Policy Consensus E-News — June 2004

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Seizing the Moment:
How Leaders Lead by Convening Others

John Kitzhaber, PCI Co-Chairby John Kitzhaber, PCI Co-Chair

Over the course of my eight years as Governor of Oregon, I learned I had three kinds of power: the power to set an agenda, the power of the bully pulpit, and the power to convene. The power to convene is not as widely recognized and appreciated as it ought to be. Convening is a powerful tool available to leaders who want to address the kinds of complex problems that cannot be resolved without shared responsibility and joint action.

A leader acts as convenor by creating a forum or place where key interests or stakeholders can participate in a collaborative problem solving process. This is different from a leader deciding what needs to be done and using his or her power to bring it about. Convening enables leaders to build consensus around a recommendation for action, and to take action without taking sides.

We need leaders who can create forums or 'safe' public spaces where people can come together to solve problems. There aren’t many neutral spaces or forums in which people have the opportunity to work together to reach integrated solutions to problems. Yet these kinds of forums can serve the goals of public policy with or without any formal relationship with government.

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Universities Participate in PCI Workshop

Universities Participate in PCI WorkshopTwenty-one universities were represented at a May PCI workshop focused on strengthening centers of public policy dispute resolution around the country. Of the more than 30 people who attended the workshop, 16 had never been to a previous meeting of state DR programs, and eight of the programs are only a few years old or just getting started.

These new faces reflect a growing trend in housing public policy dispute resolution programs within universities. Participants at the meeting, held in Portland, Oregon, prior to the ACR Environment/Public Policy Sector conference, discussed how university-based programs may be uniquely situated in states to create non-partisan forums and convene people from across sectors to address complex policy issues.

Universities also are well positioned to influence how public administrators, planners, lawyers, and others think about and structure how they do their work—which may represent an important avenue to building capacity in states for leaders to use collaborative processes. These kinds of DR programs are housed in varying locations within universities, which influences the centers' mission, programs, and activities.

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Wisconsin DNR Facilitates Habitat Protection Plan

Karner blue butterflyThe Karner blue butterfly was listed on the Federal Endangered Species List in December 1992. Although the species is rare nationwide, it is relatively common in central and northwestern Wisconsin, especially where pine barrens, oak savannas, and mowed corridors support wild lupine, the only food of the Karner blue caterpillar.

Shortly after the Karner blue was listed as endangered, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service approached the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) about how the state would respond to the listing in light of widespread distribution of the species across the state and the large number of landowners affected. With ongoing conflicts over the listing of other species around the country, both federal and state agencies were eager to avoid similar problems in Wisconsin.

DNR responded by developing a statewide Habitat Conservation Plan (HCP) that would maintain Karner blue habitat while allowing continued forestry and highway maintenance activities. The concept of a statewide HCP was revolutionary; to date, almost all HCPs had been limited to a small geographic range and one or two landowners.

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