Degree Year


Document Type


Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts


Environmental Studies


Rumi Shammin
Cindy Frantz


The Oberlin Project, Sustainable design, Community engagement, Collaborative planning


The Oberlin Project is an unprecedented opportunity for the city of Oberlin, Oberlin College, and other participating institutions to work together to achieve sustainable development and carbon neutrality. How might these institutions engage Oberlin citizens in some of the planning decisions that will shape Oberlin's future? Collaborating with citizens is important because in theory, encouraging participatory, collaborative planning contributes to just, equitable, and diverse cities. Study of sustainability initiatives in Chattanooga, Tennessee, for instance, reveal that it is possible for cities to make great leaps at sustainable urbanism while simultaneously building up a strong base of social capital aimed at meeting sustainability goals. This social capital includes both public and private sector organizations, as well as a large percentage of active citizenry.

Based on a survey response involving interviews with twenty Oberlin citizens in the government, business, and community development sectors, the two greatest strains on citizen engagement in the Oberlin Project as of spring 2011 may be 1) existing social tensions between the town and College, and 2) a lack of widespread knowledge about the objectives of the Oberlin Project. Drawing from the theory and demonstration of collaborative planning, two means to overcome these difficulties are 1) establishing a culture and environment of listening and dialogue, and 2) creating outlets that allow citizens ownership in different projects. These are two policy goals that may prove useful to the Oberlin Project as it continues to evolve.