Building a Community of River Citizens, 13,000 Strong and Counting
Bluestem Communications works in regions throughout the country building creative communication campaigns aiming to protect North America’s most precious land and water resources. They advance public awareness and understanding on select environmental issues and build widespread commitment to addressing those issues through individual actions and policies. The organization’s primary task is to meaningfully engage people and empower them to act by making the connection between the environment, their daily lives, and their basic values.
The Mississippi River Network (MRN) is dedicated to protecting the land, water and people of America’s largest river. The Network advances its goals for the River by building a national constituency of River Citizens — people dedicated to protecting the River by taking simple actions — through the 1 Mississippi campaign. Bluestem received McKnight funding to grow the River Citizen community through recruitment, education, engagement and advocacy.
One of the strategies of the campaign has been to recruit and engage "River Citizens" along the northern half of the river, specifically engaging them on nutrient pollution issues that are more prevalent in the agricultural states such as Iowa, Minnesota and Illinois. The campaign has had great success recruiting people to become River Citizens by connecting them to the river and providing actions they can take to help protect it. The campaign recruits River Citizens at events along the river throughout the year.
In 2014, 1 Mississippi attended the Minnesota State Fair, the first time the campaign participated in such a large event. The campaign partnered with Common Table, a group that was working to educate State Fair visitors about making intentional food choices. At this ten-day event, eight River Citizens volunteered to work at an educational exhibit while a local farmer engaged with the public, sharing his positive experience using cover crops as a strategy to reduce nutrient pollution in the river.
Since the campaign began in 2009, over 13,100 River Citizens have been recruited and connected to the river through a variety of avenues. From river clean-ups and kayak trips to using native plants and getting involved in community issues, this growing group of people has become a force of citizens armed with knowledge and dedication to help protect the Mississippi River.