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The William D. Ruckelshaus Center

Current Projects

Yakima Health Provider Capacity

The Center is currently working with Pacific Northwest University- Health Sciences to provide neutral facilitation services to a key set of healthcare providers, including hospitals and rural health centers in the Yakima Valley. Yakima has historically had a disproportionately high uninsured/Medicaid population- Medicaid transformation has swamped local healthcare provider’s ability to provide appropriate primary and specialty care services to their community. The Center is facilitating a process to help executive and operational leadership collaborate to identify short-term interventions and longer-term strategic innovations that will help with emergency room diversion, physician and other practitioner recruiting, and other access to quality care improvements.

For more information, contact Project Manager Kevin Harris.

A Road Map to Washington’s Future

Washington State’s framework for managing growth is a patchwork of at least a dozen laws adopted incrementally over the past century. Each responded to the circumstances and priorities of its day, including the Growth Management Act (GMA) of 1990. The primary responsibility for growth planning and implementation rests with local governments, however, cities and counties operate under governance and finance rules designed to meet the needs of the last century, not the realities, trends, opportunities, and challenges of this one. To date there has not been an assessment of how well the GMA has met its goals, nor were the purposes, processes, and requirements of older laws ever reconciled with those of the GMA.

Washington’s communities are increasingly recognizing the linkages between housing costs, transportation, economic opportunity, environmental, and human health. Navigating this complex system and effectively meeting challenges and opportunities facing the state will require a collaborative “road map to the future.” In response to queries from the Washington State Legislature and others, the William D. Ruckelshaus Center (Center) recommends conducting an assessment of Washington’s framework for managing growth including a process to articulate a statewide vision and collaboratively map a path to that future. The assessment and process for creating a collaborative road map would involve participants across the state helping to create a holistic vision of Washington’s desired future, identifying opportunities and current successes of state laws, institutions, and policies in moving toward that future, and areas for needed course corrections and support for future implementation.

To gauge support for this effort, the Center is now conducting a Preliminary Assessment consisting of a series of conversations with key individuals, groups, and organizations involved in various growth management efforts. For more information about the project, click here.

Snohomish County Health Leadership Coalition

The Ruckelshaus Center is providing process design and facilitation services to the Snohomish County Health Leadership Coalition’s LiveHealthy2020 initiative. The Coalition is a convener of over 130 public, private and civic-based organizations, with the vision of improving the health and economic vitality of Snohomish County by improving nutrition, increasing physical activity, enhancing mental and emotional health, and fostering civic health & connectivity. The Center is helping the Coalition design and implement collaborative processes to help their diverse set of signatory organizations and others scale their ‘accelerator’ efforts to create larger impact around Snohomish County population health outcomes.

For more information, contact Project Manager Kevin Harris.

Washington State Coastal Resiliency

In 2016, U.S. Representative Derek Kilmer’s Office, the Washington State Department of Ecology (Ecology) cities of Ocean Shores and Westport, the Quinault Indian Nation, Grays Harbor County Emergency Management, the Port of Grays Harbor, and other state and federal agencies partnered to create the Grays Harbor Resilience Coalition. Staff from U.S. Rep. Kilmer’s Office and Ecology contacted the William D. Ruckelshaus Center (Center) seeking independent facilitation services, originally around convening the Coalition partners to develop a 2017-2019 biennial budget request for coastal resilience projects. Over a series of conversations, the Center suggested that—while the Coalition as presently constructed may decide to continue pursuing a budget request specific to Grays Harbor County— given the coast-wide scope and the shared interest in increasing coastal resilience it appeared to be an opportune time to begin developing a coast-wide approach. To identify a path forward that would be embraced by and meet the needs of both “top-down” and “grass roots” interests, the Center suggested conducting an assessment consisting of a series of interviews with key parties to explore opportunities that support long-term resilience to natural hazards for the Washington coast and coastal communities.

An Assessment Team composed of Center affiliated faculty and staff with assistance from a consultant carried out the assessment using an interview-based process. Interviews took place from mid-October 2016 through February 2017. The Assessment Team conducted 104 interviews and conversations with individuals who are involved in organizations with a particular role, interest in, or knowledge of coastal resilience efforts. The goal was to gather a range of perspectives, information, and insights about approaches, processes, structures, and resources needed to enhance and support resilience efforts for the coast and coastal communities.

To read the Assessment Report, click here. For the Executive Summary, click here.

For more information, contact Project Managers Amanda Murphy and Phyllis Shulman.

Snohomish Health District

In 2016, the Snohomish Health District asked the Center to assist in navigating a potential transformation of its governance and delivery of care. The Health District provides public health services to Snohomish County’s 755,000+ residents, from maternal and child health programs to safe drinking water. A 15-member Board of Health, including county and city elected officials, oversees policy and budget development.  Supporting citizens of the fastest-growing county in Washington, the Health District has struggled with its role within statewide healthcare transformation, sustainable local and state funding, and board member turnover. The Center conducted a situation assessment — a series of interviews with a broad range of leaders and organizations throughout the community to discern issues, opportunities and dynamics among key parties, as well as prospects for collaborative dialogue, to identify and agree on long-term solutions. The District is currently in the process of implementing several key Center recommendations, to improve engagement and streamline the Board’s decision-making process. To read the Project Report, click here.

For more information, contact Project Managers Kevin Harris or Amanda Murphy.

For-Profit Post-Secondary Education Oversight

State and federal investigations have revealed deceptive and illegal practices in the for-profit higher education sector. The 2016 Washington Legislature, concerned about issues facing current and prospective students of for-profit career schools, directed the Washington Student Achievement Council to administer a study of the situation, in collaboration with the Washington Workforce Training and Education Coordinating Board and the Washington Department of Licensing. The three agencies asked the Ruckelshaus Center to “objectively analyze and make recommendations about systemic overlaps and gaps in jurisdiction regarding for-profit post-secondary degree-granting institutions and private vocational schools” in Washington state. The Center completed a situation assessment to map issues, articulate challenges and opportunities for addressing them, and analyze prospects for a collaborative process to address challenges. Following the submittal of an 88-page report that distills the expertise of those closest to the challenges into concise, actionable recommendations, the Center has begun facilitating deliberations of a work group to collaboratively generate solutions to identified problems. To read the report, click here. For more information, contact Project Manager Chris Page.

Recreation Access

In 2016, the Washington Legislature provided direction and funding to the Washington Parks Commission (Commission) to “coordinate a process to develop options and recommendations to improve consistency, equity and simplicity in recreational access fee systems while accounting for the fiscal health and stability of public land management” in Washington.

Visit the project page for more information.

Coeur d’Alene Basin Restoration

he federal, state, and tribal Coeur d’Alene Basin Natural Resource Trustees have drafted a plan to restore natural resources injured from historic mining practices in the Coeur d’Alene Basin in Idaho. As the Trustee Council moves toward implementation, its members recognize that enhanced collaboration can streamline the achievement of shared interests. To improve collaboration, consensus, and successful shared outcomes, the Council engaged the Center in 2016 as a neutral third party to conduct a situation assessment examining the history, dynamics, interests, challenges, and opportunities related to restoration of the Basin. The assessment mapped relationships and objectives among the Council’s member organizations and provided recommendations for the Council’s consideration and possible adoption. The Trustees asked the Center to facilitate a two-day planning retreat in March 2017 to consider priorities and objectives for the implementation of the restoration plan, and determine a modified operating structure to optimize outcomes. For more information, contact Project Manager Chris Page.

Non-Native Fish Eradication in Northeastern Washington

Biologists have pinpointed competition, hybridization, and predation by non-native fish such as Brook Trout, Brown Trout, and Rainbow Trout as primary factors in the decline of native Bull Trout and Westslope Cutthroat Trout populations in the Boundary Dam Reservoir basin in Pend Oreille County, WA. These scientists identified non-native fish suppression/ eradication as critical to recovery of Bull Trout, a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act. The Ruckelshaus Center is assisting efforts of the WSU Division of Governmental Studies and Services to coordinate with the Kalispel Tribe of Indians and state and local governments to communicate information to the public explaining the need and process for non-native fish control efforts. This includes facilitating public meetings, coordinating and facilitating agency-public planning and coordination meetings, and delivering a project summary report.

Chehalis Basin Strategy

In late 2011, the Center helped create a report for the Washington State Governor’s Office to the Legislature that identified recommended priority flood hazard mitigation projects in the Chehalis River Basin in southwest Washington. In August 2012, then-Governor Gregoire asked the Center to facilitate a work group convened to advise her on recommendations for her biennial budget proposal. A framework document containing the group’s consensus recommendations was presented to the Governor on November 14, 2012. She endorsed the recommendations, as has current Governor Inslee. In June 2013, the Legislature passed a biennial capital budget with $28.2 million to fund the work group’s recommendations. Based on the work completed over the 2013-2015 biennium, the Governor’s Chehalis Basin Work Group recommended an integrated strategy of long-term flood-damage reduction and aquatic species restoration in the Chehalis Basin. The Work Group also recommended a suite of near-term actions that the legislature included in the 2015-2017 capital budget. The near-term actions are necessary to move forward on the long-term recommendations, create a Basin-led governance structure, and invest in smaller projects to provide near-term reductions in flood damage and restoration for aquatic species. Moving forward, the Center will continue to facilitate the Work Group, manage future technical analyses, and organize technical, policy, and public workshops.

Visit the Chehalis Basin Strategy website.

Spokane River Toxics

The Spokane River Regional Toxics Task Force (SRRTTF) is a collaborative group of governmental agencies, private industries, and environmental organizations attempting an innovative approach to the reduction of toxic polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) within the Spokane River. The goal of the Task Force is to develop a comprehensive plan to bring the Spokane River into compliance with water quality standards for PCBs. Since 2012, the Center has facilitated the meetings, communications, and decisions of the Task Force and its Work Groups. In November 2016, the SRRTTF agreed by consensus on a Comprehensive Plan to bring the Spokane River into compliance with applicable water quality standards for PCBs. For more information, contact Project Manager Chris Page or visit the SRRTTF website.

Aviation Biofuels

The Center has been involved in two related projects designed to promote sustainable aviation biofuels in the Pacific Northwest, to help the region meet its clean energy goals. The first was called Sustainable Aviation Biofuels Northwest (SAFN). The second is a $40 million, five year grant from the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI) to support a team of academic and private sector researchers called the Northwest Advanced Renewables Alliance (NARA).

Read more

Healthcare Policy Study

The Ruckelshaus Center continues to expand its services in the health sector. Healthcare reform has complicated policy design and implementation challenges that affect a wide variety of stakeholders across Washington state and the Pacific Northwest. The traditional public health and healthcare delivery/financing silos require collaborative change and trust-building to streamline and integrate delivery, education and service capacity. The greater Puget Sound area hosts more than 120 global health organizations, that often require collaboration to effectively scale and fulfill their missions. Combining WSU and UW expertise and perspective into an effective, university-based neutral third party often helps to ‘move the needle’, or resolve many policy issues that block the progress of government and industry stakeholders, associations, labor, community partners and advocates. For more information, contact Kevin Harris, Senior Facilitator – Health Policy at

Read the Collaborative Healthcare Policy One-Pager , or the Healthcare Policy Study Flyer to learn more about potential next steps.

Collaborative Capacity Building Program

As part of its efforts to build capacity for collaborative policy 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 trainers work with agencies and organizations to tailor the curriculum to their needs. For example, the Center has held workshops to assist newly-elected state legislators with the transition from candidate to legislator. The Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife (WFDW) asked the Center to provide trainings to meet the needs of WDFW habitat biologists in successfully managing interactions and relationships with permit applicants, while providing protection for fish and their habitat. The Center teamed with the National Policy Consensus Center at Portland State University to provide collaboration training to the staff at the Washington State Department of Natural Resources’ Aquatics Division. And the Center is a part of a University Network for Collaborative Governance that has issued a Guide to Collaborative Competencies. We use that guide to help agencies understand what types of collaborative skills university centers can help develop. More information>

Updated on February 16, 2017

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

901 Fifth Avenue, Suite 2900, Seattle, WA 98164, (206) 428-3021
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