CONCUR Principal Scott McCreary served on the Closing Plenary Panel of the Year 2012 (Seventh National) USIECR Conference on Environmental Collaboration and Conflict Resolution (ECCR), “Working Across Boundaries“, on May 24, 2012 in Tucson, Arizona. Fellow panelists included David Batson of USEPA’s Office of Conflict Resolution and Prevention, Ona Ferguson of CBI, and Dick Lefever of Crossroads Leadership Institute. There were 35 concurrent sessions and 9 trainings, and over 290 people attended the conference.
Scott’s synthesis looked across the 11 panels in Track 2 “Collaborating at New and Larger Scales”. His summary comments, meant as a “bookend” to Frank Dukes’ opening remarks for the track, first highlighted the geographic scale, the range of parties, and the challenge of working across tangible and perceived boundaries. He then highlighted four main themes in his wrap-up that can provide some guideposts for future practice.
First, he suggested that practitioners and conveners reflect more critically on the clarity of objectives in the ECCR processes they manage. (Is the aim consensus, consent, or – as one panelist suggested – “do something constructive”?) Second, he suggested that practitioners be vigilant and ask probing questions about the extent to which the projects articulated a strong conceptual model of cause and effect and metrics for gauging success. In this context: a core question is: “What kinds of outcomes do we predict our interventions will produce?” A third theme is to seriously consider whether ECCR outcomes envision a robust adaptive management process as they reach their conclusion. That is, do the ECCR processes create a framework where hypotheses are stated, metrics are stated, monitoring is completed, and adjustments are made? This sequence of adaptive management is considered best practices in environmental planning world, but, he noted, there are few cases in practice at the landscape scale.
Scott concluded by highlighting the opportunity for the Institute to support the work of a “community of practice” around issues related to scientific analysis and ECR, particularly at the large landscape (and ocean space) scale.