The Root + Branch Approach
Root + Branch employs the following methodology when engaging in any activity, investment or partnership. Through this 4 phase, cyclical, process, of Exploration, Creation, Engagement and Evolution we ensure our efforts are community centered, community driven and community appropriate.
Explore. We initiate every endeavor with a discovery stage to gain insight from community members, community leaders and practitioners directly serving the neighborhoods in question. We use this phase to explore the broader questions: “what are the local challenges,” “what is the need,” and “what does the community want.” We then move to contextual questions like “who is working in this space,” “what resources are available,” and “what has been tried before, and what was the result.” By engaging in these conversations, at every level, we can gain important insight that allows us to tailor an approach to the specific needs of a neighborhood.
We use a variety of tools to dive into these issues, incorporating both qualitative and quantitative research. Our team conducts literature reviews to complement these community conversations, and to support our local efforts with insight from an even broader source.
This process ensures that our approach and project design are both evidence based and community driven. Through academic studies, neighborhood discussions and one on one on one conversations, Root + Branch explores the particular issues and neighborhoods at hand and builds upon their community development expertise to arrive at informed strategies for engagement.
Create. Once our context, needs, challenges and opportunities have been determined, we initiate our Strategy phase. Using the outcome of the Exploratory phase, we identify the particular challenges we can address and build a strategy towards an equitable solution. Our blueprint determines budget needs, identifies partners and outlines our neighborhood and project specific engagement plan.
Our strategies are designed to leverage resources, mobilize crucial collaborators and align partner missions, to creatively address complex neighborhood needs in a way that amplifies community benefits, and creates as many winners as possible. And to ensure we reach our expected outcomes, we develop matrices to align actors and activities, along with indicators and measures of verification. Our frameworks allow us to link key actors with all elements of the project, ranging from communication efforts to advocacy to implementation.
By utilizing this approach, we design community led and community centered strategies for neighborhood empowerment and community resilience.
Engage. After creating a strategy, Root + Branch implements its solutions. Thoughtfully informed by our preliminary exploration, each project is tailored to fit the needs and preferences of a community, and contain the vital elements of stakeholder outreach, neighbor engagement and partner mobilization. Our stakeholder engagement involves a community advisory council and can include a range of in-person, print and/or virtual initiatives that aim (1) educate the schools and community on conservation (2) ensure the continuity of our neighbor-centered, needs based, and community-owned approach, and (3) empower our partners, beneficiaries and community leaders.
Evolve. We ensure that our projects remain efficient, impactful, and responsive to the evolving challenges and needs of our communities. To this end, continuous improvement and evolution is a cornerstone of each Root + Branch endeavor.
Our teams integrate feedback loops at critical juncture of a project lifecycle, as defined by the Create Phase of our work. Our feedback loops can take a variety of forms, including informal conversations with partners, and more formal field interviews, surveys, and/or focus groups. The purpose is to gain insights from partners, neighbors and stakeholders to verify and validate our approach and its impact. By consistently evaluating and refining our methods we are able to optimize our projects and their outputs and outcomes as well as support our commitment to innovation and appropriateness in subsequent efforts.
Finally, we conduct regular measuring and auditing of our impact, and sharing of lessons learned and best practices. The information collected over the course of our projects is collected and documented in case studies, we provide counsel and lessons learned to organizations and partners and our findings and conclusions are made readily available. Furthermore, we report on our impact and mission to the District of Columbia to maintain our Benefit Corps status. And annually our impact is measured and verified through a 3rd party non-profit, the B Lab, to maintain a secondary Benefit Corporation status.
This evolution phase naturally leads back into our exploratory phase, helps inform our community participants, and can kick start our next project in the neighborhood. Through consistent and welcomed feedback from partners, beneficiaries and community members on the impact and results of each project, Root + Branch can encourage proper duplication or scaling of a project; pivot course or refine elements of the project to ensure appropriate and maximum impact; and better inform our future endeavors.