Beautiful RVA is a regional coalition and social movement of public and private agencies, organizations, and individuals all invested in improving the quality of life in greater Richmond through public horticulture, urban greening, and beautiful place-making initiatives. Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden is serving as a “backbone” institution in a shared leadership model that includes other nurturing organizations interested in building local greening capacity through collaboration.
Beautiful RVA is inspired by the work of public garden designer Lynden B. Miller of New York City, as well as the history of civic engagement in urban greening initiatives led by the Pennsylvania Horticulture Society’s Philadelphia Green program. It is an experiment in community building, communication, and collaboration across often insular and isolated public and private entities, and an effort to increase local capacity to accomplish urban greening projects that are often beyond the reach and resources of local government. The initiative directly supports the Garden’s 2016 strategic goal to “strengthen and enhance the Garden’s community engagement through leadership, partnerships, projects, communication, and events.”
Underway since January 2013, the coalition receives a twice-monthly e-mail digest of newsworthy greening initiatives, calls to action, appeals for volunteer services, and invitations to offer citizen input on strategic public and private greening projects. Periodically the group meets for community updates, celebrations, and discussions about opportunities for major civic engagement.
The current 300+ person roster of Beautiful RVA represents an affinity group of over 60 agencies and organizations, including City of Richmond administrators and elected representatives; heads of prominent community environmental organizations; university, cultural and tourism representatives; urban planners and economic development specialists; and grassroots neighborhood and civic associations. By extension, these individuals have related civic and volunteer interests that expand their circle of influence at least two-fold.
Beautiful RVA, with Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden providing expertise in public horticulture, is encouraging collaboration through capable facilitation, enhanced regional communication and networking, and an increased focus on progress in urban greening and beautiful place-making initiatives. The Garden’s respected community profile, institutional credibility, and success in amassing and leveraging private support—along with its horticultural knowledge base and organizational development skills—has engendered a sense of hopeful, collaborative momentum.