CDR Strengthening Organizations Throughout Colorado through Master Planning

adult-3373639_1920Master planning provides a unique opportunity for individuals to think creatively and intentionally about the future of the organization they serve. Additional benefits to master planning include employee buy-in of an organization’s direction, efficient use of resources towards one goal, and  prioritization of tasks. Groups embark in master planning for various reasons, and in each case, the structure and tools are unique to the organization’s goals of the master planning effort.

In 2018, CDR worked with a number of clients on various master planning efforts, and this trend continues into 2019. CDR has facilitated conversations with staff, leadership, supervisors, board members, and elected officials of organizations and local governments throughout Colorado to examine their short and long term goals. As a result, clients successfully identified goals and next steps leading to a successful future.

Thornton Strategic Planning Conference

Several years ago Governing Magazine had an article titled, “The Mayor-Manager Conundrum.” A Google search of “high performing teams” returns 251,000,000 results. These two issues, what we might say external and internal, relate to city councils. Internally, city councils are really just like other teams. Organizational Development practice and management consultants will note that all teams can strengthen performance, no matter their current effectiveness. Externally, councils are unique, not only because of their mandate and how their team was formed, but also because of the issue considered in the Governing article. The article tells the tale of El Paso, TX’s experience with introducing a city manager and the dynamic created between changing administrations and constancy of a city manager. While the city manager gives stability through electoral cycles, the very dynamic of these two inter-dependent roles requires, to perform well, alignment between the political and administrative responsibilities.

This brings us to the Thornton City Council Strategic Planning Conference (SPC). Every year the Thornton City Council and the Thornton City Manager’s office participate in an SPC to review the council’s previous year’s policy and project priorities and goals, to understand current and pending capital development projects and city programs, and to align council’s goals and priorities with the city staff’s plans. CDR’s Jeffrey Range and Emily Zmak facilitated the 2019 SPC, which included strategy design, councilmember/mayor interviews, and facilitation of the two-day conference, and identifying lessons learned for future work. In some ways, the entire purpose of the SPC — to each year bring together the City Manager’s Office and the City Council to consider accomplishments, policies, and priorities — seeks to address the Mayor-Manager Conundrum. The councilmembers focus, as is their charge, on the needs of their constituents and provides clarity and guidance on their priorities. The city’s staff takes the clarity and guidance and translates it into actionable policy and programming for both the near and long term.

The other part — how city councils, like any other team, can be high performing — is something altogether different. But, the Thornton City Council took on this challenge. Councilmembers examined how they work with one another. They considered how they work collectively and how they’re most effective individually. They made a plan that reinforces and builds on what’s working for them and are testing approaches that address areas where they thought they could improve. And this is an ongoing process, just as it is with all teams.

No doubt a two-day strategic planning conference takes significant planning and time from both city staff and councilmembers. But, the external and internal challenges of this – at times unique and at times very ordinary – type of team (city council) can be addressed, resulting in a high performing team.

CO Springs Parks, Recreation, and Cultural Services

CDR worked with the Parks, Recreation, and Cultural Services (PRCS) Department of Colorado Springs in 2016 to identify the group’s mission, vision, and values. As a result of that conversation, PRCS established a unique values coin system in which employees who express one of the core values, Excellence, Passion, Professionalism, Innovation, and Collaboration, are awarded an “EPPIC” coin. Staff are able to trade the coins in for EPPIC prizes. This system has become an integral part of the department, providing fun interaction between on-the-ground field staff, managers, and department leadership.

In 2018, CDR’s Jonathan Bartsch and Melissa Rary were awarded their own EPPIC prizes after facilitating four strategic planning meetings. CDR met with PRCS leadership, supervisors, staff, and board members over the course of eight months to evaluate the mission, vision, values, goals and objectives established in 2016. Participants provided thoughts on the success of the strategic plan, and identified successes and priorities for the PRCS moving forward. There was an overwhelming support for the EPPIC system, and all levels of staff had consistent feedback of other strategic plan elements.

Historic Georgetown

As facilitators, CDR’s Taber Ward and Emily Zmak understand the importance that location plays in a successful facilitation. The location sets the tone, the literal atmosphere, and provides space for effective engagement. And so, for our client Historic Georgetown, Inc., there was no better location to facilitate their Board Retreat and Strategic Planning Session than a historic schoolhouse–complete with chalkboard walls, squeaky floorboards, and windows overlooking Georgetown, Colorado.

Nestled in a quiet Front Range valley, Georgetown is a small mountain community with deep historic roots. The town’s character is tied to its silver mine legacy, Victorian-era architecture, mountain scenery, and, subsequently, the tourism that supports the town today. Tourists flock to Georgetown, often drawn in from the I-70 thoroughfare, and take in the town’s train rides, shopping, historic landmarks, and annual Christmas Market.    

Historic Georgetown, Inc. (HGI), is the premier institution behind preserving and promoting awareness of Georgetown’s historic character. HGI oversees multiple landmark sites in Georgetown, organized public engagement opportunities, supports historic homeowners, and hosts the annual Christmas Market. When an HGI board member asked CDR to facilitate the HGI Board’s strategic planning retreat, it was an opportunity that Taber Ward described as “an honor and chance to contribute to Colorado’s mountaintown legacy and unique, historic import.”   

Facilitating the Board meetings for Historic Georgetown was an exciting opportunity for CDR’s Taber and Emily. Taber has worked throughout the Front Range I-70 Corridor on public involvement projects, and brought a strong understanding of the various challenges faced by Colorado’s mountain communities. Working with HGI was an opportunity for Taber to focus on just one of these challenges: maintaining and preserving historic character. “For me,” Taber said, “it was great to support a town that has been so involved in the I-70 mountain corridor project and invested in protecting the character of Georgetown.  Emily had been with CDR for just three weeks and HGI was her first client project. It was an opportunity for her to support a project start-to-finish, from strategic planning retreat design and one-on-one interviews to facilitation and follow-up. She said, “This project was such an amazing way to on-board with CDR. I was learning something new every minute.”

The Board Strategic Planning retreat resulted in agreement around HGI’s five-year vision, direction, purpose, clarity of roles and responsibilities, and action plan — which is no easy feat for a half-day retreat. The agenda for the day was action-oriented. Through a visioning process, facilitated dialogue, group work, and consensus-building, the Board determined concrete steps for implementing change and enhancing their strengths.

Zimbabwe Land Commission: Land Disputes

Land is a crucial resource for the development of any country. This is particularly important in post-independence Zimbabwe, Africa, and the subject of long-standing disputes on a national and local level. Mediation can provide an effective way to reduce the high number and different types of disputes in Zimbabwe.

The Republic of Zimbabwe is a landlocked country located in southern Africa, between the Zambezi and Limpopo Rivers, bordered by South Africa, Botswana, Zambia and Mozambique. The British South Africa Company first demarcated the present territory during the 1890s, and it became the self-governing British colony of Southern Rhodesia in 1923. In 1965, the conservative white minority government unilaterally declared independence as Rhodesia. The state faced international isolation and a 15-year guerrilla war with black nationalist forces that culminated in a peace agreement. The agreement established the independence and  sovereignty of Zimbabwe in April 1980. Robert Mugabe became Prime Minister and later President of Zimbabwe when his party won the elections following the end of white minority rule; he ruled until his resignation in 2017.

Once known as the “Jewel of Africa” for its prosperity, Zimbabwe has struggled to address the agricultural needs of the country. The need to transform land tenure and agrarian structures to provide fair and equitable access to the land remains at the core of the land disputes. Based on political and historical factors related to land re-distributive policies, agricultural land conflicts have severely impacted Zimbabwe’s economy. In 2013, the new Zimbabwean Constitution recognized the need for agricultural re-distribution and dedicated an entire Chapter of the constitution to ‘Agricultural Land.’ Resolving the constitutional questions has helped to clarify the issues regarding land tenure and other land-related disputes.  

CDR’s experience in designing dispute resolution systems in Sri Lanka, Afghanistan, and Liberia provides a lense on common types of land issues. These issues are common in Zimbabwe as well with the preponderance disputes arising due to overlapping boundaries, double occupations (multiple land titles), evictions, illegal allocation of land, lack of clarity regarding gender rights over land, and compensation for state acquired lands. The Zimbabwe Land Commission (ZLC) is dealing with the destabilizing effect of these unaddressed land disputes.

The ZLC was established to “investigate, and determine complaints and disputes” regarding agricultural lands. The ZLC’s broad mandate has been further defined to focus on ensuring ‘equitable’ access to land and expeditiously resolving disputes. As part of a transition from a centralized system, to address at the lowest administration, the ZLC is looking to increase the ability to use mediation at the local level. Chris Moore and Jonathan Bartsch have begun consulting with ZLC on this transition in developing case examples and in delivering a mediation training program in Harare in early March. Next time you see Jonathan, be sure to ask him about his trip!

Register for CDR’s Spring 2019 — Facilitation and Mediation of Public and Environmental Conflicts

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TestimonyCDR is proud to announce that our popular public course, Facilitation and Mediation of Public and Environmental Conflicts, is available for registration. The course will take place from May 21st to May 23rd 2019 in Boulder, Colorado.

The three-day course teaches participants facilitation skills, methods of engagement, and conflict resolution theories. It is a deep-dive into practical strategies for reaching agreement with stakeholders and partners.

Email or call (303) 442-7367 for more details, and register online. Our Fall 2018 class sold out – so don’t wait! 

Introducing CDR’s newest staff member, Emily Zmak

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CDR welcomed a new Program Associate, Emily Zmak, to the team in the Fall of 2018. Emily is a stakeholder engagement specialist with a diverse background in active- and post-conflict contexts. Influenced by her work in the West Bank and Kyrgyzstan, Emily believes that addressing communication barriers is the initial step towards finding collaborative solutions for natural resource disputes. She has experience in several sectors, including transboundary water agreements and, most recently, mining community participation plans. Emily holds an M.A. in Conflict Resolution and a B.A. in Communications.  

Outside of the office, Emily is an avid traveller, a rudimentary Russian speaker, an eager reader, an amateur painter, and an expert at burning dinner. Originally from British Columbia, Canada, she is always looking for new places to explore in Colorado–so feel free to reach out to her at ezmak@mediate.org with recommendations.

Guest Post: Facilitating Colorado’s Conservation Districts

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Colorado’s rich natural resources are a great way to enjoy the state (think hiking, fishing, rafting and the like), but those natural resources also come with considerable planning. Especially Colorado’s most precious resource, water. With a growing population and changing landscape, managing water requires folks who are dedicated to keeping Colorado a great place to live while meeting the needs of the different water users. Enter Water Education Colorado’s (WEco) Water Leaders Class, the premier professional development course for the water community in Colorado.

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Among the many skills and opportunities that Water Leader provides are ‘shadow assignments’, which is the chance to identify professionals in Colorado’s water community that you are interested in and want to learn from. In my role, I look at water through an agricultural lens, specifically with Conservation Districts in mind. Colorado’s 76 Conservation Districts were founded in 1937 on the principal of locally-led conservation, a principal on which they still operate today. This idea requires stakeholder engagement and collaboration, so a lot of what I do is assist District’s in gathering this stakeholder input and buy-in, so that the District knows what priorities and projects to focus on for the coming year. I kept this in mind as I was looking through the list of possible shadowees.

A few weeks later I found myself across the table from Jeffrey Range, a Program Manager with CDR Associates. I had chosen to shadow him because I was eager to learn about the perspective and experiences of a professional facilitator. The conversation was well timed, as I was going to be facilitating a local work group for a Conservation District out of Salida a few days later. The District Board of Supervisors, made up mostly of local agricultural producers, was working on their upcoming plan for the year and wanted to gather local stakeholder input regarding priorities and resource concerns. We talked about how important it is to focus each meeting on a particular stakeholder group, rather than trying to have one big meeting for all stakeholders. Jeffrey shared his experiences that illustrated how important it is to clarify the intention of the meeting and identify the common objective of the various stakeholders groups and focus on the commonality, not the differences.

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I was able to put some of my new found skills to the test at the meeting I facilitated a few days later. I started by clearly stating the goals and objectives of the meeting and encouraged everyone’s participation by asking a few general questions first. When an attendee offered some feedback, I rephrased it in a way that benefited the discussion and invited others to elaborate.  Employing these new skills seemed to improve the focus of the participants on the topic at hand, and the discussion was collaborative and productive. I have compiled Jeffrey’s advice and am using it to build a new and improved method for facilitating the meetings, especially when Districts are faced with drawing in new stakeholders or trying to ease a conflict within their District.  I am optimistic that these new abilities will enable me provide more productive assistance to Conservation Districts so that hopefully I can help them make a difference in our state’s natural resources, especially our treasured water.

 

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Written by Rachel Theler, Conservation Specialist, Southeast and San Luis Valley Regions at the Colorado Department of Agriculture and member of the Colorado State Conservation Board.

CDR is Hiring a Program Associate

Join Us

Position Announcement: Program Associate

CDR Associates is a collaborative problem solving organization, based in Boulder, Colorado with almost 40 years of experience. Our goal is to make complex projects simpler, find solutions to conflict, and bring diverse groups together to make better decisions. We work in a variety of arenas including transportation and energy projects when federal, state and local authority compete, in the public health arena where stakeholders have diverse needs, and in the water arena where water is scarce or in need of coordinated management.  We provide facilitation, stakeholder engagement, conflict management, and training – and support all these services with our commitment to and expertise in collaboration. The binding element of our work is the pursuit of improved public planning and development outcomes by bringing diverse and sometimes conflicting perspectives together.

We’re looking for a Program Associate to join our team – someone who has good communication and organizational skills and is hardworking, reliable, creative, willing to question convention, and able to multi-task in a small, entrepreneurial organization.

As a junior member of our team, you’ll be assisting with the design and implementation of our services, assist with organizational and office needs, and lead communication with stakeholders.

Qualifications and Skills

  • A bachelor’s or master’s degree (preferred)
  • A year or more of experience in a related field of work is a plus
  • Specialized skills such as communications, public relations, and graphic design are a plus
  • Experience in project management, facilitation, training, program evaluation, and/or process design
  • Excellent writing and communication skills a must
  • Ability to manage flexible work schedule, including early mornings, some evenings, and weekend work
  • Excellent organizational skills with demonstrated ability to execute projects on time and on budget
  • Ability to work independently and take initiative in a fast-paced work environment
  • Proficient in basic computer use including managing data, reporting, Microsoft Office and designing basic outreach materials; advanced spreadsheet and data analysis are a plus
  • Ability to provide your own transportation to meetings and events outside the Greater Denver area.
  • Desire to develop conflict management, stakeholder engagement, and facilitation skills and to grow within the organization

Responsibilities

The program associate may do any or all of the following:

  • Serve as a junior member of facilitation, mediation, and training teams. This may include providing flip-chart recording,note-taking, writing meeting summaries, handling logistical tasks, assisting with project management, and/or conducting preparatory interviews.
  • Prepare senior staff for meetings/facilitations.
  • Assist with proposals and respond to information requests from prospective clients.
  • Support the development and revision of training materials including: training offerings, curricula, and training evaluation.
  • Assure the maintenance and organization of relevant project materials and records as needed for planning, evaluation, and monitoring.
  • Maintain client database and outreach plan to ensure organized project and partner communication.
  • Research issues and substantive information related to CDR projects, on request from other program staff.
  • Prioritize and organize assigned work to ensure projects are completed on time and in scope.
  • Assist with the management of website content, newsletter and other social media.
  • General office administration and organization, including office supply inventory and purchasing.

What’s Next

Send us a (1) Resume, (2) Cover Letter and (3) Writing Sample by August 15, 2018.  We’ll be reviewing and engaging with applicants on a rolling basis. Correspondence can be send to careers@mediate.org. Please write “CDR Project Associate 2018 Application_[First Name] [Last Name]” in the subject line of the email.

 

Register for CDR’s Fall 2018 Training – Facilitation and Mediation of Public and Environmental Conflicts: Practical Strategies for Reaching Agreement!

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CDR’s Fall training program is back! CDR is holding its annual, much-acclaimed 3-day Facilitation and Mediation training in Boulder, Colorado on September 25th through September 27th. Develop essential skills to manage the complexities of multi-party conflict and discover new ways to implement inclusive processes.

To learn more about our public training opportunities or to register, click here.

Introducing CDR’s newest staff member, Melissa Rary

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CDR welcomed a new Program Associate, Melissa Rary, to the team in late February. Melissa brings her passion for engaging communities in decision-making along with her careful attention to detail managing projects. A recent graduate with an MA in International Development from the Josef Korbel School of International Studies, Melissa is interested in bringing a diverse group of stakeholders to the table to address sustainable development. She has experience facilitating workshops aimed at improving working relationships for EPA and Tribal Government employees, analyzing qualitative and quantitative data for policy development, and working with international organizations to increase community outreach and awareness.

Prior to moving to Denver, Melissa attended the University of Georgia and remains a loyal Georgia Bulldog during football season each year. When she’s not working, you can find Melissa cooking up a nice meal, running around Denver’s beautiful parks, or hiking with her partner Nick and their two labs, Athena and Oak. Melissa would love to hear any recommendations for your favorite restaurant in the area (or any favorite cookbooks!), so please feel free to reach out to her at mrary@mediate.org.

Communicating Science for a Second Century

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The National Park Service (NPS) is charged with providing innovative, learner-centered inclusive experiences that reflect current scientific and academic research and methods. The National Park System provides unparalleled in-person and remote learning opportunities for students of every age, primarily through the use of interpreters. Following the Centennial Anniversary of the Park Service, it became clear that the issues are changing and audiences are evolving.  Issues such as climate change, invasive species and endangered species protection, have the potential to delay, derail or dissuade attempts at dialogue and learning. To this end, the Park Service invited social science academics, practitioners and other subject matter experts to an interactive workshop to develop strategies to inform NPS science communication work in the Park Service’s second century.

Key workshop questions included:  1) how can the NPS effectively address the immediate learning interests of some audiences while delivering transformative learning opportunities for all and 2) how can – or should – the NPS best leverage audience-centered interpretation, mass communications, and technology to deliver experiences that advance critical dialogue, reach traditionally underserved audiences and 3) promote lifelong learning across all audiences.

The workshop outcomes included recommendations for innovative practices and tangible actions that can be implemented towards providing impactful communication. This includes a) methods and approaches for meaningful engagement with existing audiences b) opportunities to inspire interest among disengaged audiences on park topics, c) ideas on how to amplify the effect of these efforts through social networks and spheres of influence and d) identify fertile ground for pioneering new methods and technologies that explore the nexus of science, society and personal values. Over the course of the workshop, drawing from marketing, media, arts and humanities and social science as a whole, the workshop participants identified best practices, knowledge gaps and high-priority needs for data and research.

As part of a long-term relationship with the Park Service, CDR, with a team of NPS and Social Science communication experts, assisted in the design and facilitation of this important workshop.

For more information contact Jonathan Bartsch (jbartsch@mediate.org).

Stone Soup for Public Health Improvement Planning

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In mid-January, 2018, a diverse group of residents and agency representatives formed with wide-ranging areas of interest, but they had one thing in common — keeping Broomfield a healthy place to live, work, and play. The group is Broomfield’s Health and Human Services Advisory Committee or HHSAC (pronounced H-Sack). HHSAC meets monthly to advise the city and county on community needs and interests around public health. HHSAC met with Broomfield’s Public Health and Environment Division and CDR Associates to talk about the city and county’s Public Health Improvement Plan.

Colorado’s 2008 Public Health Act mandates that every five years local health agencies examine data about the public health of their communities. For Broomfield, examining this data is the foundation of their Public Health Improvement Plan or PHIP. In addition to the core services Broomfield’s Public Health Department always conducts, the PHIP identifies one or more public health issues that the city and county focus on for five years, seeking to make measurable impact on a stymieing challenge.

But there are so many different public health issues. Which one(s) should the PHIP focus on? That’s the question HHSAC, the public health staff, and CDR grappled with. Broomfield had  quantitative data on 12 health priorities, where they measured impact of various issues like chronic diseases, access to health care, mental health, and more. But, it was important to both Broomfield and HHSAC to understand the “why” behind the data, to get the opinions and knowledge of neighbors, service providers, and experts. Marie Grucelski, a public health educator for Public Health and Environment, says, “We need a combination of the facts and figures from places like the CDC and the Colorado Department of Public Health along with the views and opinions of our community members in order to tell the complete story of our community’s health.”

They’re starting in a good place. U.S. New & World Report ranked Broomfield as the 3rd healthiest county in the U.S. in 2018. Broomfield Public Health and Environment and HHSAC aim to make the city and county even healthier, for all populations in their community.

In order to select those public health priorities, Broomfield wanted to hear from the public. In conjucntion with City staff, CDR began conducting a Community Health Assessment or CHA. Broomfield’s goal with the CHA was to hear from as wide a group of voices from the community as possible. To do that, CDR developed multiple methods to meet various community members where they are — using a Broomfield-wide citizen survey, on-location card surveys, online digital surveys, in-person focus groups and interviews, and marketing approaches that notify folks through social media. CDR will collect and analyze the data, use a thematic categorization and coding system and a criteria selection process, and develop an analysis of the qualitative input to tell HHSAC what Broomfield’s community members think and know.

After the information has been collected and analyzed, CDR will gather once again with HHSAC and public health staff. They will meet again and begin review the  data — the quantitative date, the qualitative data, and the community input. CDR will work with HHSAC as they debate pros and cons and criteria for selection. In the end, HHSAC will select two to three public health priorities and will identify ways to make Broomfield a healthier place to live, work, and play.

If you have any questions about CDR’s public health work or community assessments and data analysis, write Jeffrey Range at jrange@mediate.org.

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