) and other equitable, asset-based approaches to waste management.
Next, the Executive Fellow will compile and analyze quantitative and qualitative data from a number of sources to outline a design of an Ecopark that is well-suited for Durham’s resources, goals, opportunities, and constraints. The Executive Fellow will work to secure feedback and buy-in from key stakeholders for the proposed system. Once approved, the Executive Fellow will then provide planning support to advance the build-out of the Ecopark (e.g., implementation plan, funding plan, management framework, and community engagement strategy) that centers accessibility and can build a circular economy in Durham.
Finally, the Executive Fellow will support the development of communications necessary to advance the initial implementation of the Ecopark. This could include a city-wide education campaign to demonstrate how the Ecopark will function and to build support for the new waste management solution. By April 2024, the Executive Fellow will have accomplished the following:
- Engage Stakeholders – Develop relationships with key stakeholders in the Durham city government, non-profits, and the private sector to understand the resources, constraints, partnership opportunities, potential threats, and gaps affecting this work; connect with the community to determine access and equity issues within the current system
- Explore and Analyze Models – Based on listening tour feedback, explore potential models for waste management that align with the City of Durham’s needs and their green and equitable infrastructure goals; conduct research and a literature review of approaches that cities nationally have successfully adopted, particularly the use of Ecoparks as a means of diverting materials from landfills and generating positive assets in the community
- Advance the Design and Implementation of an Ecopark – Analyze data from a variety of sources (provided by the City of Durham) to generate additional insights and recommendations; design frameworks around the programming, management, community engagement, and funding necessary to advance the planning and implementation of the Ecopark; support the development of communications strategies and materials to educate the public and generate support for the project
- Executive Sponsor – Bertha Johnson, Deputy City Manager, City Manager’s Office
- Project Supervisor – Waste Management Department
In addition to the qualifications listed below, a background in program design and data analysis, and research is strongly preferred for this project.
- Synthesizes complex information into clear and concise recommendations and action-oriented implementation plans.
- Develops and effectively implements both strategic and operational project management plans.
- Generates innovative, data-driven, and result-oriented solutions to difficult challenges.
- Responds quickly to changing ideas, responsibilities, expectations, trends, strategies, and other processes.
- Communicates effectively both verbally and in writing, and excels in both active listening and conversing.
- Fosters collaboration across multiple constituencies in order to support more effective decision-making.
- Establishes and maintains strong relationships with a diverse array of stakeholders, both inside and outside of government, particularly including community-based relationships.
- Embraces differing viewpoints and implements strategies to find common ground.
- Demonstrates confidence and professional diplomacy, while effectively interacting with individuals at all levels of various organizations.
FUSE Corps is an equal-opportunity employer with core values of diversity, equity, and inclusion. We encourage candidates from all backgrounds to apply for this position.