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From Testimony to Transformation: The Identifying Violations Affecting Neighborhoods (IVAN) Program in California

Authors: Shrayas Jatkar and Jonathan K. London

Identifying Violations Affecting Neighborhoods (IVAN) is an innovative program of environmental monitoring, reporting, and enforcement in California. It is intended to improve health and conditions of well-being in disadvantaged communities where residents face high levels of environmental hazards and low levels of the economic, political, and social resources needed to address them. The IVAN program resembles an environmental version of a neighborhood watch. It provides the means for community residents to report problems they experience or observe to public agencies that have the mandate and capacity to investigate and resolve them. Or, to strike an even more apt analogy, the IVAN program is like a form of community policing. This is because the program ultimately seeks to transform the process of environmental reporting and enforcement from being reactive to proactive. It does so by fostering partnerships between public agencies and the community (i.e., individuals and organizations). These partnerships are based on regular dialogue and collaborative problem solving, rather than occasional one-way flows of information between different parties. To this end, environmental justice organizations and other kinds of community-based organizations work alongside public agency staff, participating in monthly task force meetings to address environmental complaints submitted by residents. All parties are expected to work collaboratively to respond to and resolve the environmental problems reported.