Trust Building: Moving Slow to Go Fast

Environmental Justice

“We, who participated in the mediation process, had an experience that none of us anticipated.  While we believed that we could form a ‘legal’ agreement, we gave little thought to personal relationships.  We started out as adversaries with firm positions, people who did not know one another, and began by treating each other as stereotypes.  However, during the process we began to learn about, know and value one another as people of integrity and good faith.  In the end we formed relationships based on mutual respect, understanding and appreciation.  In short, we became friends.  This was not a goal, it was a gift.  It was a lesson for life for all of us and is of much greater value than any legal settlement could ever be.”

Lorraine and Michael for the community organization

Joy and David for the chemical company


In 1995 a toxic chemical (sodium chloride) was spilled at an off-loading terminal in a low-income community where a mix of industrial and residential use has created a number of challenges for residents of the neighborhoods.  The EPA agreed to a settlement with the responsible chemical company.  Neighborhood residents in the community where the spill occurred had organized meetings with city and State representatives to discuss this settlement.  This resulted in a recommendation to request a mechanism for contacting residents in the future, should another evacuation be necessary.

Although the EPA settled, the company was still responsible under the Emergency Planning and Community Right to Know Act (EPCRKA) to provide information about the spill to the affected residents in the community. This information was not provided, as required by the law and, two years after the spill, residents felt forced to sue the company.  However, residents were open to a settlement discussion, believing that communication and negotiation could possibly result in a satisfactory solution for all.  The company, which had positive experience with mediation in the past, was also interested in pursuing a mediated agreement.  After meeting in two one-day sessions, the parties reached agreement on all the issues, and the community organization that had filed suit agreed to have the suit dismissed with prejudice.

The affected community of 2200 homes was split in half during the 1960’s by the construction of two highways.  Over the past two decades, heavy industry has moved into the neighborhood.  61% of homes are owner occupied, many with two or three generations living in the community.  They are well organized and, due to the existence of many environmental hazards, have developed experience in working constructively (where ever possible), with companies who emit pollution into the environment.

In 1987 the community formed an Environmental Justice organization.  That organization has since grown statewide with over 500 members.  It was members of this organization that undertook the mediation with the chemical company.  The chemical company, itself, had also been seeking ways for developing better relationships with people in the communities where they are based.

Keys to Success

There were three primary factors that helped this process to succeed. First was the mediators’ determination, as a result of the pre-mediation interviews, that a fundamental issue was the development of relationship among the real parties to the dispute.  To that end, the logistics were arranged in such a way that the parties were near one another, across the table.  The mediators then structured the initial stages of the process to focus on personal communication among the parties, with little input from the mediators OR the attorneys.  By focusing on this fundamental, developmental theme, the parties began to build relationships, which sustained the process when it moved into more difficult negotiation on the practical, financial resolution of the conflict.

Second was the “slower is sometimes faster” principle, something CDR references often in our work.  The parties were asked to slow down, in spite of the urge to present (and respond to) monetary demands, we postponed settlement discussions until there had been an opportunity to understand how each group had experienced the spill and resulting perceptions of one another.  These frank discussions helped to humanize the situation and build mutual appreciation, creating a foundation for a productive negotiation on the settlement itself.

The third factor involved the roles played by the attorneys and the parties in the actual negotiations.  The parties took the lead in discussions, with their attorneys present to provide legal guidance.  This allowed direct, unfiltered expression of perspectives and concerns.  This was especially valuable because the direct conversations enabled the parties to build on the developing relationship, making tangible proposals and offers based on the real interests expressed by both sides.

Alfred P. Sloan and Cynthia and George Mitchell Foundation Fund CDR Assessment of Industry Best Practices


Recently, we were happy to announce the receipt of a generous grant from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation in cooperation with Resources for the Future (RFF) to conduct a third-party independent assessment of best practices in social performance and community engagement in unconventional energy development in Colorado and Pennsylvania. That project is now underway. RFF and CDR are excited to announce a second grant from the Cynthia and George Mitchell Foundation to add Texas to the research. The Mitchell Foundation describes itself as “an engine of change in both policy and practice in Texas, supporting high-impact projects at the nexus of environmental protection, social equity, and economic vibrancy.” Its mission is to “seek innovative, sustainable solutions for human and environmental problems.” The late George Mitchell pioneered the modern technology of hydraulic fracturing.

The RFF/CDR project will focus on case studies where industry practices in community engagement and social performance have shown success in addressing community needs and overcoming conflicts. The project will examine what practices are working, where and why they are working, what outcomes they produced, and whether the practices are transferable to other regions. The findings will provide the oil and gas industry with tools to improve their “social licenses to operate” within communities and will empower communities to engage more effectively with industry to better satisfy community interests.

The 18-month assessment will rely on community, industry, and government input to identify potential case studies and initial contacts that have direct experience with industry operators and community outreach staff. The research team is also collecting data on the social, economic and political makeup of communities where case studies are conducted to help determine whether such variables are factors in the effectiveness of industry practices. Industry transparency is also a critical component of the study and the willingness of industry representatives to openly share their practices and to allow the research team to critically evaluate them.

The project is led by CDR Senior Program Manager Todd Bryan. Dr. Bryan has conducted comprehensive assessments and helped groups overcome challenging conflicts for more than 25 years. He holds a Ph.D. from the School of Natural Resources and Environment at the University of Michigan.

For more information, please contact Todd Bryan or visit our energy practice page.

CDR Facilitates 400-Person Workshop for the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California to Update its Water Resources Plan


CDR designed and facilitated a highly participatory day-long public workshop for the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California (MET) in which the agency shared information, received input from stakeholders, and discussed strategies for updating its Integrated Water Resources Plan (IRP). MET is the largest supplier of treated water in the U.S., and provides water for 19 million customers in the Los Angeles area.

MET updates its IRP every five years with an extensive public input process. In this workshop, MET wanted to go beyond presenting information and soliciting formal public comments to include an opportunity for dialogue with stakeholders about the proposed resource plan. To accomplish this goal, CDR facilitators designed and conducted a process that enabled MET to provide information, answer questions and engage in meaningful and challenging discussions on water planning strategies and priorities. The result was a day of substantive keynote and informal panel presentations, workshop-style discussion and exchange, public meeting-style comments and questions, and lively in-person and on-line participation with hundreds of participants. Workshop participants included member agencies, elected officials, water managers, non-governmental organizations, private industry representatives, activists, academics, and other concerned citizens. Attendees provided input on how MET could manage its water resources and reconcile controversial supplies and uses and competing demands under severe drought conditions.

The IRP workshop underscored the complexity of soliciting meaningful input and participation in an agency-driven planning process that involves highly technical science and policy issues, controversial infrastructure projects, and resources critical to millions of people’s lives. The level of engagement and interest was underscored by the number of participants who stayed well after the meeting for one-on-one discussions with MET staff. MET hopes to perpetuate this type of participatory, in-depth stakeholder engagement in its public consultations moving forward. The IRP workshop followed an earlier process designed and facilitated by CDR to assist MET and its partners to address and coordinate conjunctive management of water resources in the region.

For more information, contact Chris Moore or Ryan Golten, or visit our water practice page.

CDR Helps Launch Texas Package Recycling Summit

Texas Package Recycling

On June 25, 2015, the State of Texas Alliance for Recycling (STAR) convened the Texas Packaging Summit, a state-wide workshop to explore the biggest issues facing municipalities, recycling processors, and manufacturers with regards to complex package recycling.  Convened in San Antonio, the Summit brought together national and state leaders and professionals from the recycling value chain to explore current trends in what Americans are consuming, current packaging technology, and how the waste stream is evolving as manufacturers consider more than just “end of life” packaging material. The Summit was sponsored by U.S. EPA Region 6.

The goal of the Summit was to:

  • Bring participants up to speed on the current state of package recycling both nation-wide and in Texas
  • Provide a broader understanding of the challenges brought on by modern packaging product development
  • Assessing the interest among participants in continuing the conversation to develop strategies for collective action to improve and increase package recycling in Texas

CDR Senior Program Manager Todd Bryan moderated and facilitated the day-long Summit and engaged participants from the packaging and recycling industries, municipal governments, and recycling advocates in identifying relevant issues and priorities along the value chain that are ripe for collaborative or coordinated efforts. Attendees were also asked whether they were willing to join a Working Group focused on priorities that emerged from the Summit and coordinated by STAR, with the assistance of CDR.

Mr. Bryan also developed a framework for further collaborative action.  The one-year framework is composed of a series of Working Groups formed around the most relevant priorities and a Plenary Group that is composed of Working Group members and individuals who have expertise and experience in the broader topic of package recycling in Texas and nation-wide. The framework builds on the June Packaging Summit and will use the Summit as the initial Plenary Group meeting.

CDR was awarded a contract to further assist STAR in designing, managing and facilitating a packaging dialogue to address priority issues through collaboration and collective action among Summit attendees and additional stakeholders. For additional information contact Todd Bryan.

CDR is Supporting Liberia in Implementing New Land Policy


In mid- August, USAID awarded Tetra Tech and its partner CDR Associates a contract to work collaboratively with the Government of Liberia and its Land Commission to enhance their capacities to further implement the nation’s new Land Policy.  This new contract is a follow-on to others in Liberia in which Tetra Tech and CDR were involved.

The new Land Policy outlines a process by which communities – principally composed of members of one ethnic group, but which may also include minorities from others – can apply for and receive government recognition of their right to occupy and manage their historic lands, and receive formal legal title of ownership.   The policy is very progressive, especially for many countries in Africa where colonial powers or other elites often claimed and designated land belonging to ethnic communities as state land.  This designation commonly disenfranchised members of ethnic communities from decision making about the management and use of their land, and often resulted in it being allocated to non-members or foreign concessions that reaped benefits of natural resources without local consultation, approval and little, if any, benefit sharing.

A major focus of the LGSA on which Tetra Tech, CDR, local Liberian partner organizations and the Land Commission will collaborate, involves providing technical and process assistance to the Commission and interested ethnic communities to complete the requirements for legal recognition of community land.  Communities wishing to secure legal recognition are required to: 1) self-identify their members, which includes formally recognizing women, youth and minorities residing on community land as full-members: 2) negotiate and reach formal agreements with adjacent communities on common boundaries; and 3) establish an inclusive governance structure to make decisions about community land – such as land use, allocation, demarcation of internal land boundaries, form(s) of member ownership, sale or lease of community or individually held land, and relations with external parties, such as investors or concessions.  Once these tasks have been accomplished, communities can formally apply to the Government for recognition of ownership and receive a title in the name of the community.

Tetra Tech, CDR and their local partners will provide Land Policy implementation process assistance, build Commission capacities to educate communities about land recognition procedures, help communities prepare to negotiate internally to recognize members and establish boundaries with neighbors, and design and implement acceptable land governance structures.  As accomplishing these tasks will likely in some areas involve significant tensions and conflicts, the LGSA partners will build the capacities of respected leaders in government, non-governmental organizations and customary communities to provide facilitation and mediation assistance to help resolve disputes and reach mutually acceptable and durable agreements.  For more information, contact Chris Moore.

First Round of Local Agency Stormwater Projects Selected for Innovative CDOT Program


The Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) recently selected three projects across the state that help local agencies fund design, right of way acquisition and construction of stormwater Control Measures/ Best Management Practices (BMPs). This is part of CDOT’s innovative Permanent Water Quality (PWQ) Program, as outlined in its Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System (MS4) permit that became effective on August 28, 2015.

CDOT will contribute $6.5 million annually to a PWQ Mitigation Pool. CDOT’s contribution to the Mitigation Pool, and use of these funds to construct PWQ Control Measures that meet the required Design Standards for stormwater treatment/mitigation, is necessary for compliance. While there are certain Priority Projects that must provide onsite treatment, funding can also be used to support local agency projects that treat a portion of runoff from CDOT owned land (i.e., right of way) within MS4 boundaries.

This is an innovative approach that encourages regional Control Measures that are more cost effective and can be maintained more easily than small, geographically dispersed Control Measures. The PWQ Program supports collaboration among partners such as CDOT, local governments and watershed groups.

Laura Sneeringer and Jonathan Bartsch from CDR Associates began providing facilitation support four years ago when staff from CDOT headquarters and five regions came together to discuss how to develop a more innovative stormwater management program. At the beginning, there were divergent ideas on how to address stormwater challenges. Laura and Jonathan helped the Task Force come to a consensus decision on an approach they could all support and negotiate with the Colorado Deptartment of Public Health and Environment to develop a final concept. They have continued to support CDOT by facilitating implementation discussions and the first project selection process. They have also had a significant role in documenting decisions through program documents, such as the original concept, guidance for the interim and final program and application guidance for local agencies.

Final approval of the PWQ Program via the MS4 permit and selection of the first round of projects  is a significant milestone after years of refining the program. It’s also a milestone nationwide as it could serve as an example for other states. For more information, please contact Laura or Jonathan and visit the CDOT PWQ Program website.


11 Years of CDR Training African Diplomats for the United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR)

UN Graphic

Many nations around the world, experience turmoil and conflict either within or along their borders.  Africa is no different.  CDR has worked with the United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR) for many years to design and present customized international training programs on culturally appropriate dispute resolution and mediation procedures that can help resolve conflicts within and between nations.  In April of this year, CDR conducted its 11th seminar, a major component of UNITAR’s Regional Training Programme to Enhance Conflict Prevention and Peace Building in Africa.  This program was held in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, the headquarters of the African UnionEarlier programs were held in Cape Town, South Africa, and Harari, Zimbabwe.


The program was attended by African officials and delegates from the African Union, African Foreign Service officers and a range of other government officials from across the continent.  CDR presented lectures and used an African conflict simulation for participants to practice mediation and negotiation procedures and skills.

 The Training Program Covered How To:

  • Conduct and apply a rigorous situation assessment or conflict analysis
  • Develop and implement appropriate and effective conflict resolution strategies and tactics
  • Apply interest-based negotiation procedures rather than engage in positional bargaining
  • Use mediators and a mediation process effectively
  • Identify principles as future frameworks for agreements
  • Generate a range of possible options for agreements
  • Break deadlocks that impede settlement caused by people, procedures or substantive issues
  • Narrow options and build durable solutions and agreements
  • Apply interest-based negotiation and mediation procedures to address and resolve common political, economic and social conflicts – recognition of diverse languages, cultures and religions; the form of political structures and selection of leaders; the roles of military and police in society and who serves in them; decisions about natural resources, their exploitation and management and allocation of benefits; and the degree of influence ethnic minorities have over their lives

For more information, contact Christopher Moore or UNITAR.

Collaborative decision-making process facilitates US 36 Corridor construction!

US 36

The US 36 corridor between Denver and Boulder is currently under construction based on consensus reached between transportation agencies and the local communities.  Soon commuters will have 18 miles of new infrastructure improvements providing travel options including a new bus rapid transit system, a corridor-wide bikeway, high occupancy toll lanes and improvements to the general purpose lanes. The current travel disruption was preceded by the environmental study led by the Colorado Department of Transportation and Regional Transportation District of Denver from 2003 to 2009.

The challenge:
The US 36 Preferred Alternative Committee (PAC) was charged with developing a recommendation to federal agencies for an implementable solution after a Preferred Alternative was still unidentified at the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) phase after four years.

 What we did:
CDR Associates facilitated the PAC which consisted of elected officials, federal and state regulatory agency representatives and local government technical staff.

 How we did it:
CDR facilitators used a ‘building block’ approach to assemble an agreement on the Preferred Alternative, including both substantive agreements (type/number of lanes etc…) as well as procedural approaches and triggers for future consideration. The result of the collaborative decision making process was regional consensus that resolved the issues and identified a Preferred Alternative including strategies and priorities for implementing the $300 million project you see today.

 The results:
The US 36 EIS also incorporated meaningful input from the broader public into the decisions. The dynamic public involvement process solicited input from the stakeholders throughout five counties and seven municipalities in an area of a half million people to support the PAC’s decisions.

We are proud of our role in helping provide transportation improvements in our beautiful home in Colorado. For more information, contact Andrea Meneghel.

Final Indian Oil Valuation Rule Published

indian oil

CDR Associates is excited to announce that the Indian Oil Valuation Rule, which they facilitated development of through a two-year Negotiated Rulemaking Committee, has been published and will be effective on July 1, 2015. As Secretary Jewell stated, “the final regulations will ensure that tribal communities receive all the royalty they are owed from oil production on their lands, reduce administrative costs, and provide greater predictability to the oil industry.”

The committee was comprised of Tribal, Indian mineral owners, industry, and federal government representatives. There had been a number of initiatives, beginning in 1998, that attempted to resolve concerns with the Rule, and none were completely successful until this negotiated rulemaking. Discussions involved highly complex technical discussions that resulted in consensus on the concepts that form the basis of the Final Rule. For more information, please contact Chris Moore or Laura Sneeringer.

Page 5 of 6
1 3 4 5 6