A Community Shapes Environmental Justice Legislation

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This publication utilizes our Shape, Structure, Share framework for modern lawmaking. We illustrate this framework through a case example that examines how members of Congress can employ newly available communications technology to invite policy-adjacent communities to be producers of information that help shape the content of legislation. Members then structure the content for the lawmaking workflow of Congress. The institution shares the resulting information with the broader public through its multiple publishing channels. We envision this framework as a positive, forward-moving cycle in a modern, representative democracy.

We are also introducing the concept of “policy-adjacent communities” in this publication. This concept expands the notion of civic participation to communities as co-creators of policy and as stewards of the policy process. We see the meaningful inclusion of these communities as a constructive way to ameliorate the crisis of democratic legitimacy in American society. Policy-adjacent communities help guide and determine present and future decisions. They offer authentic, local information that is different from typical experts because of their lived experience. Individuals with frontline experience in a policy issue make up a deep reservoir of insights that should be tapped in the lawmaking process. Congress has formally begun to broaden its representative capacity. Pandemic digital adaptation allows Congress to include a greater variety of voices in virtual committee hearings, for example. We look forward to a future where policy-adjacent communities participate in the formative stages of policymaking and also bolster regular oversight through monitoring implementation and evaluating impacts. We see this civic activity as a generator of data for evidence-based lawmaking and as trust-building toward a durable and resilient democratic republic.