JoAnn Carmin
Associate Professor of Environmental Policy and Planning
Department of Urban Studies and Planning
Massachusetts Institute of Technology



My research examines how cities, communities, and nongovernmental organizations make sense of and respond to significant events. Over the years, I have examined responses to events ranging from regime change to facility sitings, natural disasters and, most recently, the anticipated impacts of climate change. Through my research, I seek to understand how local governments can achieve environmentally sound and socially just policy and planning outcomes.

Urban Climate Adaptation Planning

This research investigates urban climate adaptation planning and implementation in cities in developed and developing countries. I am conducting international case study research to understand: (1) the types of climate adaptation plans being developed in cities and the extent to which the needs of the most vulnerable populations are being considered; (2) factors that explain the different approaches municipalities are taking in their climate adaptation planning; (3) assessments and data cities need to guide their planning; and (4) the ways that NGO and community-based efforts support, replace, or circumvent government adaptation initiatives. Learn more by visiting the project website.


Photo: Yuan Xiao

Climate Campaigns of Transnational NGOs

This research examines the climate mitigation and adaptation campaigns of transnational environment and development NGOs. Surveys were conducted to compare the ways in which the campaigns within and across organizations vary, particularly between the global north and south. The surveys were complemented with case studies in order to understand how climate campaigns are influenced by organizational structure, resources, values, and policies.


Photo: Hnuti Duha

Local Perspectives on Global Inequities

Despite the benefits g lobalization can offer, many communities find that it is accompanied by practices that pose risks to human and ecosystem health, cultural monuments, and their way of life. This project includes: (1) research on how communities and NGOs organize and mobilize to influence corporate decision-making and practices; and (2) an edited volume that examines the ways that globalization is creating and maintaining spatial injustice while amplifying localized social and environmental inequities.


Photo: Vlad Nance

Environmental NGOs in Transition

This stream of inquiry focuses on the changing dynamics and challenges faced by environmental organizations in Central and Eastern Europe. Case study and survey research were conducted to examine the extent to which environmental organizations across the region are able to take action in accord with their goals in the midst of heightened transnational and global pressures. The data collection for this project was completed in 2008. Learn more by visiting the project website.


Photo: Hnuti Brontosaurous

Interpretation and the Cognitive Basis of Organizational Practices

This project examined the ways that cognitive and cultural processes within organizations affect their practices. Drawing on interviews conducted in US environmental movement organizations, the findings suggest that values, beliefs, philosophy, and ideology shape interpretations of situations and ultimately lead to routine approaches to problem framing as well as target and tactic selection.


Photo: Prázdninová škola Lipnice

Policy Learning and Capacity Development in the Czech Republic

This project examined responses to the Czech floods of 2002 as a means for understanding the processes through which environmental learning takes place. Working in collaboration with the University of Economics in Prague, a team of Czech and US faculty and graduate students studied how the floods affected the use of expert knowledge in environmental management, communication patterns, environmental policies, and collaboration. Further details about this project, which concluded in 2005, are available on the Policy Learning and Capacity Development website.


Photo: Matthew Amengual

Voluntary Environmental Programs Survey

The Voluntary Environmental Programs Survey was the first systematic, nationwide study of U.S. voluntary environmental programs (VEPs). The survey assessed the characteristics and stringency of VEPs, investigated differences in programs sponsored by government, industry, and independent third-party organizations, and sought to understand the benefits that these programs offer their participants. Data collection and analysis were completed in 2004.


Photo: Richard N. Andrews

Public Participation in Local Environmental Decision-Making

This project examined local reactions to development proposals in the Czech Republic in the years following the fall of the communist regime. Survey and case study data were collected to understand how community resources and local political processes influenced the responses that community members had to proposed landfills, incinerators, highways, and protected area development. Data collection and analysis were completed in 2002.


Photo: JoAnn Carmin


77 Massachusetts Avenue, 9-320 • Cambridge, MA 02139-4307
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