Write a New Chapter

Knowing the story of your place can be a springboard for change. Harbinger works from the roots up to understand the change you want to create and make it last, engaging the community, framing issues, fostering productive dialogue and collaborative decision-making, growing local organizations and businesses, and leveraging small actions into big progress. Everything Harbinger does—from classroom curricula to event design—draws from experience, lessons and models from other places, and local insight to craft solutions that fit.


Examples from our work

Native plant propagation  (Natl Park Service)

Native plant propagation (Natl Park Service)

Maui County, Hawai`i

Ho`ike o haleakala supplemental high school curriculum

Harbinger collaborated with Maui County high school teachers, the National Park Service, The Nature Conservancy and other resource and cultural experts to develop Ho`ike o Haleakala. The multi-disciplinary, science-based environmental education curriculum is designed to help sustain the native Hawaiian landscape and culture by connecting students to the land and the culture it supports.

The Ho`ike curriculum is a model of locally developed, place-based education. It supports State of Hawaii high school educational standards, and each activity is correlated to state science standards, so educators can fulfill educational requirements using local ecosystems and issues as a context.

The original Ho`ike o Haleakala curriculum comprises four modules, each of which covers a discrete ecosystem on Haleakala, one of two volcanoes on the island of Maui, Hawai`i. A fifth unit on invasive species was added later.

Envisioned Caracara Trail Network

Envisioned Caracara Trail Network

cameron county, Texas

outdoor recreation and tourism Business & community engagement

In 2017, Harbinger completed an A Healthy Advantage, a study that projected the likely economic impact and healthcare cost savings of completing a walking and bicycling trail network in Brownsville and Cameron County, Texas. The Caracara Trail system is now under development, with a variety of local and national partners including the Rails to Trails Conservancy.

Harbinger’s collaborative economic study approach set up opportunities for engaging with the business community and local government to build recreation participation among residents and economic benefits from increased outdoor recreation tourism.

Harbinger helped convene informal community action groups focused on schools and youth, small businesses and entrepreneurs, health outreach, and branding and marketing. These groups took the lead on developing a pilot adopt-a-trail program that engaged local youth in trail maintenance, an outdoor photo contest for youth and adults, and funding for construction of a priority trail connection between Palo Alto Battlefield National Historical Park in Brownsville to Laguna Atascosa National Wildlife Refuge along the coast.

Whitefish, Montana  (Adobe Stock, Andrew)

Whitefish, Montana (Adobe Stock, Andrew)

idaho, montana and wyoming

western community assessment network

The Western Community Assessment Network is a three-year USDA-funded collaboration focused on improving the practice of “community reviews” in rural communities in Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming. These comprehensive assessment programs help communities identify and address priority issues, build community capacity, and enhance quality of life for their residents. 

Extension faculty, community and economic development professionals, state agency staff and other practitioners are collaborating to understand, evaluate, and improve how community reviews work and help participating communities see greater success in achieving their goals.

Harbinger is supporting this effort with facilitation, research and advisory assistance. Our particular focus is on encouraging individual and shared reflection and learning among participants, and informing the evolution of community reviews through the framework of “democratic practices” outlined by the Kettering Foundation.


Supporting new practices

Harbinger works with community and conservation groups to support the adoption of new professional and community practices. Examples of this work:

  • Researching model projects and best practices for reports such as National Parks Conservation Association’s Restore a Nation, which focuses on natural area restoration projects and associated benefits such as jobs and community engagement.

  • Designing ways to support and mentor professionals in new practices for initiatives such as the Environmental Issues Forums, where we worked with five teams of community and environmental educators to develop local water issue discussion guides, organize forums, and produce Let’s Talk About Water to help other communities deliberate about their own water issues.

  • Developing hands-on curriculum materials such as the Healthy Water, Healthy Habits, Healthy People water, sanitation and hygiene curriculum materials developed in conjunction with educators and water experts in East Africa, Project WET and the United States Agency for International Development.

    (Classroom lesson, Kampala, Uganda. Michele Archie photo.)