Our process follows a number of guidelines, but the most important one is that every community has its own context, possibilities and constraints.
It is a bit like building a house
If new house plans are chosen based on the number of needed bedrooms, this may quantitatively correspond to the home-owner’s needs, but will the house be comfortable to live in? Will it take advantage of the way the lot slopes, the trees that give some privacy, that flat area that could be used for a garden, etc.? By ignoring context, the house would just be a costly lump that does not leverage the possibilities of the property. And what happens if you lose your job, or the kids grow up and leave?
A shame, really. Did you think about that when you started out?
Our approach is different
Water is the essence of life. When a community organizes to decide on water infrastructure, they are designing their future.
Every community is different, special.
Most have underdeveloped potential. All offer possibilities of synergy with other needs and wants that can help reduce water consumption, increase revenue, create beauty, attract new people, support tourism, reinforce local food security, and make living more comfortable.
Our approach is to provide a process that will help you design a water infrastructure solution that does more than quantitatively meet a “gallons per hour” number. A solution that builds relationships, creates possibilities for the community, and that will, ideally, pay for itself.
Here is how we do this with you.
It starts when someone from your community calls us.
This initial conversation will usually start with the need to do something about a water or a waste water issue.
Perhaps you are facing legal or regulatory pressures. Or a new development is putting pressure on the existing systems. Or years of neglect of the old system is causing a toll on the environment; people and pets are getting sick. Or perhaps some firm has proposed infrastructure that your community simply cannot afford. This is indeed a good time to call us.
Step Two: The Handshake
Obviously the person who initiates contact cannot talk for a whole community.
So the idea in this step is to get closer to the community. Together, the contact initiator and our Community Liaison person assemble a small local task force of the right people to help steer this project. This will typically include someone from local government, one from the existing utility, and several persons that are trusted by the community at large to have a deep felt sense of what the community is all about.
This team of 6 or 7 people get together, and we work to match up our process described here to the needs and context of the community. We discuss budgets and funding, timelines, community engagement, the socio-economic context, roles, that sort of thing. We may meet once or twice to get this going and to eventually come to shake hands on the way forward.
Step Three: Needs Assessment
Here we are primarily concerned with base-lining present and anticipated needs with regard to water and/or waste water management. What are the present deficits, resources, volumes, etc. A lot of this information is already available from the existing utility or City Hall.
- If a new development is in the works, how many houses, buildings, expected residents, industries?
- What will their water needs be.
- What are the prescriptive and performance-based requirements imposed by regulation?
- What about the needs of existing neighborhoods.
These are like the “how many bedrooms do you need in this house” question.
Working as a team, we then use educational materials provided by the Water Environment Research Foundation (WERF – see our section on Reference Materials) to bring the team up to speed about how to look at water as a resource, treatment processes, options. Using the WERF Fact Sheets and Cost Tool templates, we as a team will translate the needs inventory into possible solution-wise options for the community to consider.
The result of this step is not to define how the problem is going to be solved. It is for the team to come to a good enough understanding of water-related needs and options to be able to engage the rest of the community. One cannot expect most residents to invest much time to develop a good depth of understanding, but the team needs to do it, in preparation for the next step.
Step Four: Community Engagement
Okay, we now know that we need, quantitatively “a three bedroom house” from the previous step, and we know what technical options exist to meet that need.
This next step is to share this understanding with the rest of the community in a joint in-person and online event.
Then we engage people in a collaborative process to define which options will best meet the needs and possibilities of the community while at the same time, finding synergy with other projects, initiatives and aspirations the residents have for their community.
This collaborative process will also look at water usage, habits, behaviors, social norms and traditions that impact water consumption, and how these can be adjusted to conserve both water and costs. This is not a prescriptive process – it is people collaborating with other people, coming to terms with an issue and agreeing on how to turn it into opportunity.
In terms of rolling out this step, three events are planned:
- A briefing event, where the findings from the previous step are presented and explained. This is hosted both in a conference room and on-line, so everyone in the community can be present either in person or on-line. The online portion uses the CWS online learning platform to connect with all residents. This event will be recorded so it can be viewed by anyone unable to attend.
- An online collaborative deliberation summit which lasts 3 to 4 weeks, where between 30 and 40 community participants go through a thinking process to zero in on the best approach to use to address the water issue in a way that dovetails with community plans and aspirations. This portion uses the e‑Deliberation™ collaboration platform. Participants sign-up to collaborate online for about 30 minutes in the morning, and 30 minutes later on in the day, so they are regularly involved without having to disrupt their day to day activities. At the end of this online summit, the participants will have agreed on a community water strategy which will have received the input of everyone involved, and which will have been consented to by all, or almost all, the participants.
- The final event in this step is to present this community water strategy to all the residents of the community using a format similar to the briefing event. This presentation is conducted by the participants themselves and by the local task force team. Residents will be able to ask questions in a moderated context, voice their support and their concerns.
Step Five: Community Approval
The deliberated strategy defined in the previous step, having been presented back to the community, needs to be officially endorsed to go forward. This is done in two phases:
- An online poll where all residents are invited to consent to the strategy, or if they cannot, to offer a well-argued rationale as to why they cannot consent to it. In the unlikely event that substantial objections not anticipated during the summit are raised, this may lead to a strategy adjustment and a new poll.
- Once the community has indicated their considered support for the strategy, it is submitted for final approval to the local government body.
Step Six: Roll Out
Typically, the strategy will include a number of parallel paths. Some will look at funding and financing, others will look at technical implementation aspects such as requests for proposals, others will consider community impacts, and related projects & initiatives, education.
This critical phase will require strong project management as well as well structured, tight feedback loops so there is good coordination and everyone is up to speed with what is happening. We will help you get this organized to the extent you need the help.
Our role is not to do the job for you. It is to make sure you are successful deploying your strategy. We will help along the way by validating that the roll-out organization is viable, sustainable and that issues are getting resolved so the way forward is smooth, coherent and stable. We offer training, coaching, collaboration, facilitation, project management and quality assurance resources if these are useful to help you to make swift and substantial progress.
Outcomes and Benefits from our Collaboration Together
We have a page here that describes in more detail the outcomes and benefits you can expect from teaming with us. The most important benefit of course is that you will solve your water-related challenges in a way that is respectful of your community, its reality and possibilities, as well as its desired future. You will do it by finding the opportunities hiding within the challenges. You will draw your community closer. It will be changed by this, in a good way.
Here is an online interactive slide presentation that summarizes what we say here for you to look at and share. http://prezi.com/p3ihssaydko5