Internship Evaluation: Tenacity (week of August 28)


Lauren and I completed our mid-way internship evaluation (again). Since this is a “never-ending” internship at this point, it isn’t really a mid-way evaluation for this summer, but hopefully a more-than-mid-way-evaluation for this project as we started it in July 2014 and hope to have it finished in May 2016. On the sheet provided from the CRES department she gave me 5’s across the board. Her main comment was that she was impressed by my tenacity with this project. From technical issues to bureaucratic hurdles we feel like we are sailing with Odysseus on his return voyage from Troy–just when we have fought off the Cyclops we are tricked by Circe and then we become haunted by the Sirens. We will get home and we will tell the heroic story of our own Trojan War, which in this case is the story not of bloody battles and trickery, but of men and women coming together against all of modernity’s bureaucratic odds and despite deep differences to manage a natural resource more sustainably and beneficially for all involved. Strapped to the mast of my ship, we will sail on.


Oregon Fellows’ City of Portland Job Shadow Day (July 22)

As one of the privileges of being an Oregon Fellow, we are invited to a City of Portland Job Shadow Day. This is a day that starts with an awesome tour of City Council and then you are teamed up with two City of Portland employees to network and basically pick their brains on how to get a job in city government. Because the Office of Management and Finance organizes the event, most of the job shadow mentors are from that office–an office that apparently is a common landing place for new MPA graduates. Not too surprisingly and certainly foreshadowed by my unique StrengthsFinder results within this group, it was clear that the organizers struggled to figure out who to pair me up with.

That said, my first meeting with a woman in the city’s human resources department was quite lovely. Although she has a Master’s in HR and no academic background or trainings in conflict resolution or mediation, she totally got what I was all about and the type of work I aspire to do. I don’t think I want to go into human resources, but if push came to shove, I could see it being a good option–and one I’d probably be decently good at. Most interesting was her encouragement of me to research emotional intelligence–definitely adding it to my list.

Finally, we ended the day with Fred Miller, the Chief Administrator Officer for the City of Portland. A very impressive man with a huge resume across all sectors. He brings to the public sector a desire for the city “to be the employer of choice.” I look forward to the day when government employment is the career of choice not because of a pension plan, but because of a desire to do public service and a belief that it can effectively and efficiently done.

Software and Archives (week of July 20)

Back from Hawaii and the drudge continues. This week I spent a good four hours researching video editing and qualitative research software. At this point I think I will be going with Adobe Premier Pro and NVivo. I now have an assistant intern, a PhD student in psychology, who will be helping with some of the drudge. Unfortunately she works off of a Mac, so now my researching continues to see what we can do to bridge that ultimate chasm in the world of computers.

After talking with Lauren, I have also begun a parallel attempt to regain momentum on the Lower Columbia Solutions Group website. Right now that is taking the shape of reviewing and sorting lots and lots (we are talking in the hundreds) of old, archived files. Sooner or later, they will all be oh so organized and have a neat, tidy home on the internet.

Unearthing Themes (week of June 29)

I spent a bit time, not nearly enough yet, this week on trying to identify key themes of this story. Like an archaeology dig, we have lots of puzzle pieces and now it is time to not only fit them together into a comprehensive, cohesive story, but also to mix and match to discover the themes of meaning within that larger story. Themes I have begun to identify can be classified by the three types of satisfaction that Tim emphasized so long ago in our first mediation course: process, substance, emotions.

Satisfaction Triangle

Under the process heading, I have neutral forum, trained facilitator, bi-state convening,  adaptive management, and collaborative learning approach. Substance is probably the most straight forward: erosion, crabs, regional economy, navigation channel, fisheries, mariner safety, and EPA policy. The emotional angle gets more tricky and there are many themes that I intuitively sense, but have not yet been able to articulate. The three I have identified, and that are without a doubt the most important, are listening, trust, and relationship building.

Now with those starting to get down on paper, I leave for Hawaii–see y’all in a month!

The Drudge Begins: Organizing Film Clips (week of June 26)

This is a story about dredging–dredging up and disposing of sand from the bottom of the Columbia River. It is also clearly going to be drudging. Drudge (verb): to perform menial, dull, or hard work. I believe at times this project is going to hit each of those adjectives–of course, it will also be and has been described by many much more positive adjectives. This week, it is dull. Before I start doing anything, I need to get all of my video and audio from last summer into order. More or less, I left it in pretty good shape. Nevertheless, I have spent the majority of my last few days sorting and double-checking that all is in order.

To be fair, this time was punctuated most positively by a meeting with my CRES cohort-mate Beth. Picking her brain about video editing software, story board creation, finding my inner creative, and more simply regaling her with a retelling of this complex tale and its many colorful characters made for a lovely break from the file sorting. Before I leave for Hawaii and take a month hiatus on this project, I’ll spend some time reviewing and re-watching video to try to get back in the mindset of this project.

The Changing Face of Oregon (June 23)

Both as an Oregon Fellow and as an intern of NPCC, I was invited to attend The Changing Face of Oregon, an all-day program hosted by PSU’s College of Urban and Public Affairs with 15 of the most up-and-coming and/or wizened thinkers in the state of Oregon–nicknamed for this event as “armchair prognosticators.” Put simply, it was awesome!

The first panel entitled The Changing Demographic Face of Oregon featured prognosticators talking on the increasing and diversifying population of Oregon, the threat of poverty, and the future of an aging baby boomer generation. Most clearly evident across all three speakers is the gross inequity and segregated outcomes that is experienced by the communities of color within our Oregon population. While 81% of students in inner Portland go to college, only 5% are able to pursue that opportunity in the outer Portland areas, specifically those hailing from the “east of 82nd” hinterlands. Despite this inequity, the diversification of Oregon cannot be stopped. In less than two years, the population of Oregonians under 18 will no longer be majority white, but rather there will be a minority majority. Finally, there are a lot of “old people” and they aren’t going anywhere. The problem with this, as those same “old people” point out, is until they actually retire, the Generation X-ers sitting impatiently in middle management can move into their jobs, which means all of us ready-to-go Millenials will have to wait our turn (and watch our student debt interest accrue).

The following panels were on the Changing Geographical Face, the Changing Economical Face, and the Changing Political Face. All were absolutely fascinating, and the political panel included one of my good friends Henry Kraemer. I won’t go into the details of what was presented in each panel, but essentially the point was clear that whether it is environmental or economical or social or political, we are in for some major changing times in the coming years–and most of those changes will not come without some measure of conflict. Attending an event like this really makes me believe in the future for conflict specialists and collaborative governance–of course, we need to get the general public or government to get behind such an approach.

Who is the protagonist? (week of June 15)

Met with Steve and Lauren to kick off this next leg of the Lower Columbia Solutions Group “documentary” project. As we started to talk about the story line, we quickly realized just how tangled and complex this project is–a true “wicked problem.” In an effort to make our thinking easier we decided to focus on the question: who is the protagonist? Turns out that is not an easy question and did not make anything much easier!

Before I address the who question we asked, first I’ll remind us of the answer to the what question. For those of you like myself who hasn’t thought about a protagonist or an antagonist since high school English class, asking what is a protagonist is a good place to start. The protagonist is literally and etymologically the “player of the first part.” In classic Greek theater from whence the term derives, the protagonist was the character who goes through a conflict with the antagonist. In theory, the audience should always be pro-protagonist, meaning it is with she whom they should identify with and root for. Modern understanding also frequently notes that it is the protagonist who moves the story forward, allowing for the growth of other characters, and the resolution of the conflict.

The potential characters we shortlisted for the protagonist role are far-ranging: the Army Corps of Engineers, various individual people from the Corps, crab fishery representative Dale, the crabs themselves, the Portland economy, international trade, beach erosion, tourism, climate change, adaptive management, administrative law surrounding disposal issues as enforced by the EPA, and the National Policy Consensus Center. After diving down each of those rabbit holes, we came back to where we should have started: the protagonist of this story is the collaborative process itself.

Indeed, it is the process itself that has moved this story forward, that has encouraged human transformation, and has helped the characters of this story weather the storms of this conflict. It is this process that has set these stakeholders up for success. It is this process that will nourish the beaches, human communities, economies, and ecosystems of the mouth of the Columbia River. Now to tell that story. My marching orders, however vague they may be, have been given.