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A recent pair of “Unlikely Alliance” ads from The Alliance for Climate Protection features leaders from traditionally opposite viewpoints agreeing on the need to take action to address climate change. Their alliance on this issue is symbolized by a couch, where the two leaders sit side-by-side.
At PCI we like the image of bi-partisan leaders coming together over an issue and asking the public to join them in partnership, and we like the idea of inviting public participation from the comfort and familiarity of a living room sofa. We’d like to offer another metaphor, that of gathering around “the kitchen table.” Last month former Minnesota Senate Majority Leader Roger Moe reminded the University Network for Collaborative Governance of this image at their Inaugural Meeting. He said, “I believe that a lot of decisions are going to be put together around the kitchen table.” He went on to say that what will be essential for leaders is the ability to speak “the language of inclusion.”
In 2004 an editorial by then PCI co-chairs Governor James Geringer of Wyoming and Governor John Kitzhaber of Oregon appeared in The Christian Science Monitor’s “Talking with the Enemy” series. “Gridlock Impossible at The Kitchen Table” responded to polarization following the 2004 presidential election and asked leaders to return to more civil discourse. “We'd do well to start at home, in our states and communities, whether we are Democrat, Republican, or of another stripe,” they wrote. “It's time for public leaders to make a real effort to draw fellow citizens to the kitchen table, where America has traditionally found its most durable solutions, and begin to make progress together.”
The Governors asked their readers to “Imagine around this table some citizens, some representatives from industry, union people, farmers, environmental groups, and others affected by what happens in a community. Imagine the state leader who called you together says that, instead of the government creating a plan that only some could live with, it is instead up to you. As a group you're to hammer out a solution together. That's collaborative governance.”
Four years later, leaders on the national stage are calling for similar unity from a couch. Political gridlock continues to impede effective governance, even affecting a state’s economic ratings. Senator Moe pointed to Moody’s denial of its top bond rating for Minnesota in 2003 because of "the challenge of potential political gridlock, preventing the Legislature from reaching consensus for its budgets, including a state government shutdown that occurred in 2005 for 13 days." Moe’s conclusion: “The way you work together matters.”
We want to return to the idea of the “kitchen table” and ask public leaders at home, governors in their states, legislators in their districts, mayors in their cities, and commissioners in their counties to draw fellow citizens to the kitchen table. Why a kitchen table? Like the sofa, it’s comfortable and familiar. We imagine a round table, where there are no sides, where you look each other in the eye, ask questions, and listen. And how you work together does matter if you want to find solutions.
Greg Wolf, Executive Director
The newly formed University Network for Collaborative Governance held its inaugural meeting at the end of March in Atlanta, Georgia. The Georgia Consortium of Negotiation and Conflict Resolution co-hosted the meeting with PCI, who will serve as Secretariat and host for the Network.
Representatives from 20 university centers and programs attended the 2 day workshop. Members ratified the Network Charter and set expectations and goals for the coming year. In addition, attendees had the opportunity to connect with other university program leaders and to discuss emerging issues and hear about examples of how to make effective outreach to elected officials, and how to work within as well as across other universities. These issues were addressed by PCI Board members Roger Moe, former Minnesota Senate Majority leader, Jim Clinton, Director of the Southern Growth Policies Board, and Bob Jones, Director of the Florida Conflict Resolution Consortium. Representatives from the following universities also presented: Ruth Craw, University of Arkansas; Jim Ledbetter, University of Georgia; Adam Sutkus, Sacramento State University; Linda Stamato and Sandy Jaffee of Rutgers University; Doug Yarn, Georgia State University; and Paul Biderman, University of New Mexico.
Ralph Becker, Mayor of Salt Lake City and PCI Board member, spoke to the group about his Salt Lake Solutions initiative, a city program based on the Public Solutions System that engages all sectors of the community in addressing public problems.
National Environmental Conflict Resolution Conference – Members of the Network are invited to attend a reception during the USIECR Conference May 21 in Tucson. Please join us at the Javelina Cantina at the Doubletree Hotel from 5:30pm – 6:30pm. Contact PCI for more information.
The University of Texas Austin’s Center for Public Policy and Dispute Resolution has joined with PCI to produce “The Road to Progress,” a new video in the PCI Video Series "Leaders as Conveners."
“The Road to Progress” features Texas State Senator Kirk Watson, who is also the former Mayor of Austin.
In the video Senator Watson emphasizes the need for outside assistance in convening a collaborative process. According to Watson, that outside assistance helps the convener to remain neutral. In this project, Senator Watson relied on the assistance of the Center to help design the process and then facilitate meetings in which the stakeholder group participated.
The Center for Public Policy Dispute Resolution, a member of the University Network for Collaborative Governance, was created in 1993 to specifically promote the appropriate use of alternative dispute resolution (ADR) in Texas government. The Center is located within the University of Texas so as to provide a neutral, non-political site for assisting Texas state and local governments with ADR. The Center provides a number of ADR services, training, and research to governmental entities, policymakers, and others involved in public disputes.
The Capital Area Metropolitan Planning Organization (CAMPO) sponsored the process, and in 2007, Senator Watson, who also chairs CAMPO, elicited the Center’s assistance in resolving a dispute on design, noise control, and overall aesthetics of the intersection of Highway 290 and 71 West on the route from Austin to its suburbs.
As convener, Watson brought a group of stakeholders in a consensus building process that led to agreement on design elements for the intersection.
The goal of the process, as Watson explained when he announced the start at a CAMPO meeting, “is to build consensus and find a design correcting a traffic issue that stakeholders can rally around. We’re not going to draw lines in the sand,” said Watson. “That’s not what this process is about.”
“The general public is just tired of no progress,” Watson says in the video. “I think too often we talk past one another and we don’t have enough opportunities to hear what people are saying. Public hearings aren’t helping us figure out what the best answers might be. If what we can do is convene a group made up of a variety of interests and bring them together and establish ground rules, people start hearing one another better.”
PCI can partner with other centers and programs to create videos of leaders in their states who have convened a collaborative process around an issue or a project. Contact PCI for more information on producing a video.
PCI welcomes Peter Murchie, who will serve as our Climate and Clean Energy Program Manager over the next two years. Peter will work with state governments and local communities and others on collaborative problem solving for various regional and local issues related to climate and clean energy. Peter has worked for the World Health Organization, the International Joint Commission and other organizations with a focus on using collaborative approaches to solve environmental health issues. His education and work has focused on the impacts of environmental stressors on public health and developing collaborative approaches on mitigating environmental health problems.
Peter also worked for the US EPA Office of Air Quality Planning and Standards (OAQPS) in the national air toxics program and as part of the agriculture/forestry air quality team. Peter most recently was the Coordinator of the West Coast Collaborative, a partnership between leaders from federal, state, and local government, the private sector, and environmental groups working to reduce diesel emissions along the West Coast. As Coordinator of the Collaborative, Peter worked to implement regional projects, leverage funds from a variety of sources, and raise awareness around the need for future diesel emissions mitigation efforts. An example of one such project is Oregon Solutions’ Truck Stop Electrification Project, which brought partners together as stakeholders to discuss opportunities and barriers to reducing truck idling at commercial truck stops on I-5. In this project, the EPA under the Collaborative’s SmartWay Transport Partnership provided technical and financial support for truck idling reduction projects.
Climate Change and Clean Energy are both complex issues that demand action at the state, local, and regional levels in order to achieve solutions. Collaborative governance is an appropriate approach for addressing Climate Change and Clean Energy due to the diverse expertise, resources, and interests involved.
“Collaborative governance processes can help address climate change by integrating resources from across agencies and sectors,” says Murchie. “The solutions that come out of such a process are more likely to be implemented because stakeholders are involved from the start and gain ownership over the outcome.”
PCI would like to hear from you on examples of collaborative problem solving related to climate and clean energy. If you have one or know of a community that has engaged in a collaborative process to address these issues, contact PCI.
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