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Organizing Partnerships


Organize a Watershed Partnership

"Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed citizens can change the world.  Indeed, it's the only thing that ever has."
- Margaret Mead (1901-1978)

This information was largely taken from EPA Region 3  publication A Citizen's Guide to Address Contaminated Coal Mine Drainage, EPA-903-K-97-003.

As your group begins to analyze the problems, educate the public, and recruit interested agencies and organizations, involvement will grow. Building an organization takes awareness, planning, involvement, thought, and work. There will be early struggles, some setbacks and periodic pressures. It is helpful to recognize that these difficulties are normal, and that real progress can be achieved through a cooperative, inclusive process that focuses on the overall goal: cleaning up the watershed and keeping it clean.

Why Form a Partnership?

Developing a watershed partnership to tackle your project ensures that no single entity will be seen as responsible for the work; all interested agencies, organizations, civic groups, elected officials, businesses, industries, and individuals will feel that they have a stake in the process and its outcome. This approach also creates an effort that is much more than the sum of its individual parts or members and it provides the organizational strength and maturity needed to weather the challenges and minor glitches that will surely come.

Getting Organized in the Real World

The best advice on organizing and "getting the ball rolling' comes from citizen activists in the field. Rod Piper of the Stoneycreek-Conemaugh River Improvement Project (SCRIP) provides the following insights:

  * people like to work on what affects them personally.

  * Make your activities known to potential public and private-sector partners using an outreach program, Including newspaper articles and other approaches.

  * Success often means getting the ear of local elected officials, who can identify funding sources and interest them in supporting the project.

Roles of a Watershed Partnership

The partnership's role is many faceted. Momentum must be maintained through meetings and other forms of information transfer and new members should be re­cruited. Citizen members: 

Public agencies and some formal organizations that join the partnership like to develop specific lists of roles they will play in the effort These can often be outlined in a memorandum of agreement, memorandum of understanding or other document. These documents serve to identify responsibilities, workloads, and participation.

Recruit Volunteers

Volunteers form the backbone of many AMD and watershed protection coalitions. Since volunteers usually are able to work on only an intermittent basis, it is important to manage their efforts so they fit well into the overall scheme of activity.

Volunteers can handle assignments ranging from writing letters to the editor to taking water samples (see next section), and they are indispensable in planning and executing public awareness projects like clean-ups, water quality fairs, and other events. Attracting volunteers from partner organizations and the general public is vital in establish­ing your partnership as a vibrant agent of action and change.

Tips for Working With Volunteers

  * Know their skills; try to fit task assignments to skill areas if possible.
  * Provide clear instruction and supervision to avoid confusion.
  * Make tasks self-contained, so responsibility assignments are evident.
  * Help volunteers understand how their tasks fit into the overall goals.
  * Put volunteers to work in teams to add a social dimension and fun to the work.
  * Thank them, invite them back, and publicly recognize theft efforts.

Tips for Productive Meetings

  * Establish a clear agenda; allow time for each item and some indication of the desired outcome.
  * Sit in a circle or semi-circle so each person can see the others.
  * Appoint a timekeeper, and stick to the agenda. if additional time is needed on an item or other items arise, have the group decide how to proceed.
  * Encourage everyone to speak, and don't allow one or two individuals to monopolize the dialogue.
  * Sum up points that have been made to facilitate understanding and speed up the process.
  * The chair should help guide the group to achieve resolution of the action items by identifying important points and alternatives and clarifying decisions.
  * Identify tasks, responsible parties, and time frames for action specified.
  * Set the date, time, and place for the next meeting; and establish a process for updating those who could not attend.