Policy Consensus E-News — July 2004

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Finding a way to say 'yes'
Agencies Build Agreements at Governor's Kitchen Table

J. Geringer, PCI Co-Chairby PCI / NPCC Co-Chair J. Geringer

Folks who live in the West fancy themselves as independent, self-sufficient folk. Fact is they are neither independent nor dependent, but interdependent. They are always willing to lend a hand and are gracious about allowing a neighbor to return the favor.

That attitude reflects much of America’s history of dealing person-to-person to resolve issues, whether to help a neighbor in time of need or to participate in how we govern ourselves.

My background reflects a time when folks would get together to resolve an issue or agree on something by dropping by the house, leaning on the hood of a pickup truck for a chat, or going inside for coffee and a visit around the kitchen table. Typically, when we agreed on a course of action, a handshake or a simple nod sealed the deal. Issues were resolved and commitments were made around the kitchen table.

When I took office as Governor of Wyoming in 1995, I was struck by the seemingly endless number of unresolved issues among folks on the land, federal land managers, and their state and regional counterparts – who all seemed to be working at cross-purposes on natural resource issues. The West's natural resource systems have historically been a source of great wealth and beauty for the region, but they are a source of animosity and contention as well.

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More Changes in States
Two Leading State Public Policy DR Programs
Relocate to Universities

OregonTwo public policy dispute resolution programs that formerly operated as independent state agencies have relocated to universities.

The Massachusetts Office of Dispute Resolution is transferring operations to the University of Massachusetts-Boston's College of Public and Community Service, and the Oregon Dispute Resolution Commission's Public Policy Dispute Resolution program has been reorganized as the Oregon Consensus Program at Portland State University's Hatfield School of Government.

MassachusettsFor both programs, the move followed drastic cuts in state budgets, and executive or legislative action that eliminated them as independent agencies.

The relocations in Oregon and Massachusetts reflect a growing trend toward housing public policy dispute resolution programs within universities. At a PCI workshop in May, staff from these programs described ways in which their university-based operations are creating neutral forums and convening stakeholders from across sectors to address difficult policy issues.

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PCI Case Studies Updated

PCICase Studies UpdatedThe PCI/NPCC database of public policy case studies has been updated with a number of new transportation, environment, and intergovernmental cases. The database highlights the various approaches to collaborative practices in state government, as well as outcomes and lessons learned from each unique case.

Among those added to the database this month are nine in-depth transportation cases from around the country; three environmental cases—including one that features an innovative habitat protection plan in Wisconsin; and three cases involving intergovernmental disputes. One of those, written by PCI Board member Ralph Becker, highlights the Utah Legislature's collaborative approach to resolving regional planning issues.

In addition to transportation, environmental, and intergovernmental cases, the on-line database also includes health care, human services, and telecommunications cases.

Some of the case studies are also available in attractive, hard copy format that can be handed to governors, agency leaders, and other decision makers. Contact PCI to receive copies of these. Other cases have been printed in various PCI Publications and are available on this web site.

PCI and NPCC are continually seeking new public policy case studies to include in the database. If you know of a collaborative process that was used to resolve a specific policy issue in your state, please contact PCI. The cases must pertain to policy development or implementation, involve state government, employ a collaborative approach, employ a neutral third party, and result in tangible policy outcomes.

Visit the on-line Case Study Database

MACRO Study: Maryland Businesses Turning to DR

Maryland Businesses Turning to DRA study released in March by the Maryland Judiciary's Mediation and Conflict Resolution Office (MACRO) and the Maryland Chamber of Commerce shows companies throughout the state recognize the costs of conflict and are turning to mediation and other non-litigious dispute resolution processes to save time and money.

"In recent years, the Judiciary has taken steps to expedite high-cost business cases, and courts across the state are increasingly using mediation and other dispute resolution processes to resolve cases short of trial," said Robert M. Bell, Chief Judge of the Maryland Court of Appeals. "Our hope is that Maryland businesses will use this study as a blueprint to refine their approach to conflict management."

The study was conducted by MACRO's Business Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) Initiative to provide a benchmark from which organizations can assess the effectiveness of their dispute resolution practices against the components of an Integrated Conflict Management System. Such a system:

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