Skip to main content Skip to navigation

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 Three 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 an exploration of other credentials that would support transfer to baccalaureate degrees or other advanced credentials. The Center will also examine national best practices in delivery and award of educational credentials to apprentices, research apprentices’ demand for degrees, 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 that the system fully covers institutional and apprenticeship program costs of related supplemental instruction.

Year One Report Integrated Summary: Pathways to Higher Education Credentials and Funding for Apprenticeships

Appendix A: Ruckelshaus Center Situation Assessment Report

Appendix B: Education Northwest Research Report

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

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.

Civic Health

The Project for Civic Health was initiated by the Office of the Lieutenant Governor. Lieutenant Governor Denny Heck invited the Henry M. Jackson Foundation, the University of Washington Evans School of Public Policy and Governance, and the William D. Ruckelshaus Center, a joint center of Washington State University and the University of Washington, to collaborate on the design and implementation of the project. The partnership was formed on a shared premise of concern for our democracy’s civic health. The partners agree that this problem is so complex that meaningful progress will require intentional and sustained effort. In other words, this is going to take a while. But we have observed an emphatic willingness to attack the problem, and an inspiring variety of efforts already underway in many Washington communities. So, yes, it may take a while, but we have many reasons to be encouraged. The project includes two components:

Roundtable Discussions: The Office of the Lieutenant Governor convened a systematic exploration of the nature of the problem, its causes, and possible solutions by undertaking a series of confidential roundtable discussions around Washington State with a diverse set of stakeholders. A contracted author distilled those conversations as well as certain contextual information in a preliminary report. The report will serve as part of the basis for the Project’s second component, a day-long summit.

Civic Health Summit: The partners followed up with a second component, a day-long summit in October 2023 in which participants engaged in discussions sparked by the report. The discussions will lead to recommendations for sustained action to improve our civic health in the State of Washington.

For more information, please click here.

To view a short video about the Civic Health Summit, please click here.

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 in Response to COVID-19

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 Washington. 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.

You can read the most recent report, “Crisis Governing and Decision Making in Response to COVID-19: Lessons and Reflections Across Washington State,” here. You can read the companion report, “A Question of Emergency Response Regionality,” here.

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

Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities (I/DD) Redesign: Perceptions of Progress

After over 30 years of conflict, an I/DD workgroup facilitated by the Ruckelshaus Center reached consensus in 2018/2019 to redesign I/DD adult supports and services. Twenty significant recommendations were presented to the Washington State Legislature, many of which are in various stages of funding and implementation.

During the 2023 session, the Legislature asked the Center to evaluate differing perceptions of implementation progress, program successes and barriers, emerging issues, and examples of program innovations in other states. In addition, the Center was asked to suggest possible process recommendations for future collaborative efforts. The Center conducted a broad series of assessment interviews and listening sessions with more than 135 individuals and organizations.

The report that synthesizes the perceptions of different partners is located here.

A “plain language” version of the report’s introduction and summary is located here.

For more information, please contact Kevin Harris.

K-12 Pandemic Impact

This project combines the unique skillsets and approaches of the William D. Ruckelshaus Center (the Center) and the Washington State Academy of Sciences (the WSAS) to support researchers, policymakers, practitioners, and others to better address the impacts of Covid-19 on Washington’s children and apply lessons learned to future emergencies.

The project emerges from two separate, but complementary, areas of work conducted by the Center and the WSAS. The Center and the WSAS will partner in a follow-on project that implements one of the recommendations from the Learning from Responses to Covid-19 in Washington State Project (see below) initiated by the Center and builds on the convenings and proceedings of the last two WSAS annual symposia focused on Covid-19, with an emphasis on understanding and mitigating the impacts of the pandemic on children.

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 Center will utilize lessons learned through its interviews with leaders around the state who were deeply involved in the pandemic response to bring together policy makers, practitioners, researchers, advocates, and others to understand what is working and what is not, to share experiences and strategies, and to identify or develop initiatives and successful interventions that can best support children’s social, emotional, physical, and academic health and recovery. WSAS will identify the research base that identifies what is already known about the impacts of the pandemic on children, as well as what is still needed to be known to inform new policies, strategies, and programs. Ultimately, the project aims to inform policies and practices needed to improve the long-term social, emotional, and educational outcomes of students, especially those disproportionately impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic in Washington State.

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.

Oil Spill Planning Response 

The purpose of this project is to develop a framework for the Northwest Regional Contingency Plan (NWRCP), which outlines the response to oil spills and hazardous substance incidents in the Pacific Northwest. The response is coordinated by the US Coast Guard, the US Environmental Protection Agency, and the states of Washington, Oregon, and Idaho. In Phase One of the project, the Ruckelshaus Center will focus on securing commitments to the process from federal, state, and tribal partners; clarifying the roles, responsibilities, and decision-making authorities of the partners; and strengthening the relationships between the partners. In Phase Two of the project, the Ruckelshaus Center will use the framework finalized in Phase One to facilitate the development of the NWRCP and to define the relationships between the NWRCP and other area and state contingency plans. The completed plan will ensure a coordinated, effective, and efficient response by all partners to oil spills and hazardous substance incidents in the Pacific Northwest.

aerial view of communityPathways to Housing Security in Washington 

In 2021, recognizing the many challenges related to homelessness and housing instability, the Washington State Legislature directed the William D. Ruckelshaus Center to conduct a multi-year process of gathering information and facilitating discussions to inform recommendations for a long-term strategy to create pathways to housing security (House Bill 1277, Section 6).

For more information and project reporting, 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.

The Final Summary Report is available here.

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

Recreation Impacts on Tribal Treaty Rights Working Group

Project Purpose: To develop and convene a collaborative process/forum for Washington treaty tribes and federal agencies to explore and better understand recreation impacts on treaty rights and to develop a path forward towards action to prevent, mitigate, or remove recreation impacts on treaty-reserved rights and interests.

For more information please visit the project page. 

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.

Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife Review

The Washington State Legislature has directed the Ruckelshaus Center to conduct a review of the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife’s efforts to fulfill its obligations as the trustee of state fish and wildlife, to meet the goals of its legal mandate, and to respond to equity principles as articulated by state law. The review must explore the following areas and recommend changes:

  • WDFW’s ability to address threats created by climate change and biodiversity loss
  • Accountability and transparency in WDFW decision making at the commission and management levels
  • An alignment of mandate with WDFW’s responsibility as a public trustee
  • WDFW’s governance structure
  • WDFW’s funding model

Within this scope, the Center must also examine the following areas and provide recommendations:

  • The Fish and Wildlife Commission’s structure, composition, duties, and compensation
  • The process by which WDFW uses science and social values in its decision making
  • WDFW’s adherence to state laws, including the State Environmental Policy Act and the Public Records Act
  • Outreach and involvement of Washington citizens who have historically been excluded from WDFW decisions, including non-consumptive users and marginalized communities
  • Influence on WDFW by special interest groups
  • Any other issues that arise during review

Based on the results of the review, the Center must provide options for making changes to WDFW’s mandate and governance structure as deemed necessary to improve WDFW’s ability to function as a trustee for state fish and wildlife.

The Center must submit a report to the appropriate committees of the Legislature by December 1, 2024.

For more information, please contact Chris Page.