Including Academia Crucial to Cross-Sector Collaboration on Durham’s Green Initiatives

Keep Durham Beautiful tree banding

Keep Durham Beautiful tree banding

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Keep Durham Beautiful needed assistance managing volunteers and found it at Duke University.

Academia often proves the best partner in collaborations benefiting municipalities, like when Keep Durham Beautiful enlisted the help of the Duke Interdisciplinary Social Innovators on its green transformation efforts.

The volunteer nonprofit works with Durham, North Carolina’s General Services Department and Durham County to prevent littering, reduce waste and beautify the community by planting trees—sometimes 120 at a time.

“It’s been proven that people are happier, they have less depression and they have better health when they live on a tree-lined street,” says Tania Dautlick, the nonprofit’s executive director, in this YouTube video .

Coupled with its tree banding—where sticky traps are wrapped around trunks to intercept wingless female moths that scale them to lay eggs that hatch into cankerworms, which can defoliate and kill trees—Keep Durham Beautiful’s projects draw in more than 2,000 volunteers.

Tracking volunteers on Excel spreadsheets and occasionally on paper was an unwieldy process, so the nonprofit turned to a volunteer, student-run group at Duke University modeling innovation and community service. DISI consists of students from the Sanford School of Public Policy, Fuqua School of Business and Pratt School of Engineering.

Together cost-effective volunteer management software was procured to streamline Keep Durham Beautiful’s workflow while helping it keep its volunteers engaged.

“It felt like working with a professional consulting firm with them,” Dautlick says.

Dave Nyczepir is a News Editor at Government Executive’s Route Fifty.

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