SfAA-EPA Cooperative Agreement


The Society for Applied Anthropology (SfAA) is the oldest independent organization of applied anthropologists in the world with a current membership of approximately 3,200. Founded in 1941, it is dedicated to the interdisciplinary study of human beings and their relationships in social, cultural and ecological context, and to the application of knowledge derived from such studies to the solution of human problems. The Society promotes this mission through:

  • enhancing understanding of the role of culture in social problem solving and community development
  • recognizing the interdisciplinary nature of human problems in publications and practice
  • promoting social science research with implications for programmatic, policy and community development
  • providing support and guidance to applied anthropology training programs
  • supporting communication and exchange of knowledge within anthropology and between anthropology and related disciplines
  • promoting the responsible application of anthropological research methods, data and results to community, cultural and social problems in the United States and elsewhe

Today's human environmental crises are complex, cumulative and synergistic. No single theoretical framework, discipline, model, or approach is able to address the complexity of these problems alone. Anthropology, with its analytical strategies, holistic perspective and history of intensive field experiences at all levels of the sociopolitical web, offers tools, strategies, and opportunities to make sense of the chaos surrounding environmental crises and their management. Despite its potential, the discipline has experienced difficulties in creating strong structural links between anthropological praxis and the formation and application of environmental policy. Specifically, while there are well-developed structures that allow the exchange of information within the discipline, there is a need to develop mechanisms that facilitate the delivery of anthropological research results, methods and techniques and expertise to communities and policy makers in ways that assist in the identification, analysis and solution of environmental problems.

Anthropology and the Environment

Anthropology is concerned with the production and use of knowledge regarding human social and cultural behavior in specific historical and environmental contexts and cross-culturally. While anthropology is involved in national and global investigation, the discipline is noted for its expertise in accessing, understanding and describing complex communities in national systems. 

Anthropology is particularly effective in relating to and gaining understanding of cultural diversity in community settings, and intercultural conflict, thus lending itself to applied endeavors that involve collaboration among diverse interest groups for the common good. Applied anthropology utilizes these understandings to work with communities and stake holders in the investigation, identification and joint resolution of problems related to health, education, social welfare, development and environmental protection.

 Environmental anthropology assists policy-making and program planning by combining expertise in ecology with methods and tools for understanding of the social and cultural dynamics of communities potentially affected by policy decisions. The extensive body of relevant scientific knowledge included in environmental anthropology includes:

  • understanding and building on the social organization of communities in larger social systems for use in identifying and solving environmental problems;
  • recognizing and addressing differences in culturally diverse perceptions, categories, linguistic terms, values and behaviors related to the environment in order to confront differences and improve communication among specific cultural/ethnic groups with respect to addressing environmental concerns;
  • identifying and utilizing culturally specific styles of communication and rhetoric typical of designated groups to enhance communication and mutual understanding among groups;

The methods and tools of environmental and other domains of applied anthropology are far-ranging. Prominent among them are observation techniques, qualitative and survey interviews, systematic data collection techniques for accessing core values or areas of cultural consensus, ways of identifying and interpreting social networks and a variety of participatory cultural, social and environmental assessment techniques designed to improve intersect/oral understanding of demographic composition, social/political dynamics, cultural and other forms of diversity, and capacity for planning and development

SfAA's Environmental Activities

To promote an exchange of information between professional anthropologists and environmental policy makers, the Society for Applied Anthropology formed a Committee on Human Rights and the Environment in 1991. The Committee's mission is to explore and document the sociocultural context of environmental degradation; to provide case study material in support of a United Nations effort to define the right to a healthy environment as a fundamental human right; to assess the common patterns, themes, difficulties and successes incurred in community-based environmental problem solving; and to disseminate materials in ways that encourage further work on the sociocultural context of environmental problems.

Between 1991 and 1994, the Committee, with the guidance of its founder and coordinator Barbara Johnston, organized seminars, documented cases, put out a series of reports, prepared and distributed summary findings to national and international environmental professionals, and formally published the study "Who Pays the Price? The Sociocultural Context of Environmental Crisis", Island Press, Washington DC: 1994.

Some 20 members meet biannually at professional conferences, and an additional approximately 150 interdisciplinary and international members form a human rights and environment scholars network. Communication has been maintained by a biannual newsletter, and an internet list is in the formation process. The Committee, with its Environmental Anthropology seminars, reports and projects provides a mechanism through which scientific position papers have been developed on issues of current national concern and debate. Such papers have been published in journals, including a special issue of Practicing Anthropology: "Teaching Environmental Anthropology" (Fall 1995) and a special issue of Human Ecology on "Human Rights and the Environment" (June 1995). The Committee has stimulated broader interest in environmental concerns within the Society, as reflected in our 1994 Annual Meeting theme and topical concerns in subsequent annual meetings including our 1997 joint meeting in conjunction with (among others) the Political Ecology Society.

 In addition to the activities of the Human Rights and Environment Committee, the Society for Applied Anthropology has developed and maintains a number of vehicles for the generation of policy-relevant information and the dissemination of information to membership, other social scientists, and broader public policy arenas which includes the following:

  • The Human Rights Network of advisory committees to the Executive Committee. These committees on environment, intellectual property rights, AIDS, human rights and civil rights, disabilities and Native Americans were formed to recommend policy to the Society, and to policy makers in their respective fields and to assist the Society in it formal response to these issues.
  • Topical Interest Groups (TIGs) formed by individuals or groups to address specific issues of concern in the field of anthropology in general. Membership in these groups ranges from 10 people to more than 100. The Topical Interest Groups sponsor scientific sessions, produce newsletters and fact sheets, generate responses to policy related issues, and help to shape the conceptual and practical directions of the discipline.
  • Formal relationship with approximately 20 Local/Regional Practitioner Organizations (LPOs) located in cities and states throughout the country. LPOs include applied BA, MA and Ph.D. anthropologists who meet regularly, hold seminars and working sessions, publish journals and newsletters and conduct outreach to other applied anthropologists in their own geographic areas.

The SfAA produces three professional publications distributed to subscribers worldwide: Human Organization, a peer reviewed quarterly journal; Practicing Anthropology, a quarterly magazine intended to disseminate information about current applied projects, with the capacity to create special issues; and, a quarterly newsletter, which summarizes current events, issues, topics, announcements of meetings and available information etc. In addition, the SfAA supports a monograph series, an electronic bulletin board, and a World Wide Web site.

Several other important structural features of the organization facilitate dissemination of information: the Interorganizational Coordinating Committee (ICC) which links 28 distinct social science professional organizations; the Annual Meeting which is held in collaboration with other societies (this year the SfAA is meeting jointly with the Society for Medical Anthropology, the Political Ecology Society, and the Council on Anthropology and Education); and, a second opportunity to convene formal sessions and workshops prior to the annual meeting of the American Anthropological Association. The Society's annual meeting shifts from north to south, and across the country over a six year cycle. Once every four years, an international meeting is held, usually but not always in the western hemisphere.

SfAA and the EPA

Efforts to build sustainable economies, communities and environment require the input and involvement of representatives from all segments of society. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and other agencies have identified approaches based at the community or ecosystem level designed to identify environmental problems, set priorities and forge solutions. These approaches aim to achieve sustainable development requirements by integrating environmental protection with human cultural and social needs, by considering long-term ecosystem health, and by using linkages between cultural practices, social relations, and environmental well-being to increase meaningful community involvement in environmental protection.

The Society views the holistic and proactive efforts initiated within the EPA and other government agencies as an opportunity to insert anthropological methods and expertise into environmental policy. Environmental problems are inherently grounded in human contexts (i.e. social and political activities and histories and political/economic interests all of which structure environmental issues and add to their complexity). Resolving problems in the biophysical realm, and avoiding similar problems in the future requires strategies and approaches that recognize the centrality of sociocultural contexts, concerns, interests and dynamics.

Sustainable solutions to environmental problems are more likely to be achieved when:

  • people living with such problems gain greater control in defining the nature of the problem, devising equitable short and long-term responses, asserting responsibility for roles they may play in preventing the problem's solution, and preventing its resurgence;
  • institutions, organizations and groups that play a significant role in creating such problems, acknowledge their own responsibility for identifying and resolving the consequences of their actions, together with local constituents and stakeholders;
  • policy makers act creatively with both sectors to acknowledge environmental justice by seeking new ways of managing and resolving conflict and arriving at consensus, including moving to long term legislative and structural change to prevent the problem from recurring.


The aim of this Cooperative Agreement is to increase the access of communities and policy makers to anthropological and other social science expertise in the solution of environmental problems. To achieve the specific objectives consistent with this encompassing aim, SfAA will:

  • coordinate and maintain a Social Science Network;
  • encourage and support the anthropological evaluation of environmental policies, plans and projects;
  • develop opportunities and support proposals that allow anthropological involvement in the community-based environmental planning process;
  • recruit, select and supervise environmental anthropology Fellows and Interns to work with communities, organizations and governmental agencies with the goals of increasing fellows' and interns' understanding, and the discipline's impact in policy arenas; and stimulating the creation of new employment opportunities for applied anthropologists;
  • develop information on community-based environmental protection work; and
  • encourage and support information dissemination Þ mechanisms and outreach activities aimed at improving anthropological methods, techniques and understandings of environmental problems and distributing this information at the broadest levels.

Under the structure of the Cooperative Agreement, the Executive Committee of the SfAA will ensure that all activities in pursuit of these objectives will be consistent with the SfAA's "Statement on Professional and Ethical Responsibilities." A more detailed outline of these six objectives is provided below.

Objective 1

Coordinate an SfAA Environmental Social Science Network and link it with the environmental regulatory community, nongovernmental organizations (NGOs and community-based agencies and entities.

To increase access to social science expertise in the solution of environmental problems, the SfAA will coordinate an SfAA Environmental Social Science Network, and develop mechanisms that increase government, NGO, and public awareness and use of this network.

The SfAA Environmental Social Science Network will be drawn from a number of existing networks within the SfAA and in other professional organizations to which the SfAA is linked via the Interorganizational Coordinating Committee. Mechanisms to link the Network to the environmental regulatory community, nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) and community based agencies and entities include the use of electronic we sites (posting a homepage on the World Wide Web), connecting with established sites including ANTHAP - an applied anthropology World Wide Web list server, distributing Network announcements and site locations to related conferences on servers used by community-based groups such as ECONET. The project coordinator will organize and maintain the network with the ultimate goal of linking environmental social scientists with issue-based or community-based projects and needs.

Objective 2

Provide expert evaluation of projects, products, policy and future projects for communities, nonprofit organizations and governmental agencies involved in environmental problem solving.

Applied anthropologists and other community-oriented social scientists have special expertise in understanding and engaging in community analysis and problem solving, recognizing the various interest groups (stakeholders) and defining and helping to create structures that ensure full participation, in the decision-making process. Environmental social science input in the decision-making process includes analyzing and suggesting changes or modifications in policy to ensure that structures allow for participation, and second, that decisions reflect the input of all affected segments of a community or region. Evaluations would be initiated at the request of communities, organizations and other interested parties, and might include formal project reviews, review panels, evaluative consultations, policy reviewed before and after implementation and participation in dialogues regarding the formulation of new projects and project priorities.

Objective 3

Provide direct assistance to communities on social and cultural issues associated with community based environmental planning projects, including facilitation, coalition building, goal setting.

The SfAA recognizes the need for local project-based technical assistance and consultation to communities and shares with OSEC a strong commitment to further and to strengthen relationships between community, industries and government. The SfAA and the EPA, under the Cooperative Agreement, will work to facilitate and support the involvement of anthropologists and other environmental social scientists working in collaboration or partnership with communities, organizations and other entities to define, assess and respond to environmental problems. The SfAA Environmental Social Science Network will be used to link experts to needs and to develop project proposals. The SfAA/EPA Cooperative Agreement will be used to provide consultation and technical assistance for problem analysis, community assessment, project, design, intercultural or intesectoral communication, stakeholder collaboration and coalition building, planning and goal setting, and describing and disseminating project outcomes.

The SfAA, under the Cooperative Agreement, will foster and support the involvement of anthropologists and other social scientists working in collaboration or partnership with other organizations both at the national and at regional and local levels.

Objective 4

Recruit, select, sponsor and supervise Environmental Anthropology Fellows and Interns to work in regulatory, policy and planning settings (including national and regional EPA offices) on environmental projects related to their academic or postgraduate careers.

The SfAA actively supports both MA and PhD level training programs across the country through the development of applied training guidelines, facilitation of communication links, publication of training program descriptions for student benefit, and creating fellowships and internships in departments for the benefit of students and the profession. Interns and fellows are offered guided placements in local, state and national private, public and nonprofit organizations and community settings where they learn through practice to apply social science theories to project development, proposal writing, group facilitation, intersectoral communication, needs assessments and other activities.

Under the Cooperative Agreement, the Society for Applied Anthropology will recruit, select, sponsor and supervise environmental anthropology postgraduate fellows and student interns to work in regularity policy and planning settings (including national and regional EPA offices) on environmental projects related o their academic or post-graduate careers. The intended goals of the fellowship program are to refine program participants' abilities to apply anthropology to environmental problems; further the opportunities and praxis of anthropology in environmental settings; and facilitate the connections between anthropology and community-based environmental needs. The SfAA will:

  • work with departments which are training masters and doctoral level students, to identify, place and supervise interns in environmental regulatory policy and planning settings in projects related to community-based environmental protection;
  • develop materials and training protocols for ensuring appropriate training of environmental anthropologists at the MA and Ph.D. levels and the availability of guidelines for training based on these materials and protocols that may be used by other social science disciplines;
  • identify, place and help structure projects and mentor post-MA environmental fellows;
  • facilitate the exchange of informational resources between the EPA and university-based Applied Anthropology training programs.

Objective 5

Development and dissemination of information on community-based environmental protection work by anthropologists and other related social scientists.

This area will focus on the development and dissemination of exemplary community-based environmental protection materials by anthropologists in the field. These materials will include case studies of direct assistant projects, CBEP efforts on community based environmental issues from SfAA fellows and other members, documentation of changes in community structure and behavior with regard to environmental protection, and descriptions of tools and methods in facilitating community based approaches to environmental problem solving.

With the aim of furthering the environmental anthropology literature and facilitating the flow of information from the discipline to policy makers and the general public, the SfAA will commission papers and reports reflecting social science perspectives on regional and national community-based environmental issues and concerns, practical assessment and communications methods and tools to be used in community based activities and projects, and case studies demonstrating the uses of these tools. The SfAA can prepare and publish these papers and reports available through peer reviewed publications and SfAA monographs, reports, fact sheets, pamphlets and brochures, posters, videos and other multimedia venues, newspaper and magazine articles and other materials suitable for the general as well as the professional public.

Objective 6

Outreach and dissemination including workshops, seminars, expert panels on relevance of anthropological tools, methods and findings to community-based environmental protection.

Under the Cooperative Agreement, the SfAA will expand its production of a series of publications related to theory, method, and practice in community-based environmental protection. The SfAA will organize and periodically conduct expert training sessions, workshops and/or seminars for the public, private and nonprofit environmental constituencies during the days preceding or following the annual SfAA professional meeting in the spring, during the days preceding or following the American Anthropological Association annual meeting in the fall and on other occasions as required. The SfAA will also organize professional and public seminars, or ensure anthropological and other community-based social science input into such seminars designed to disseminate the uses of methods and techniques developed by environmental anthropologists working in a variety of regulatory environmental protection settings. Other venues for dissemination include electronic means such as ANTHAP and the SfAA home page. Newspaper articles, press releases, national and regional radio shows including NPR, television interviews and other popular media will be used to inform the general public about community-based environmental problem solving and the uses of anthropology and other social sciences in improving processes and outcomes.

Products and approaches to be disseminated will include tools for enhancing community-based environmental protection reports, exemplary community based environmental case studies, curricula, applied methods and stakeholder participation facilitation skills. Exemplary methods and tools to be disseminated will include qualitative research methods which can be applied to the planning process, culturally guided planning, and process, outcome and participatory evaluation techniques (e.g. community profiling and cultural/geographic mapping, in-depth structured and unstructured interviews, guided observations, group interviews, ethnographically based survey techniques, conceptual and linguistic modeling, principles of cultural diversity and inclusion, recognizing cultural and communication differences among stakeholders, using modeling, systematic data collection, and other training techniques to build conceptual and operational consensus, building joint process and outcome evaluation indicators, etc.)


The SfAA Project Director will prepare quarterly status reports for the EPA and the SfAA. These reports will detail accomplishments under each objective, expenditures, and any problem areas identified. A quarterly teleconference will follow each written status report; participants will include representatives from each organization. Representatives from the SfAA and the EPA will meet once a year to review the progress of projects undertaken in the context of this Cooperative Agreement, and to discuss its continuation for the following year. The Agreement may be terminated in whole or in part only if (1), (2) or (3) apply.

  • By EPA if the SfAA materially fails to comply with the terms and conditions of an award.
  • By EPA with the consent of the SfAA, in which case the two parties shall agree upon the termination conditions, including the effective date, and in the case of partial termination, the portion to be terminated.
  • By the SfAA up on sending to EPA written notification setting forth the reasons for such termination, the effective date, and in the case of partial termination, the portion to be terminated. However, if the EPA determines in the case of partial termination that the reduced or modified portion of the grant will not accomplish the purposes for which the grant was made, it may terminate the grant in its entirety under either (1) or (2) above.


The Agreement will extend for a period of 5 years (October, 1996 - September, 2001). This time is required so the SfAA can routinely deliver current anthropological understanding and expertise. This knowledge will inform EPA and other policy makers and communities, as community and local ecosystem management activities are developed at headquarters and regional offices. A general timetable of key activities for the first and subsequent years is attached.

An Annual Budget ceiling of $350,000 will be in force. This annual ceiling will be sufficient to allow for administration of the project, including the availability of SfAA Project Director, cover the cost of fellows and interns, include stipends, per diem and travel costs of environmental anthropology evaluation, project review, consultation and technical assistance, and CBEP field work, and permit the development, publication, printing and dissemination of reports, monographs, seminar materials and other documents.

A detailed budget proposal is included for the Agreement for the full five years. The first budget includes Part A and Part B. Part A (Yr1a) refers to the first $25,000. Part B (Yr1b) refers to the remainder up to the ceiling of $350,000. The full five years is included in the consolidated budget and re-presented in a five year budget summary plus rationale organized by estimated cost of each objective over the five year period.