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Current Projects

After-Action Review of the Statewide Pandemic Response and Recovery

A legislative proviso directed Washington State’s Military Department and Department of Health to conduct a comprehensive after-action review of the statewide pandemic response and recovery. The Ruckelshaus Center, with assistance from WSU Extension’s Division of Governmental Studies and Services, has been providing process design and facilitation for an After-Action Review Task Force, comprised of 48 organizations, across all sectors and industries, including community-based organizations. The Task Force work and facilitation is focused on equity and social justice-related experience and is expected to lead to recommendations and leverage points to achieve systemic change. The Task Force will report its findings to the legislature by June 30th, 2023.

For more information, please contact Phyllis Shulman or Kevin Harris.

Apprenticeships and Higher Education

Section 3 of Engrossed Second Substitute Senate Bill 5764 (Chapter 166, Laws of 2022) required the Washington Student Achievement Council to contract with the Ruckelshaus Center to evaluate paths to credentials for apprentices, including recommendations on the requirements and benefits of expanding the multi-occupational trades degree, and exploration of other credentials that will support transfer to baccalaureate degrees or other advanced credentials for apprentices. The Center will also examine national best practices in delivery and award of educational credentials to apprentices, research apprentices’ demand for degrees, for individuals in, or who have completed, a state registered apprenticeship program, and review the current funding model for apprentices within the community and technical college system, with consideration on the use of state funds for apprenticeships, and national funding structures for apprenticeship programs that could be applied within Washington state.

The Center will work with interested parties to provide recommendations to the legislature on a sustainable funding model for related supplemental instruction and credit for apprentices through the community and technical college system to ensure it fully covers institutional and apprenticeship program costs of related supplemental instruction.

For more information, please contact Phyllis Shulman or Tye Ferrell.

Behavioral Health Communication Framework

Washington state has worked in recent years to transform the way that Medicaid services are delivered and reimbursed, including integration between physical health, mental health, and substance use disorder services. The significant scope of this transformation has resulted in implementation challenges around collaboration goals, policy effectiveness, and partner communication. The Washington State Association of Counties and the Washington Health Care Authority asked the Center to facilitate a process to help the parties build, test, and implement a consensus-based communication framework to help foster integration success moving forward.

The Center completed twenty months of facilitation of several diverse counties, a BH-Administrative Services Organization and the Health Care Authority in December 2021. The Ruckelshaus Workgroup’s consensus-based Communication Framework creates a structure for partners to solve county-specific/regional and statewide/systemic problems, and plan for positive systems change relative to physical/behavioral health integration.

For more information, please contact Kevin Harris.

Cascadia Coastal Hazards Resilience

The coasts of each state in Cascadia present unique conditions, cultures, and challenges affecting the adaptive capacity and resilience of their coastal systems and communities. Cascadia coastal communities face challenges from rapid coastal erosion and flooding, the vulnerabilities associated with rural isolation, and ocean changes that are already threatening incomes, lifestyles, and coastal community traditions and identities. Coastal communities have emphasized the need to improve linkages between researchers and communities as well as improving the accessibility and applicability of research and data. Achieving tailored multi-hazard solutions that align with the diversity of coastal areas and their needs requires co-production by a broad array of entities.

Since 2020, the Ruckelshaus Center has been working with university researchers on two National Science Foundation (NSF) funded efforts to build coastal hazards resilience.

Cascadia Coastal Hazards Research Coordination NetworkThe Cascadia Coastal Hazards Research Coordination Network (abbreviated to RCN) is a three-year funded effort to bring together researchers, practitioners, and stakeholders who seek to mitigate the geohazards on coastal communities in the Pacific Northwest. The goal of the RCN is to co-develop research agendas and establish new collaborations that cross disciplinary and institutional boundaries. The Center is assisting the RCN in pursuing its mission through several activities and pursuits that bring researchers and stakeholders together, including:

  • Facilitation of the RCN Steering Committee.
  • Design and facilitation of community workshops.
  • Helping coordinate activities and facilitate communication between research groups.

Cascadia Coastlines and Peoples Hazards Research HUB: The RCN is closely aligned with a parallel effort that the Center is part of – the Cascadia Coastlines and Peoples Hazards Research HUB (abbreviated to Cascadia CoPes HUB).

Led by Oregon State University and the University of Washington, the Cascadia CoPes HUB is a five-year collaborative research effort focused on increasing resiliency among coastal communities in the Pacific Northwest. The HUB is conducting research and engaging coastal communities with two overarching goals: (1) seek fundamental advances in convergent coastal hazard sciences that will transform our understanding of the risk faced by coastal communities in the Pacific Northwest, and (2) engage communities through the co-production of strategies that will increase adaptive capacity, broaden participation, and achieve equitable and just disaster risk reduction.

Five interconnected teams carry out the work of the Cascadia CoPes Hub:

  • Team 1: Tectonic Geohazard Sources and Integrated Probabilistic Modeling
  • Team 2: Exposure to Inundation and Coastal Change Hazards
  • Team 3: Community Adaptive Capacity
  • Team 4: Broadening Participation and Inclusive STEAM Education
  • Team 5: Community Engagement and Co-Production of Coastal Hazards And Knowledge

The Ruckelshaus Center co-leads Team 5, coordinating the portfolio of community engagement and co-production activities across the hub. The team’s aim is to promote truly convergent science across all the research projects by supporting researchers in these efforts and by supporting community needs and being responsive to community requests, including direct facilitation of outreach to communities.

For more information, please contact Amanda Murphy or Phyllis Shulman.

Criminal Sentencing Task Force

In 2019, The Legislature established the Washington State Criminal Sentencing Task Force and directed the William D. Ruckelshaus Center (Center) to facilitate the Task Force’s work to review state sentencing laws and provide recommendations for the purpose of:

  • Reducing sentencing implementation complexities and errors;
  • Improving the effectiveness of the sentencing system; and
  • Promoting and improving public safety.

The Task Force has met at least monthly since September 2019 (except for March 2020), with some members participating in weekly and bi-weekly working groups. During those meetings, Task Force members considered data and research and deliberated on potential policy changes, reaching consensus on 2 recommendations in 2019 and 47 in 2020. These recommendations, described in the December 2019 and 2020 reports to the Legislature, represent a mix of agency policy and legislative statutory changes to address the three policy goals stated above.

As reflected in Recommendation #1 in the 2020 Report, the Task Force agreed that proper consideration of changes to the sentencing grid will require a thorough assessment of the possible impacts of those changes. This would take more time than initially allotted to the Task Force. Therefore, the Task Force agreed to continue meeting and working together and the Legislature extended the Task Force till June 2023, with a report to be released in December 2022.

For more information, visit the project page.

Crisis Governing and Decision-Making: Reviewing Lessons From Emergency Management Systems in Washington

The Washington State Legislature provided funding for the Washington Military Department to contract with the William D. Ruckelshaus Center to compare the traditional decision-making systems in Washington State with other decision-making structures and to provide recommendations for future emergency responses. The goal of the project is to implement a comprehensive, cross-jurisdictional exploration of lessons learned from the pandemic about the dynamic between traditional emergency management decision-making systems and other ways decision-making was structured for responses to the pandemic in WA. This exploration will include exploring potential embedded or practiced biases and/or structures that impact considerations of equity, inclusion, and diversity. The project will engage participants in developing a set of recommendations for decision-making systems utilized in governments, universities, businesses, and other entities.

You can learn more about the project here.

For more information, please contact Phyllis Shulman or Jed Chalupa.

K-12 Pandemic Impact

This project implements one of the recommendations from the Learning from Responses to Covid-19 in Washington State project initiated by the Center. The pandemic dramatically interrupted K-12 education for all students across the state and led to a range of academic, social, physical, and mental and behavioral health impacts. The disruptions caused by the pandemic disproportionately impacted students and families that are low-income, from historically disadvantaged communities, immune compromised, and/or special needs.

The project will utilize lessons learned about the impacts of the pandemic, and responses to it, to determine how best to improve the long-term social, emotional, and educational outcomes of students disproportionately impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic in Washington State. This project will also look for opportunities to improve future K-12 crisis response and planning.

For more information, please contact Tye Ferrell or Phyllis Shulman.

Learning From Responses to COVID-19: Improving Preparedness, Recovery, and Resilience in Washington State

The response to COVID-19 in Washington state, while containing many successes, has also highlighted a need for improved cross-sector collaboration and collaborative governance, systems thinking approaches, and engagement of diverse interests and perspectives to prepare for new or recurring emergencies, as well as for recovery. The magnitude and complexity of the COVID-19 response and recovery requires effective crisis decision-making and further innovation to address critical needs, policy challenges, and infrastructure gaps. To address this need, the Ruckelshaus Center’s Advisory Board, along with its core faculty and staff, initiated this pre-assessment and comprehensive learning effort to identify and share key insights from Washington’s responses to the COVID-19 pandemic. The goals of the project are to:

  1. Provide decision-makers at the state, local, tribal, regional, and private governance levels with information to continually inform and improve decisions related to short-term and long-term recovery and resilience and to implement improvements across sectors.
  2. Identify the intersections and interconnections between what is being learned in multiple sectors.
  3. Use these learnings to adapt, innovate, and stimulate new approaches and systemic solutions to address emergent and long-standing public policy challenges.
  4. Apply throughout the pre-assessment and comprehensive learning effort race, equity, and social justice principles, including focusing on disproportional impacts, access, and participation.

Read a summary of Phase One, which includes initial findings and potential projects, here.

For more information, please contact Phyllis Shulman.

aerial view of communityPathways to Housing Security in Washington 

Recognizing the many challenges related to housing in the state, and how these challenges were exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, the Washington Legislature has tasked the Ruckelshaus Center to clarify the current state of housing instability and homelessness in Washington and to facilitate discussions to inform desired principles, options, and recommendations for a statewide strategy to improve services and outcomes and create a pathway to housing security (Section 6 of House Bill 1277).

Read the Year 1 report here and the Year 2 report here. The final report will be available on December 1, 2023.

For more information, visit the project page.

Puget Sound Energy: Beyond Net Zero Carbon Advisory Committee

Puget Sound Energy, the state’s largest utility, asked the Ruckelshaus Center to facilitate a collaborative and open advisory committee process to design and implement a plan to move to “Beyond Net Zero” carbon by 2045. This endeavor involves complex public policy issues, divergent viewpoints, and potential impacts, both positive and negative, to diverse communities throughout Washington State. PSE saw the Center as uniquely positioned to facilitate broad stakeholder input to problem-solve an approach that recognizes the urgency of the climate crisis, provides benefits and opportunities for frontline communities and populations, and enhances the state economy, while maintaining reliability, safety, and affordability. While meeting regularly with PSE representatives to plan the effort, the Center interviewed each Advisory Committee member to gain insight into how to design an effective collaboration. The Committee members expressed a preference for quarterly, intensive all-day sessions to receive information and provide guidance to PSE. As of September 27, 2022, the Ruckelshaus Center has facilitated four such all-day sessions and has worked with PSE to structure presentations and deliberations, document input, gauge impacts to various constituencies, identify policy considerations, and explore potential partnerships to support this ambitious and visionary transition.

The Year One Summary Report is available here.

For more information, please contact Chris Page or Tye Ferrell.

Spirit Lake/Toutle-Cowlitz River System

Changes to the Spirit Lake/Toutle-Cowlitz River System from the 1980 eruption of Mount St. Helens put the region at ongoing risk of moderate and potentially catastrophic flooding, due to the buildup of sediment. Engineering measures from the 1980s to reduce flooding risks now need costly repairs or modifications, presenting an opportunity to re-evaluate risk management strategies.

From 2018-2019, the Ruckelshaus Center conducted a situation assessment for the long-term management of the Spirit Lake/Toutle-Cowlitz River System.

The Center is currently facilitating the Spirit Lake/Toutle & Cowlitz Rivers Collaborative, a consortium of 20 different governments along with nonprofits, academic researchers, and landowners. The 20 governments developed and signed a Declaration of Cooperation and have agreed on Operating Protocols, a mission and vision, and shared values. The parties have compiled dozens of project ideas into an emerging workplan, created a Steering Committee and a Riverbank Restoration workgroup, and received $90,000 from the state Legislature for another year of collaboration.

For more information, visit the project page.