K12 Governance Assessment
A legislative proviso directed the William D. Ruckelshaus Center to conduct an assessment of Washington’s K-12 governance structure. The assessment identified issues, challenges, and opportunities related to Washington’s K-12 education. Additionally, the assessment gauged the prospects for a collaborative approach to integrating leadership, aligning responsibilities, and increasing efficiency.
The assessment involved background research, interviews, and group discussions. A preliminary report, which included initial findings and recommendations, was delivered on February 1st, 2022. A final report (factual revision as of June 30th, 2022; findings and recommendations remain unchanged from the original final report) was delivered on March 31st, 2022 and reported wide support for a collaborative approach to explore the potential for integrating leadership, aligning roles and responsibilities, and increasing efficiency and responsiveness for the state’s K-12 education governance structure.
For more information, please contact Alec Solemslie.
Redesigning Intellectual & Developmental Disabilities Policy
Intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD) are a diverse group of chronic conditions due to developmental, neurological, and physical impairments, including Down Syndrome, Cerebral Palsy, autism, pervasive developmental disorders, and intellectual deficits.
Washington state provides different residential and support models for people with I/DD, ranging from four state-run “Residential Habilitation Centers” (RHCs) to varying degrees of home and community-based services.
The legislature, DSHS, unions, providers, advocates, and families have debated for decades the merits and challenges of quality of care, access to services, and costs of delivery between models.
In 2018, DSHS and the legislature asked the Ruckelshaus Center to provide process design and neutral facilitation to help parties reach consensus-based solutions around the mix of service venues, including residential options and supports. The Ruckelshaus Workgroup’s 2018 recommendations led to legislative appropriations of over $172 million in early 2019. In the fall of 2019, the Workgroup reached consensus around a long-term vision and legislative recommendations to re-design the way that I/DD supports and services are delivered in the State of Washington. The legislature has continued to fund recommendations in the Ruckelhaus Report during the 2020-2022 legislative sessions, following a 10-year plan that was the product of the Workgroup’s consensus-based agreement.
Read the DD-RHC Workgroup’s 2019 Report with Ruckelshaus Center Addendum, Rethinking Intellectual and Developmental Disability Policy to Empower Clients, Develop Providers, and Improve Services (PDF).
Read the DD-RHC Workgroup’s 2018 Report with Ruckelshaus Center Addendum (PDF).
For more information, please contact Kevin Harris.
Regional Coordination of Hazards and Resilience Science
Washington State has the 4th largest number of disaster declarations among the states, according to FEMA. The Oso landslide and recent wildfires, storms, flooding, and other hazard events such as earthquakes and tsunami pose significant risks to residents and to the state economy. Recent Washington State reports call for synthesis and translation of current hazards science to make it locally relevant and actionable, to better address local hazards and preparedness needs and to increase resilience in our region.
There is growing realization that communities must anticipate and plan for hazardous events to reduce disaster risk and to do so requires identifying policy and decision makers’ needs for hazards sciences to manage and mitigate hazards exposures and consequences. Greater collaboration between local, state, and federal agencies and academic partners promises to help prevent the most disastrous outcomes of such events, by improving preparedness and response. And engaging scientists in planning and policy discussions is critical to creating effective community-research partnerships.
In 2019, University of Washington in collaboration with the William D. Ruckelshaus Center (Project Team) and funded by EarthLab conducted a series of Hazards Research Coordination Workshops in Washington State to explore ways to improve collaboration with communities, and to improve the development, synthesis, and translation of current hazards science and research so that it becomes more accessible, relevant and actionable.
For more information, contact Amanda Murphy and Phyllis Shulman
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.
Read the Assessment Report (pdf). View the Executive Summary (pdf).
In March 2018, Governor Jay Inslee requested the assistance of the Washington Coastal Marine Advisory Council (WCMAC) to prioritize needs and actions to carry out the recommendations in the Coast Resilience Assessment Report. After a year of discussion and investigation, the WCMAC decided that a priority should be placed on implementing the recommendation to “Establish a Coast-Wide Resilience Initiative to Enhance and Integrate Efforts.” The recommendation highlighted that there needs to be a core group of entities who would partner together as integrators, provide backbone services, and work as a team to address resilience issues coast-wide. Department of Ecology, in collaboration with the WCMAC contracted with the Center to explore and develop options for the development of a Coastal Hazards Organizational Resilience Team (COHORT) and the Initiative. The Center provided a written report that described COHORT options, implementation considerations, and recommendations for implementation and actionable next steps.
Read the COHORT Report (pdf).
For more information, contact Project Managers Amanda Murphy and Phyllis Shulman.
A Road Map to Washington’s Future
In 2015, Washington State legislators asked the William D. Ruckelshaus Center (Center) to describe a process for a comprehensive and collaborative look at the Growth Management Act (GMA), as it reached its 25th year. To gauge support for this effort and identify an appropriate scope, the Center conducted a pre-assessment consisting of a series of conversations with individuals from dozens of groups, organizations, and tribal, state, and local governments.
Based on input from those parties, and their expressed consensus that such a process would be valuable, the Center recommended a process to: (1) articulate a vision of a desired future for Washington, and (2) examine not only the GMA, but a range of laws, institutions, and polices that provide the path to reach that desired future. The Legislature responded to the pre-assessment by allocating funds to the Center for a two-year project to create a “Road Map to Washington’s Future” (Road Map).
The City of Everett has asked WSU’s Metropolitan Center for Applied Research and Extension, WSU School of Economic Sciences, and the Ruckelshaus Center to evaluate Chronic Utilizer Alternative Response Team (CHART), a piloted criminal justice, healthcare and housing diversion program that may be scalable to many areas within Snohomish County.
Throughout Everett, many vulnerable and marginalized people use services that span multiple systems, including law enforcement, the jail, first responder services, healthcare and social service agencies and homeless shelters. Many individuals have overlapping legal, physical health, mental health and substance use issues that result in repeated, expensive and avoidable contact between these systems. CHART is a team of criminal justice, healthcare, emergency response, and research partners who collaborate in an effort to improve care outcomes and reduce the impact of chronic utilizers on these strained systems.
By taking a systemic approach, CHART’s goals are to:
- create an individualized plan that will have a positive and measurable impact on the use of those resources without simply shifting costs from one partner organization to another;
- decrease the system impacts associated with the disproportionate overlapping service utilization by these individuals, and
- positively impact the lives of those identified for participation in CHART.
The Center has completed a Situation Assessment of more than 25 key CHART partner organizations in Snohomish County – to understand the strengths and barriers of the pilot program experience, as well as individual and collective organizational needs to evaluate specific metrics and outcome measures. A group convening workshop was held in early October 2019, to explore consensus around organizational strengths, barriers and expected evaluation outcomes measures. The results of the assessment and workshop will provide guidance to the WSU School of Economic Sciences and help connect to the necessary data to conduct the economic evaluation of the CHART pilot.
The project has released its Assessment Summary Brief. View the Summary Brief here.
For more information, contact Senior Facilitator Kevin Harris.
The Washington State Legislature asked the William D. Ruckelshaus Center “to coordinate a workgroup and process to develop options and recommendations to improve consistency, simplicity, transparency, and accountability in higher education data systems.” The Ruckelshaus Center will facilitate the workgroup in making progress toward a single, postsecondary data system and dashboard and identifying opportunities to link labor market data with postsecondary data and ways to help postsecondary students navigate potential career pathways. Building on the Ruckelshaus Center’s effective work on state oversight of for-profit universities, this effort also broadens the issues in the Center’s portfolio and offers a chance to vault Washington to the forefront of education data collection and access, vital to ensuring accountability in state financial aid dollars and preparing today’s students for the jobs of tomorrow.
For more information, contact Chris Page.
Chehalis Basin Strategy
After little progress on addressing recurring and severe flooding, as well as declining fish populations in the Chehalis Basin in southwest Washington, the Ruckelshaus Center facilitated impressive headway by the Governor’s Chehalis Work Group. With the Center’s guidance, the Work Group reached consensus in 2012 on specific recommendations that the Legislature funded with $28.2 million in 2013. In 2014, the Work Group recommended an integrated strategy of long-term flood-damage reduction and aquatic species restoration in the Basin. The Legislature provided $50 million in 2015 to take the first steps toward implementing the strategy. On-the-ground projects were constructed to reduce flood damage and restore salmon runs while leaders evaluated the need for larger, long-term actions to protect the community and restore the Basin. The Legislature also created an Office of Chehalis Basin in the Department of Ecology to give continuity to implementation of the flood-reduction/species-restoration strategy, and a Chehalis Basin Board to oversee the new office and ensure the strategy continues to be led by community and tribal leaders. The State Legislature approved a $60 million budget appropriation in the 2017-2019 state capital budget to continue implementing the strategy for the next two years. The Center facilitated the new Chehalis Basin Board, supported technical analyses, and organized technical, policy, and public workshops, and outreach to interested parties.
Visit the Chehalis Basin Strategy website.
PFAS Chemical Action Plan
The Washington State Department of Ecology (Ecology) asked the Center to facilitate meetings of a multi-sector advisory committee to help Ecology and the State Department of Health (DOH) develop a Chemical Action Plan (CAP) for Per- and Poly-Fluorinated Alkyl Substances (PFAS). A CAP is a comprehensive plan to identify, characterize, and evaluate all uses and releases of a specific persistent bio-accumulative toxin (PBT) and recommend non-regulatory actions to protect human health and the environment from the PBT.
The Center facilitated two Advisory Committee meetings in 2017 and one in 2018, after assisting the state agencies in assembling a diverse and balanced Advisory Committee. The Center communicated regularly with key members of the PFAS CAP Advisory Committee to understand Committee member positions on key issues, challenges, and opportunities. The Center also provided university-based research for the project by a senior in the WSU School of the Environment, assisting a lead chemist at Ecology to research military specifications for firefighting foams in the US and abroad, with the goal to identify safer alternatives that fulfill military specifications. The Center facilitated Committee review of a draft CAP and input into the final CAP, targeted for summer 2019.
For more information, contact Project Manager Chris Page.
State and federal investigations have uncovered deceptive and illegal practices in some for-profit higher education institutions and private vocational schools (career colleges). In response, since 2016 the Washington state Legislature has passed bills to assess and improve the state’s framework for oversight and regulation of career colleges, increase transparency, and support student consumers. One of these (in 2018) Engrossed Second Substitute House Bill 1439, directed the completion of a study the Legislature commissioned the Center to begin in 2016 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 2018 work led to the completion of a report with options and recommendations for a tuition recovery trust fund, a state ombuds to serve career college students, and improving the collection and availability of data related to postsecondary institutions. That report is available at here.
In 2019, the Legislature directed the Center to coordinate a work group to develop options and recommendations to improve consistency, simplicity, transparency, and accountability in higher education data systems. To minimize duplication, centralize data reporting, and create an easy-to-navigate postsecondary data system and dashboard, this process tasks the Center to work with the Washington Student Achievement Council (WSAC), the State Workforce Training and Education Coordinating Board (the Workforce Board), the Employment Security Department, the State Board for Community and Technical Colleges, the four-year institutions of higher education, the Education Data Center, the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction, the Washington State Institute for Public Policy, the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Committee, and other organizations. A final report is due to the Legislature on December 1, 2019.
The Center’s 2016 situation assessment, coordinated with WSAC, the Workforce Board, and the State Department of Licensing, produced 44 recommendations to improve the State’s oversight of the sector. In 2017, the Center facilitated agreements within a pair of work groups on: 1) an overarching vision and values to guide administrative and policy improvements; and 2) a coordinated inter-agency approach to anticipating and responding to school closure events. The Center is now working with the agencies, schools, and other key parties to collaboratively develop recommendations regarding:
- The creation of an ombuds to serve students of degree-granting institutions and private vocational schools;
- Strengthening agencies’ abilities to respond to, and protect student consumers from, school closures; and
- The collection, reporting, and sharing of student-level data among agencies and with the public.
Read the Workgroup Report and Recommendations (pdf).
Read the Situation Assessment Report (pdf).
Read the For-Profit Degree-Granting Institutions+Private Vocational Schools Phase II Report (pdf).
For more information, contact Project Manager Chris Page.
Snohomish County Health Leadership Coalition
The Ruckelshaus Center provided early-stage process design and facilitation services to the Snohomish County Health Leadership Coalition’s LiveHealthy2020 initiative during the formation year. The Coalition was a convener of over 140 public and private sector, non-profit and civic organizations, with a collective 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 and connectivity. The Center helped the Coalition design and implement collaborative processes to scale ‘accelerator’ efforts to positively impact Snohomish County population health outcomes.
For more information, contact Senior Facilitator Kevin Harris.
Healthy Soils, Healthy Region
Washington State University’s Center of Sustaining Agriculture & Natural Resources asked the Ruckelshaus Center to design and facilitate breakout sessions to improve understanding of challenges, opportunities, and priorities for improving soil health in coming years.
In 2019, entities from across the Pacific Northwest partnered to secure funding and convene a workshop which would help direct collaborative efforts to improve soil health over the next five years. Specifically, the Okanogan Conservation District, WSU’s Center for Sustaining Agriculture & Natural Resources (CSANR), US Department of Agriculture’s Northwest Climate Hub, Oregon State University, and the University of Idaho designed a workshop with the following goals:
- Improve awareness of existing tools that can be used to promote soil health management;
- Identify regional soil health priorities and strategize about how to address them;
- Showcase ongoing regional projects that support improved soil health; and
- Explore regional solutions to build climate resilience through managing for soil health.
The conference organizers, specifically the CSANR, asked the Center to design and facilitate interactive breakout sessions which would inform actionable steps and opportunities for regional collaboration to improve soil health over the next five years. The Center worked with the conference organizers to further refine their objectives and develop discussion questions.
For more information, contact Molly Stenovec.
Spokane River Toxics
Since 2012, the Center has facilitated consensus on hundreds of decisions among the diverse parties comprising the Spokane River Regional Toxics Task Force (Task Force), a collaborative group of government agencies, private industries, and environmental organizations employing an innovative approach to the reduction of toxic, bio-accumulative chemicals (polychlorinated biphenyls, or PCBs) within the Spokane River. These unanimous agreements have occurred on small and large issues, topics, studies, and actions. Notably, the Task Force agreed on a Comprehensive Plan to bring the River into compliance with water quality standards and in 2015 the Washington Department of Ecology declared that the Task Force had made measurable progress in its work to reduce PCBs in the River: 283 pounds and counting!
For more information, contact Project Manager Chris Page or visit the SRRTTF website.
During its 2016 session, the Washington Legislature provided direction and funding to the Washington Parks Commission (in cooperation with the departments of Natural Resources and Fish and Wildlife) to “contract with the William D. Ruckelshaus Center or another neutral third party” 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 the state.
At those agencies’ request, the Center conducted a situation assessment which informed the scope and composition of a Leadership Team and work groups. These groups met from March-November 2017 and directed research which informed the development of three packages of potential and comprehensive improvements to the existing recreation fee system, one being the preferred package.
Coeur d’Alene Basin Restoration
The 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 this Idaho Basin. 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 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. The Trustees asked the Center to facilitate a retreat in 2017, at which they reached agreement on a revamped operating structure to optimize outcomes.
For more information, contact Project Manager Chris Page.
Southwest Washington Accountable Community of Health
The Center worked with the SW Washington ACH to assess the collaborative potential of community leaders, healthcare providers and payers to reach consensus around regional implementation (Clark, Skamania and Klickitat counties) of statewide Medicaid transformation goals. Each region was required to determine how to collaborate at community levels to decrease health disparities, improve access to care and health outcomes, and increase delivery of care efficiencies. This ACH region had an opportunity to earn a portion of the State’s $1.5 Billion federal Medicaid transformation demonstration, if collaborative progress and outcomes targets are met involving:
- Physical and behavioral health (mental health and substance use disorders) care delivery integration
- Care coordination to address the ‘whole person’
- Opioid prevention and treatment
- Focused efforts around series of optional initiatives, including oral health service access; chronic disease prevention and control, and maternal & child health
Read the SW WA ACH Initial Brief (pdf)
For more information, contact Senior Facilitator Kevin Harris.
Yakima Health Provider Capacity
The Yakima Valley has historically had a disproportionately high uninsured/Medicaid population, and Medicaid transformation has swamped local healthcare providers’ ability to provide appropriate primary and specialty care services to their community. The Center facilitated a process to help executive and operational leadership at hospitals and rural health centers collaborate to identify short-term interventions and longer-term strategic innovations to help with emergency room diversion, physician and other practitioner recruiting, and other access to quality of care improvements.
For more information, contact Senior Facilitator Kevin Harris.
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 residents 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 implemented several key Center recommendations, to improve engagement and streamline the Board’s decision-making process. Read the Project Report (pdf).
For more information, contact Kevin Harris or Amanda Murphy.
Columbia River Gorge Commission
The Columbia River Gorge Commission asked the Center and the Oregon Consensus program at Portland State University to conduct a series of individual and group interviews with a wide range of stakeholders and regional leaders to identify aspiration, concerns and willingness to find common ground for resource protection and community development in the Columbia River Gorge. The assessment summarized the interviews and offered recommendations about the feasibility of collaborative problem solving. The Assessment also recommended the Gorge Commission engage in internal development work, to strengthen collaboration between the Commission, other agencies, communities and the public. To that end, the Commission asked the Center and Oregon Consensus to provide training for Gorge Commissioners that included tools for communication, collaboration and problem solving. The Commission is also asking the Centers to remain involved as it seeks to take on several of the collaborative challenges identified in the assessment.
- Launch Press Release (pdf) (280 KB) 5/2/12
- Report Press Release Announcement (pdf) (320 KB) 9/12/12
- Collaborative Engagement Assessment Report (pdf) (1.5 MB)
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 assisted 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 included facilitating public meetings, coordinating and facilitating agency-public planning and coordination meetings, and delivering a project summary report.
Agriculture in a Changing Climate
Agricultural producers, industries and researchers are reporting a wide range of impacts from changes in the Northwest climate and other landscape scale changes. During a three-day workshop in Kennewick, Washington, 80 participants from Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Washington D.C., and British Columbia gathered to hear from experts and share ideas for collaboration. Representatives from research institutions, state and federal agencies, and agriculture producers and industries discussed their needs, goals, plans, and priorities for the next five to ten years. The Ruckelshaus Center facilitated plenary and breakout sessions to help participants identify shared interests that will inform a white paper. The white paper will help coordinate regional climate change mitigation and adaptation research, information, implementation, and monitoring efforts.
The workshop was co-sponsored by Washington State University’s Center for Sustaining Agriculture and Natural Resources (CSANR), USDA Regional Climate HUB, USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA), and the Regional Approaches to Climate Change Team (REACCH).
For more information on the workshop: Agriculture in a Changing Climate Workshop
For more information on next steps: Agriculture Climate Network
Project Lead: Molly Stenovec
Columbia River Salmon
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Marine Fisheries Service (NOAA Fisheries) asked the Ruckelshaus Center – in partnership with Oregon Consensus at Portland State University – to conduct a situation assessment of regional views about salmon and steelhead recovery planning in the Columbia River Basin over the long term. A situation assessment is an interview-based process undertaken to better understand and explore relevant issues and interests of involved parties and situation dynamics. An assessment team featuring practitioner and academic expertise from Washington, Oregon and Idaho reached out to a broad array of regional parties over several months to capture the full range of perspectives.
For more information visit the Columbia River Salmon project page.
The Center partnered with the University of Washington’s Health Policy Center (UW HPC) on a project intended to examine eldercare workforce capacity in Washington state, including mapping the issue, convening stakeholders statewide to listen and learn from one another about areas of conflict and consensus, and facilitating those stakeholders as they create and put into operation a Washington State Eldercare Workforce Alliance. In December 2012, the Center and UW HPC received a grant to begin the first phase of this project. The Center also participated in a University Network for Collaborative Governance (UNCG) initiative to launch similar efforts in states across the country that will engage health care and workforce stakeholders in developing eldercare workforce strategies. The UNCG initiative focused on: 1) Hosting a national colloquium on Eldercare Workforce Collaboration, resulting in a report to serve as the basis for a multi-state pilot; 2) A pilot to evaluate and report on results and lessons learned of the assessments; and 3) Convening assessments in several states through UNCG centers, including the Ruckelshaus Center. For more information, contact Project Manager Patricia Lichiello.
Read the Eldercare Progress Reports: Number 1, April 2013 (pdf) (360 KB); Number 2, December 2013 (pdf) (650 KB); Number 3, October 2015 (pdf) (344 KB); and the Eldercare Workforce Assessment Impact Report.
The Center recently completed two peer-reviewed, WSU Extension Fact Sheets stemming from the baseline study it conducted with the UW Health Policy Center. The companion documents are Washington State’s Eldercare Workforce (pdf) (10.3 MB) and Aging in Place: A Policy Approach for Aging Well in Washington State (pdf) (961 KB). These documents can be viewed and downloaded for free at WSU Extension Publications.
Voluntary Stewardship Program
In 2007, Washington’s Governor and Legislature—along with agricultural, tribal, environmental and local government representatives—asked the Center to assist in resolving long-standing conflict over the protection and enhancement on agricultural lands of environmentally “critical areas” under Washington’s Growth Management Act. This conflict, more than a decade old, has spawned lawsuits, appeals, legislative battles and a voter initiative. In Substitute Senate Bills 5248 and 6520, the parties involved reached a compromise for a moratorium on counties adopting amendments to critical areas ordinances with respect to agricultural activities while participating stakeholders developed recommendations to resolve the long-standing disagreements. The Center was designated to coordinate fact-finding research and facilitate the discussions. The aim was to develop solutions, policies and practices that ensure protection of environmentally sensitive areas in ways that support the preservation of farm lands and a strong farm economy.
In September 2010, the Agriculture and Critical Areas (Ag CA) Committee reached agreement on a framework for a Voluntary Stewardship Program. The Center submitted a Final Report on the process in October 2010 that included this framework. The Ag CA Committee established a Legislative Subcommittee to turn the framework into proposed legislation for implementing the Program and the Center facilitated their discussions. This legislation was introduced in the Washington State House and the Senate in February 2011, and passed the legislature in April 2011 as ESHB 1886. On May 16, 2011, Governor Gregoire signed ESHB 1886, creating the Voluntary Stewardship Program.
The Washington State Conservation Commission (which the legislation designates as the lead state agency) and the parties to the agreement asked the Center to continue its involvement, believing the Center’s neutrality, experience with these issues/parties and expertise in collaborative processes would continue to be helpful as the agencies and parties begin early implementation. With support from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF), the Center remained involved during the first two years of implementation.
Joint SR 530 Landslide Commission
Washington Governor Jay Inslee and Snohomish County Executive John Lovick formed a joint commission in response to the SR 530 landslide of March 2014 that took the lives of 43 people in the Stillaguamish Valley. The Commission was tasked with reviewing the incident and the collective response, and providing recommendations to help plan and respond to similar events. The 12-member Commission operated independently, and did not determine liability, cause or fault, or act as a substitute for the courts in any way. Regional business leader Kathy Lombardo served as the Commission’s Executive Director; the Ruckelshaus Center facilitated the group. The Commission report of prioritized recommendations was released in December 2014.
Read more the Joint SR 530 Landslide Commission
Capitol Lake Assessment
The Washington State Department of Enterprise Services asked the Ruckelshaus Center to conduct an interview-based situation assessment to explore issues and opportunities regarding the future management of Capitol Lake in Olympia. This assessment explored relevant issues and interests of involved parties, along with the dynamics of the situation. The Center reached out to a balanced cross-section of parties to capture a wide range of perspectives.
The assessment culminated in a report articulating the major issues and key parties involved and documenting their interests and perspectives. The report also analyzed and explored the prospects for a collaborative process to address those issues. In this context, a collaborative process means a solution-focused dialogue among all the key interests, participating willingly, that is convened and facilitated by a neutral third party. For more information, contact Project Manager Chris Page.
Read the Situation Assessment for Capitol Lake Management Report (pdf) (950 KB)
Public Records Act Assessment
The 2013–15 Washington State Operating Budget contained a proviso directing the Center to “collaborate with representatives of the public, the media, and local governments regarding public records requests made to local government” and “report to the appropriate committees of the Legislature,” including “recommendations related to balancing the need for open public records with concerns of local governments.” The report included recommendations related to balancing the need for open public records with concerns of local governments. The Center’s report was derived from a situation assessment, an interview-based process undertaken to better understand and explore relevant issues and interests of involved parties and situation dynamics. The Center reached out to a balanced cross-section of parties to capture a wide range of perspectives. Interview candidates were identified via the Center’s background research, selection criteria, and/or referral. The assessment articulated the major issues and key parties involved, and documented their interests and perspectives. It also analyzed and explored the prospects for a collaborative process to address those issues. For more information, contact Project Manager Chris Page.
Read the Public Records Act Assessment Report (pdf) (388 KB)
The Center conducted research and a public engagement process on the topic of improving governance in the Tri-Cities, WA region. This project built upon the “4Cs Project” conducted several years ago by the Three Rivers Community Roundtable (now called Tri-Cities Evolution) that explored mechanisms for enhancing efficiencies and service through jurisdiction or multiple agency activities characterized as “Coordination, Cooperation, Collaboration or Consolidation.” The project was done in three phases in collaboration with WSU’s Division of Governmental Studies and Services, UW Evans School of Public Affairs, and UW Information School.
Phase I focused on what could be learned from the experiences of other communities in similar circumstances, especially with regards to inter-jurisdictional consolidation. The Phase I report was presented at an event in September 2012 attended by over 400 community leaders. It recommended not pursuing formal consolidation, but deliberate pursuit of appropriate activities and arrangements that would provide the benefits of “functional consolidation,” without the risks and costs associated with the formal effort. Phase II included research engagement in the communities, to assess perspectives and opinions of key actors, opinion leaders and senior officials regarding governance alternatives. Nine facilitated and well-attended community leader discussions took place in 2013. This research confirmed that there is a large number of existing approaches to achieving the perceived benefits of functional consolidation. And there are significant opportunities to activate more such approaches, to achieve greater efficacy in regional governance. Phase III would assess broad resident perceptions, attitudes, and support for collective governance through surveys and public events (note: this phase is contingent upon a review of Phase II and the preferences of the Tri-Cities Evolution).
Read the Phase 1 of the Tri-Cities Governance Study (pdf) (600 KB)
Read the Phase 2 of the Tri-Cities Governance Study (pdf) (509 KB)
Puget Sound Monitoring
The Leadership Council of the Puget Sound Partnership (PSP) has asked the Ruckelshaus Center to conduct a review of the Puget Sound Ecosystem Monitoring Program (PSEMP), to assess whether essential characteristics, particularly transparent decision-making, availability and credibility of data, and accountability and trust, are being achieved. Such a review was included in the resolution that created PSEMP to evaluate progress towards ecosystem recovery and improve the scientific basis for management actions throughout Puget Sound. The Center interviewed involved parties and stakeholders to capture a wide range of perspectives about whether these characteristics are were achieved and prepared a report outlining key findings and recommendations for improvement. For more information, contact Project Manager Amanda Murphy.
Read the Puget Sound Ecosystem Monitoring Program Review Report (pdf) (600 KB)
Washington Coastal Marine Advisory Council
In the fall of 2010, coastal Marine Resource Committees (MRCs) and Washington State natural resource agencies began discussing the need for a Washington coast-wide group to advise the State on ocean policy issues and provide local perspectives on – and solutions to – marine resource issues, projects and conflicts. Coastal MRCs organized a series of discussions to outline the purpose and role of a coastal group and developed a recommendation to the State Ocean Caucus (SOC) to form a coastal stakeholder advisory body. The Washington State Department of Ecology, on behalf of the SOC and the Governor’s Office, is coordinating the Washington Coastal Marine Advisory Council (WCMAC) focusing on marine and ocean policy issues on Washington’s Pacific Ocean Coast (from Cape Flattery south), including the estuaries of Grays Harbor, Willapa Bay and the lower Columbia River. At request of the stakeholders who helped design the process, Ecology retained the Center to serve as neutral convener, providing facilitation and coordination services to support the WCMAC in conducting its meetings and reaching decisions. For more information, visit the Department of Ecology’s website.
Northwest Environment and Natural Resources Forum
The Center collaborated with the US Institute for Environmental Conflict Resolution, the Policy Consensus Initiative at Portland State University, and the Oregon Natural Resources Institute on this project intended to promote collaborative decision making on public policy in the Pacific Northwest. The goal of the Northwest Environment and Natural Resources Forum was to provide a neutral place for regional environmental leaders from federal, state, local and tribal governments to identify emerging issues of mutual interest and map a strategy for addressing them. The idea was to give these leaders an opportunity to step back from every-day challenges, interact with one another and coordinate efforts to address complex, cross-cutting issues before they become conflicts. The Forum met regularly to identify issues, and reviewed issue assessments and process design recommendations. The Center served on the Steering Committee for this project.
William Ruckelshaus Oral History
Douglas Brinkley has published extensively on American environmental history, including the widely-acclaimed “The Wilderness Warrior: Theodore Roosevelt and the Crusade for America” and the recently-published “The Quiet World: Saving Alaska’s Wilderness Kingdom, 1879-1960.” He has written about American leaders such as Ronald Reagan, Jimmy Carter and Henry Ford, and conducted oral histories of Neil Armstrong, Stuart Udall and others. As part of his upcoming book on 1960-70’s environmental policy, Dr. Brinkley interviewed Bill Ruckelshaus (the first and fifth director of the EPA), to create an oral history of Bill’s life and remarkable contributions to public service, corporate leadership and collaborative policy. The oral history has been archived at the university libraries and on the website of TVW (Washington state’s version of C-SPAN). It will also be distilled down to a broadcast quality program that will air on TVW.
To find out more on this project watch the oral history on TVW, media availability, or read the Crosscut and Washington State Magazine articles or UW and WSU media releases.
The Ruckelshaus Oral History premiered on TVW on Thursday, January 17, 2013. Watch the full video or watch the portion discussing the Ruckelshaus Center.
Whatcom Jobs Summit
In September 2012, the Ruckelshaus Center facilitated the Whatcom Jobs Summit, a one-day event that brought together stakeholders representing business, labor, environment and government in Whatcom County. The purpose of the Summit was to promote the removal of barriers to local job growth through productive dialogue, fostering new relationships and the development of action steps for the community. Staff from the Center partnered with practitioners from the WSU Whatcom County Extension Office and Western Washington University’s College of Business and Economics to provide neutral facilitation for an event that included a panel of elected officials, “speed dating” matrix dialogues, a keynote address, breakout group discussion, report-backs from the elected officials and a lively discussion of next steps and action items. The Steering Committee hopes to make this an annual event.
Between 2007 and 2012, the Center assisted in resolving long-standing disagreements concerning hospital staffing decisions. Concerns by the parties included the effects of nurse staffing levels in hospitals, patient safety, costs and working conditions for nurses. Numerous studies have been conducted for this national issue, yet no accepted resolution has been developed. In 2007, the Center held an initial forum between the Northwest Organization of Nurse Executives; SEIU Healthcare 1199NW, United Staff Nurses, UFCW 141, the Washington State Hospital Association, and the Washington State Nurses Association, in which they reached an agreement to work together. In 2008, these parties signed an agreement at a ceremony with Governor Gregoire to begin discussions facilitated by the Center. The goal of all parties in the discussion was to develop a model solution for this pressing problem in health policy.
The Washington State Legislature included in its 2010 budget a proviso directing the Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) to “work with appropriate stakeholders to facilitate the disposition of salmon (at hatcheries) to best utilize the resource, increase revenues to regional fisheries enhancement groups, and enhance the provision of nutrients to food banks.” The proviso instructed WDFW to provide a report summarizing the resulting discussions, outcomes and recommendations, and to give due consideration to the recommendations before awarding a new disposal contract. WDFW asked the Center to provide services to support stakeholder engagement and the development of recommendations. These services include: 1) economic analysis; 2) an interview-based situation assessment; 3) recommendations for a stakeholder involvement process; and 4) facilitation of meetings between WDFW and appropriate stakeholders. The Center’s project team included faculty and staff from the WSU Division of Governmental Studies and Services and the UW School of Marine Affairs. After the stakeholder meetings, WFDW Director Phil Anderson thanked the Center for its assistance saying, “The expertise, project oversight, and process insight that you and your colleagues brought to the process was instrumental in bringing the collaborative process to a successful outcome.”
Northwest Marine Trade Association/Puget Soundkeeper Alliance
The Center conducted this short-term project to put an important collaborative relationship back on track. In 2007, NMTA, PSA and the Washington State Department of Ecology developed and signed an agreement describing how they would work together to address concerns over water pollution from bottom paint and other sources at boatyards. In December 2009, PSA—frustrated with what they saw as an unacceptably slow pace of implementation—filed a notice of intent to sue five NMTA member boatyards for alleged violations of the Clean Water Act relating to these issues. NMTA suggested—and PSA agreed—that the Center become involved to help the parties resolve their dispute. The Center facilitated several meetings at which the parties agreed to a series of steps aimed at repairing their working alliance. NMTA and PSA are again working cooperatively, and have thanked the Center for its assistance. This collaboration led to an important outcome in 2011—legislation (SB 5436) that makes Washington the first state in the nation to phase out copper in antifouling paints used on recreational water vessels.
In April 2010, the Center facilitated a one-day convening on stormwater that brought together grantees of the Russell Family Foundation, Bullitt Foundation and Northwest Fund for the Environment on issues relating to stormwater and green infrastructure. The purpose was to: 1). examine emerging issues surrounding stormwater nationally, state-wide and locally; 2) encourage collaboration; and 3) explore potential next steps. In September 2011, the Russell Foundation asked to the Center to facilitate meetings the Foundation was hosting between its staff and leaders in the Hood Canal and Puyallup watersheds.
Partnership for Sustainable Communities
The Center worked with the National Policy Consensus Center (NPCC) at Portland State University to provide support to the Northwest regional offices of three federal agencies (EPA, HUD and DOT) who launched the Partnership for Sustainable Communities. The Partnership is an agreement to coordinate federal housing, transportation and environmental investments, policies, programs and resources to build more sustainable urban, suburban and rural communities. Building on an Oregon Community Dialogue hosted by Oregon State University and facilitated by NPCC, the Center facilitated a Washington Community Dialogue. This session was hosted by the University of Washington’s Runstad Center for Real Estate Studies and brought together approximately 150 people from across Washington state working on housing, transportation and environmental issues in the federal, state, tribal, local, private, NGO, academic and other sectors to discuss barriers, opportunities, actions and funding.
Read the Partnership for Sustainable Communities report (pdf) (2.5 MB)
AWC Mayors Exchange
The Association of Washington Cities (AWC) Mayors Exchange provides mayors and city executives from throughout the state an opportunity to meet each other, discuss concerns and glean best practices. In addition to networking time, each Mayors Exchange focuses on a different topic, delving into important issues facing communities and the state. AWC asked the Center to facilitate the April 2011 Mayors Exchange in Yakima, which featured a discussion about successful partnership models from different communities; tips for overcoming interjurisdictional conflict; and ways jurisdictions have maximized resources through collaboration. The Center helped mayors and administrators from over 30 municipalities consider current and future opportunities in the context of a continuum of partnerships, from communication to consolidation.
WSU Water Forum
The Ruckelshaus Center was asked to facilitate a one-day forum for faculty and students at WSU in November 2010. The goals of the forum were to: 1) provide a setting for WSU faculty and students to learn what their colleagues are doing on water issues; 2) develop a strategic vision for water issues at WSU; and 3) propel collaborations and partnerships that address key water challenges. The Forum featured a keynote address by Jay Manning, Chief of Staff to Washington Governor Christine Gregoire. The Center facilitated a panel discussion, “speed dating” exercise, breakout groups on potential action items, and report-backs on next steps. The forum demonstrated the value the Center can bring when it partners with entities at one or both universities to bring real world issues to academic setting.
Walla Walla Water Management Initiative
Members of the Walla Walla Basin Community are working to improve water management to support municipal, agricultural and other water uses, while also providing for the needs of federally protected fish species. In conjunction with the Washington Department of Ecology, they asked the Center to generate a report identifying existing capacities to support an effective integrated water management system for the Basin. The project also involved collecting local input and identifying areas where consensus may exist, and where concerns may need to be addressed, in order to implement watershed and salmon recovery.
For more information visit the Walla Walla Water Management Initiative project page.
Northwest Straits Marine Conservation Initiative Evaluation
The Northwest Straits Marine Conservation Initiative is a unique local governance mechanism that employs a collaborative approach to preserve ecosystems, while respecting existing economic and community uses of marine resources. In 2004, the Center managed a federally-mandated independent evaluation of the Initiative. Convening a committee of scientific and other experts, the Center staffed the performance review. What the panel found was one of the most innovative applications of volunteer action anywhere in the country. The credibility and thoroughness of the evaluation led to a stronger mandate and increased federal support for the Initiative.
Read the Northwest Straits Marine Conservation Initiative Evaluation report (pdf) (1 MB)
Agricultural Pilots Project
At the request of the Washington Governor’s office, the Center provided leadership in developing the Agricultural Pilots Project. The goal of the project was to underwrite pilots that held the potential of demonstrating increased profitability to agriculture, while providing environmental benefits. Guided by an advisory group drawn from involved stakeholders, the Center conducted nearly 200 consultations with environmental, agricultural, tribal and community representatives. In the 2007 legislative session, the Governor and Legislature provided funding for a “proof of concept” phase in which four pilot projects were conducted. The Center was responsible for monitoring the pilots and evaluating the feasibility of an ongoing Agricultural Pilots program that would be managed by an appropriate state agency. A final report was submitted in 2009.
For more information visit the Agricultural Pilots Project page.
Salmon Recovery Efforts in the Upper Columbia River Basin
Evaluation of the Regional Structure & Organizational Processes
Since 1999, the Upper Columbia Salmon Recovery Board has coordinated and facilitated the regional structure and organizational processes to support a community-led, collective approach to salmon recovery. The regional structure and organizational processes include, but are not limited to: partnerships on forest and aquatic habitat restoration projects, the implementation organizational chart documented in Section 8 of the Upper Columbia Spring Chinook Salmon & Steelhead Recovery Plan, and project funders.
After more than two decades of salmon recovery, the time has come to evaluate and reflect on the original, still-extant regional structure and processes. The purpose of this evaluation was to gather perspectives about areas working well and opportunities for improving that structure and those processes. The Center did not evaluate on-the-ground progress towards salmon recovery or watershed restoration.
From October 2020 through February 2021, the Center conducted individual interviews and gathered input at regional meetings. The final report provides a summary of common themes and perspectives shared by interviewees, as well as recommendations.
Final Report: Evaluation of the Regional Structures & Organizational Processes Supporting a Community-led Approach to Salmon Recovery in the Upper Columbia Basin (pdf)
Executive Summary + Recommendations and Key Actions (pdf)
For more information, contact Project Manager Molly Stenovec.
Shared Salmon Strategy Assessment
In an effort to learn lessons of value in natural resource recovery, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Marine Fisheries Service (NOAA Fisheries) asked the Center to examine the process that led to the successful development of the Shared Strategy Recovery Plan for Puget Sound Fall Chinook Salmon. The Shared Strategy is a unique watershed plan for the complex Puget Sound region. It was developed voluntarily by a bottom-up process involving concerned residents, tribal leaders, environmental advocates, businesses, local government representatives, and state and federal agencies, who were assisted by a local non-profit. It is one of only a few federally-approved plans for species recovery under the Endangered Species Act.
Read the summary report (pdf) (750 KB) or full report (pdf) (3MB)
Farm Safety Regulatory Reform Case Study
In an effort to bring lessons learned from the Center’s work into the universities’ curriculum, the Center developed a farm safety regulatory reform case study. The study examines the use of collaborative problem solving principles in a regulatory context. The five-part series focuses on conflicts over controversial efforts to regulate farm worker safety. The case study demonstrates to students how to use data and different analytical techniques to assess a circumstance, be aware of the interests and concerns of the involved parties, use regulatory mandates to gain compliance, and enhance confidence of involved parties.
Water Resource Administration & Funding Task Force
The Water Resources Administration and Funding Task Force was created by the Washington State Legislature in 2004. As directed by the Legislature, the Department of Ecology requested that specified interest groups identify representatives to participate on the Task Force to develop proposals and recommend options for funding the state’s water resource programs. It also invited the Center to facilitate the meetings and provide staff support for the effort. During the nine meetings of the Task Force, the group collected and reviewed water resources program information, budget data and funding source data. Based on this information, the Task Force developed a set of findings and conclusions designed to guide policy makers in developing a funding package for both operating and capital support.
Washington Water Acquisition Program
Mark Twain once said, “In the West whiskey is for drinking and water is for fighting.” Washington State reflects Twain’s statement, where water programs are rarely without controversy. The Washington Water Acquisition Program was no exception. Under this voluntary, incentive-based program, the Department of Ecology acquired water rights for the purpose of increasing stream flows to improve salmon habitat and survival. However, skepticism of the program among some agricultural communities led Ecology to seek an evaluation of the public acceptance and perception of their efforts. In 2003, Ecology invited the Center to provide an independent and neutral review of the program. The Center found that, where properly applied to local conditions, water rights acquisition is a potentially useful tool. However, in many parts of the state, significant barriers existed to improving receptivity.
Read the Washington Water Acquisition Program report (pdf) (329 KB)
The Center worked with business, labor and the state government as they struggled through issues surrounding workers’ compensation policy, an issue affecting many other states. The Center provided negotiation assistance to the parties in evaluating whether to go forward with reform, and if so, how. Through a safe, neutral forum for the parties they explored the issues and context in which progress might be made. Such a forum provides the opportunity to create a greater mutual understanding of the issues, obstacles and possibilities. Together with the parties, the Center helped establish a process for substantive dialogue that improved key business, labor and political relationships and preserved potential for reform in the future.
Updated September 2022