The William D. Ruckelshaus Center University Of Washington Washington State University Extension Ruckelshaus Center Home Page


The Ruckelshaus Center combines a neutral setting with stakeholder involvement, access to local information and analysis, university research and fact-finding, and involvement from its prominent Advisory Board to help advance issues, increase trust and find solutions. The Center responds to needs that are not met through available forums or services and/or where involvement by the Universities
"adds value" (see Project Criteria).

Through the partnership of two research universities, the Center has access to a wealth of knowledge and faculty expertise. The Center puts the resources of the Universities to work on behalf of the state and region. The Center draws upon representatives from a wide network of university faculty, state, tribal and local governments, advocacy groups, non-profit organizations, private practitioners, businesses and others.

The Center brings an understanding of real-world policy issues to the campuses, to advance the Universities’ missions of teaching and research. The Center also creates opportunities for students, helping prepare the next generations of leaders for collaborative problem solving. The Center’s services include:

Neutral Forum

The Center provides a forum for parties with intractable and difficult issues to get on track and past traditional gridlock. It adds information and civil discourse to the development of public policy, without imposing solutions. The Center provides a safe setting for discussing both current problems and emerging issues. It is a catalyst for bringing diverse and divergent voices to the table.

Situation Assessment

Prior to accepting a project, Center staff undertakes an assessment of the situation and appropriateness of Center involvement. This assessment consists of conversations with leaders from involved governments, stakeholders groups and citizens to determine if the issue is “ripe” for a collaborative process and if the parties are amenable to the Center’s involvement. Also included in the assessment are consultation with the Center’s Advisory Board and an analysis of the project’s fit with the Center’s project criteria. In some cases, the situation assessment is more complex and serves as a stand-along project, or as an initial phase of a potentially multiphase project.

Facilitation, Mediation, Dispute Resolution

When appropriate, the Center uses the tools of alternative dispute resolution and collaborative decision-making to help parties work together effectively, overcome barriers and reach resolution on important issues. This can include meeting facilitation, mediation, “shuttle diplomacy,” alternative/option formulation, and other approaches.

Project Management, Strategic Planning

A vital element in collaborative decision-making is process conception, design, formulation and execution that is appropriate to the situation, creative and conducive to making consistent progress. Good project management allows the parties to focus on the subject matter, and on crafting creative and effective solutions, rather than on logistics, fairness and process. Strategic planning can also be an important element of a successful project. Good strategic planning “begins at the end,” identifying desired outcomes and measures of success and then “back planning” a process that includes strategies, actions, benchmarks and milestones.


As part of its efforts to build capacity for problem solving within the state and region, the Center provides training in collaborative problem-solving, conflict resolution and building long-term working relationships. The training is structured to be useful to individuals from a variety of disciplines and backgrounds. Seasoned faculty members work with agencies and organizations to tailor the curriculum to their needs. The Center is also able to host or co-host forums around emerging or existing issues where the affected communities, technical experts and government representatives can share knowledge and constructively discuss the issues at hand. More information

Applied Research and Fact-Finding

Research conducted by the Center supports collaborative policy efforts on improving health care, preserving the natural environment, encouraging economic development, fostering new technologies and other areas. The Center can access experts within two of the nation’s leading research universities, which have programs across the spectrum of intellectual disciplines. The Center focuses on applied research and fact-finding that responds to current policy needs and “real world” timelines.

Information Portal

At times, providing structure and ready access to existing information is important in helping parties work together to resolve complex policy issues. Universities are particularly well-suited to serving this function. In such cases, the Center can provide widespread access to information whose origin and value extends beyond the boundaries of a single organization.

Policy Discussions

The Center brings real-world policy issues to the academic setting by sponsoring or co-sponsoring conferences, workshops, forums, speakers and other policy discussions. This helps advance the teaching and research missions of the universities. It also helps ensure that policy making in the state and region is informed by the latest thinking and scholarly achievement.


Updated on January 26, 2015

The William D. Ruckelshaus Center, PO Box 646248, Washington State University, Pullman WA 99164-6248, 509-335-2937, Contact Us