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In recent years many in the field of collaborative governance have begun discussing and testing ways to integrate new technology tools into processes. In addition, practitioners have also begun utilizing Web 2.0 tools, such as blogs, to help the field itself grow. This month, PCI talked with John Folk-Williams, the creator of Cross-Collaborate, about the collaborative governance blogosphere.
Folk-Williams’ Cross Collaborate began in December and aims to serve as a learning resource for all those involved in shaping or influencing governmental decisions. It provides an introduction to core concepts and methods of public policy collaboration as well as commentary on leading issues and innovative practices. The site will soon add online learning to enhance the use of collaborative methods.
Folk-Williams notes that while there are multiple blogs about mediation and dispute resolution generally, there aren’t as many that try to review the field as broadly as he hopes to and also offer online learning opportunities. “I'm trying to provide a starting point where you can learn about the services already in existence and how to take advantage of them in practice. I hope more practitioners start sharing what they know online,” Folk-Williams says. “I started blogging almost two years ago in a much different and more personal area, so I knew how to work online. It's a comfortable way to discover new things through writing and to build an online community - that's what really brings blogging to life.”
Folk-Williams points out that, “A site like this is itself a collaboration and will involve the contributions of numerous other practitioners, leaders from all sectors and talented writers and teachers. Above all, an effective site depends on the interaction of everyone drawn here to learn and share what they know.”
Folk-Williams will focus on the practical methods and strategies for applying the principles of collaborative governance but will also be commenting on some of the theories behind those methods and plans to include ideas about how to use new online services.
Folk-Williams notes online communities, such as GovLoop, and online meeting services, like Open Space-Online, are promising as well. “There are a number of emerging Web 2.0 services providing live meeting technology, wikis, surveys, content sharing, video chat, etc. It's an exploding field that will be more and more important in the near future,” says Folk-Williams.
This month the National Coalition of Democracy and Deliberation will hold its eDemocracyCamp2, a meeting on e-participation (using the internet to support public participation). The goal is to connect government officials, researchers, developers, practitioners, and regular citizens for a day of intense collaboration and knowledge sharing. In May the US Institute for Environmental Conflict Resolution will bring together a national group of thought leaders, technology specialists, and ECR practitioners with experience and mutual appreciation for the value technology can bring to ECR processes – and for what ECR can bring to the development of future technologies. The Institute’s goal with this meeting is to develop a shared vision for integrating new technologies into ECR best practices to support transparency, public participation, collaboration, innovation, effective partnerships, decision-making, and capacity building in ECR, with the long term goal of widespread and effective use of technology in ECR approaches.
The FCRC Consensus Center (formerly the Florida Conflict Resolution Consortium) has released a new report on the ways universities contribute in helping to address local, regional and statewide challenges and contribute to public solutions as a part of their service missions and as part of a broader movement towards collaborative governance and leadership. “Building Bridges: University Community Service, Engagement and Collaboration” provides a review of the social and civic contributions to community life, leadership and regional prosperity in relation the State University System of Florida (SUS).
The authors of the report conducted interviews with Florida public higher education leaders in all 11 state universities and colleges that make up the SUS to gauge how public universities in the state promote and assist community service, community engagement, and collaborative governance. Frank Brogan, President of Florida Atlantic University, described the benefit of such activities to both the university and the greater community in a letter published in the report: “I believe such partnerships [community and regional] provide reciprocal benefits that strengthen the quality of our academic programs in their teaching, scholarship and service missions while offering opportunities for our students and faculty to help find solutions to challenges. . . .The dividends reaped from our investment in strategic partnerships that increase the universities’ value to the community at large will play a key role in building an innovative knowledge economy in Florida.”
The report concludes that community service is a strong, dynamic, and rapidly evolving phenomenon among the universities of the SUS system. The report also proposes five suggestions for the Florida Board of Governors to improve community service in the SUS:
Though the report naturally focuses on the Florida experience, other state and university leaders can draw parallels with their own university systems’ commitments to public and community services. In particular, the report highlights the role universities have played in advancing collaborative solutions by providing neutral forums.
PCI partnered with the University of Arkansas’ Center for Public Collaboration to produce a video interview with Arkansas State Senator Shane Broadway. This short video focuses on bi-partisan consensus building around a school funding bill in the Arkansas State Legislature. Broadway, a Democrat, describes how he and his co-convener, Republican Senator Dave Bixby, determined who to bring to the table in addressing the school funding issue.
In addition, the US Department of Education created a video highlighting the Oregon Solutions Vernonia Schools project as an example of a community whose education system and economy can be revitalized by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. The December 2007 flood in Oregon devastated much of Vernonia's infrastructure, including its schools. The community's recovery included this formal collaborative process to draw together a wide range of agency representatives, community leaders, and citizens with resources to rebuild Vernonia's schools. Oregon’s Governor Ted Kulongoski has named the school rebuilding in Vernonia as one of his top three priorities for state stimulus aid. The Oregon Solutions Team in Vernonia will leverage grant monies to supplement federal recovery assistance, especially for green and sustainable investments.
Two years ago, Community Focus and the National Policy Consensus Center completed its first California Solutions pilot project, to determine how to find a new and permanent location for the Mountain View Day Worker Center (DWC). That process, convened by then Lost Altos Mayor Ron Packard, brought together thirty stakeholders from city governments, police departments, local foundations, service clubs, educational organizations, banking institutions, realtors, local media, and representatives from the DWC, including day workers. The Team signed a Declaration of Cooperation, pledging to bring together resources to make a permanent multi-service center a reality.
Since the Solutions Team signed the DOC, team members have continued to work towards creating the permanent home for the Center. Team member Cindy Luedtke, a local banker, now heads up the Center’s capital campaign. Luedtke says that the team and its DOC were instrumental in launching their efforts to find the DWC's permanent home. This past year, the Center has able to raise sufficient funds to purchase property in Mountain View and also received the Mountain View Mayor’s Award for Humanitarian Work. Now, both Luedtke and DWC Executive Director Maria Marroquin say that they are making their final push to finance and complete the necessary remodeling and parking lot improvements. The pledged funds they have received include commitments from cities throughout the region, including Mountain View, Los Altos and Los Altos Hills.
Community Focus and PCI are partnering to tell the story of the implementation of this effort in a video on the DWC.
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