While our check-in was quick, the tasks assigned are immense. Lauren and I made plans for winter break work today. First and foremost, I’m going to be building a website (from scratch) for the LCSG after there was lost to an unfortunate website change over a year ago. It will be bare bones so hopefully won’t take up all of my winter break. After that is completed I get to start diving into the wild world of video editing. The learning curve is apprehensively steep I know, but hopefully I will pick up the skills quickly enough to be able to put together a short series of clips to share with the group in January.
Speaking of January, I received the absolutely disheartening news that the big LCSG meeting has been scheduled for quite literally the only day in January that I cannot get away from school–my first day teaching! I was so looking forward to attending and getting to hear plans for the group’s transition to new leadership. Alas, we might be able to set up a video camera for me to be able to watch after the fact. I worry that my lack of participation will just further dampen the flames of urgency in the group finding funds for the documentary project.
The dim light of finals falls upon us poor students stuck in core courses. This bleak reality coupled with the fact no one else on the project is currently focused on the project, means all (school) work and no (internship) play for me this month.
Really it is just a small step, nevertheless it is exciting! While we are still in limbo about “real” funding for the LCSG documentary funding, I have now been brought on as a temporary employee for PSU/NPCC to do very basic film editing and sorting of clips (read between the lines: I am officially hired to be a film-maker!). Mostly this funding will just pay for my purchase of my own copy of video editing software, but regardless of where this project goes I will get to keep that software and continue fumbling my way into the field of facilitative film-making. Likely I won’t get a chance to start this work until winter and only then after I finish my newest assigned task of creating a new website for the LCSG–looks like it will be more a productive winter break than just a relaxing one.
With no word on funding and it now being out of sand disposal season, we are at a stall in the project currently. Not to mention my first term of MPA core coursework is keeping me plenty busy trying to wrap my head around multivariate regressions, balancing public sector accountability and discretion, and all the joy that is the underlying assumptions of microeconomics. Hopefully things will get going again sometime soon.
I suppose it is not on everybody’s calendar, but early October is the end of sand disposal season here in the northwest–at least in the near shore and shallow water sites that LCSG is interested in. With the end of the season comes a time for reporting back on what we have learned this year. In fancy terms, this is adaptive management in action! Curtis was able to provide quite a lot of data this year that suggests these larger disposal events in the near shore, shallow water are viable for sustaining crab life. This is great news, but of course, will need to be considered with all the real world caveats such as odd weather events this year–although with climate change one has to wonder if we will ever have normal annual weather again. With Curtis’ report was a serious of videos, my personal favorite is “Crab Tenacity” showing just how tenacious our crustacean friends are when faced with the hurricane strength (proportionally for them) winds of disposing sand. Check it out (click still image to go to the youtube video)…
In other news, a potential NOAA grant has been found to continue and increase the scientific research portion of the LCSG MCR project. Every time a grant like this comes up I am reminded how incredibly valuable grant writing skills are. And yet just like when I was working in the non-profit sector, writing grants is something I really would rather avoid. Some people get actual joy from writing grants, I have yet to have that experience. Nevertheless, I should probably sign up for that grant writing class one of these terms–I might just not advertise that skill as widely as some of my other talents! All and all, I hope the group is able to move forward with finding funding either through this grant or other avenues.
Originally we had planned to finish the interview with Steve today, however, it made more sense to take the time we had in person to think about some next steps. I provided a general sense report back to Steve from my over 20 interviews at this point. As I told him about the project fatigue felt by many, the confusion about plans, and the drastically differing perceptions of trust and urgency, he paused a moment in his veteran mediator’s manner and then looked up and quietly said, “we’ve lost focus on the problem.” Bingo! Being able to do that–synthesis a bunch of information into one succinct truth–that is why I want to become a mediator (facilitator, moderator, etc). He is absolutely right, many of the newer members cannot even articulate what brought the group together in the first place and many others would tell you the problem is solved, while a few would say they spend hours a day (Curtis or Dale for example) still dealing with an issue that is far from being solved. It is time to bring people back together. There is a tentative LCSG meeting sometime this winter, hopefully a face-to-face chance to catch up and look forward will help.
As to my next steps, they are very much up in the air. We talked about the ideal plan today, which lucky for me, Steve and Lauren are completely behind me on. Ideally, we would receive the much talked-about and promised funding from some of the stakeholder groups to create a short “promo” or documentary-type video on the project. One that can be shared with new stakeholders, community members, and also within agencies to inspire them to take this collaborative route for other projects. With the funding we would hire a more experienced film editor to take the lead with the express direction that I am to be used as their assistant, providing the group both cheap(er) labor for what will be a huge editing undertaking and providing me with much wanted skills. That is the ideal plan, we will see what comes about in reality, especially now that I have to jump in to another year of core coursework…
One of my last interviews was with Doris McKilip—where the LCSG MCR project really all began. Doris has long since retired from the US Army Corps of Engineers, but back in the late 1990s she was the brilliant mind behind the decision to bring in Gregg Walker to do a collaborative learning training with the Corps as a first step to attempt to tackle the issue of sediment in a more productive manner. She has been out of the group since 2011, but when asked about what she has heard with the group in terms of collaboration and trust, her answer surprised us all. She said, “I think the problem today is there is not enough conflict to get people’s attention.”
As conflict resolvers we work from a goal of reducing conflict, but does this back fire? In class we have talked about the value of timing and how conflict sometimes has to get to a certain level of “badness” before people are willing to deal with it. Certainly this logic rings true with the creation of the original group who tackled the LCSG issues during a time of law suits, fisherman deaths, and a nasty old guard attitude towards one another. However, this project makes me think that this logic needs to be extended to say that conflict has to stay at a certain level of badness in order to sustain that energy. As Doris noted, “When you have conflict there is a lot people that don’t like it and they want to do something about it. When people are all getting along, people don’t see a need for stepping up, they say, ‘Why me? Everyone is getting along.’” I have no doubt that there were more tear shed than on-the-ground technical solutions found during Doris’ time, but now that we are on to finding the technical solutions what are the emotions and passions keeping these people going? Certainly despite the progress made with the crab-cams and the sand dumping techniques, there is also a distinct level of project fatigue felt by many of the members. This drives a certain point home for me, what does it take to keep people in their most innovative, creative solution-finding modes? How do we sustain collaboratives? I hope it is not the allure of crisis and conflict, I’d like to believe that friends make better collaborators than enemies.