Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Potential organizational scenarios moving forward from The 2nd Minnesota River Congress



Potential organizational scenarios moving forward from The 2nd Minnesota River Congress
Select the Scenario you are most in line with along with a second choice
Individual and Group Responses Summary with Additional Comments and Analysis

·        Scenario #2 Number 1 Pick
Start from square one and develop a multi inclusive representative based voting organization consisting of representation from the 13 watersheds who would be appointed with consultation and recommendation from SWCD’s, County Water Specialists, and State Agency staffs closest to local issues.  Also in this scenario would be 6 representatives from agriculture, 6 from NGO’s, 4 from Cities, 4 from Businesses.  These representatives would report back to their networks on all activities and with that feedback consider all proposed actions and policies.

·        Scenario # 1 Number 2 Pick
Utilize a willing existing 501 c 3 organization.  Amend any needed existing by-laws and craft any new by-laws which would provide for the organization to have a clearly defined inclusive broad representation from all appropriate communities of interest who share the same aspirations of an improved, enhanced, protected and healthy Minnesota River Watershed with long term sustainable natural and economic resources.  Included in this is the charge of operating, providing communications and facilitating the MRWA in the spirit and intent of which it was created.

·        Scenario #4 Number 3 Pick
Turn the Minnesota River Watershed Alliance into a two part tax exempt non-profit organization.  Part one of the organization would include an organizational representation component on all levels (all inclusive including all government entities) for management and coordination.  Part two would be to keep, enhance and facilitate the MRWA and grow it to something much more participatory from around the basin.  The second part of the organization would carry out the appropriate initiatives it would select democratically among its participants.

·         Scenario #3 Number 4 Pick 
After a review process by the Congress, adapt an agreed upon collection of the recommendations from the Minnesota River Board external review team for the creation of a new entity structure or to incorporate into a willing existing one.  The recommendations were carefully and thoughtfully crafted over the course of a year and a half. (Very few people/citizens heard or knew of this proposal for structure.)  Those recommendations are available for examination and review.  This scenario could be rolled into one of the other options as well.



Other scenarios were offered as well.

Combine #2 and #3 Number 5 pick

No formal organization Number 6 pick

Find the problem first received 1 vote

Just have an annual meeting received 1 vote


Table/Group responses after lengthy discussion were as follows:

Scenario 2 Number One Pick
Scenario 3 Number Two Pick
Scenario 4 Number Three Pick
Scenario 1 Number Four Pick

Scenario 5 Number 5 Pick
One table had consensus on creating a new organization with 2 parts.  One part would consist of a basin-wide organization which would coordination, information, communication capabilities and be run as a typical non-profit and the second part would consist of lobbying, endorsing candidates, and be political in nature.


Additional Comments:
How could that many people agree on one goal and get something done?

The idea of a two part system is a good one, one hand in politics and one hand in communication and education.

Like the two part idea.

Scenario 2 is too many people.
It would be best to go with scenario 2 and rely on lessons learned from scenario 1.

Combine 2 and 3.

How would you fund meetings?

Utilize info available in scenario 3.

Need paid staff.

Max 15 people in scenario 2

There is a reason the MRB no longer exists, scenario 2 needs to be limited for people.

Funding sources? Citizens taxed?

Funding?

All citizens can and should participate.

Any of these can work under the right leadership, just do something.

Use scenario 4 as an organization as a leader of leaders, a network of organizers.

There is a lack of understanding of past actions with a lot of people here.

Need thinkers and doers.

Ecological integrity and conservation is at the core of a resilient and sustainable economic and social life basin-wide.  The network of aquatic resources forming the river is dependent upon land management decisions in the entire Minnesota Basin.

Something like 4 enhanced by 3.

Is MRWA working well?

Organize a consortium including all existing groups in the basin that are willing to participate.  Initial purpose would be to facilitate communication and collaboration.  It could lead to a more formal structure such as scenario 4.

Need mission statement.

MRWA is not a 501 c 3 so it can’t get grants/lobby.

Where’s recreation?

I like the 2 part organization, but how will they work and can they be combined?

Where is education?


After review and analysis it is our opinion that a majority of people want to move forward in this process and would prefer to build a new organization or use an existing one in which case it would have to purify and clarify its decision making structure to meet the wishes of the greater consensus coming out of this process. 

Given the scenarios they were presented with and judging from the responses we can boil this down into 2 using all 4 with the added comments etc. and then present it at the spring congress to pick one final one to move forward with.  It certainly can be tweaked and will evolve as we go forward, so knowing that and conveying it clearly is critical to those who won’t be 100% satisfied with the structure or path.  This is where the 3 organizational teams of approximately 6 each would come into play (based on the new team members).  We would ask the 3 teams to come up with a path and structure based on what our original team would put together for choices created using the new feedback combined with the previous events.  This would be based on the most recent input, having included that, we will then charge them to further modify and clarify and come to their own consensus on a structure.  We will then meet as a total organizational team to come to some point of over all agreement on structure.

We will provide a first take at 2 structures based on this most recent feedback as well as from previous events and after targeted one on one consultation with key people; we should have that done by December 20.  We will then contact the original team to meet face to face (probably in January) and after you have had time to review and contemplate all of this.  We will notify the new team members of this process shortly and what they will be asked to participate in doing. 

We also should consider the new team members for organizational arms of the greater group and start to think about various needed teams moving forward.  That is getting ahead of ourselves a little but we want to keep those who expressed a desire to be on the organizational team moving forward, engaged at a higher level and that will require continuing acknowledgement of their interest areas.
 



Draft Structure Possibilities #1
Seek out an existing 501 c 3 NGO in good standing whose current board of directors would be open to the process of potential modification of its mission, by laws, board makeup, and standing committee makeup.  This would also include any existing membership requirements along with a potential name/brand change.  There are such organizations which exist at the present time.  This should be done by building the optimum makeup and structure desired of the organization first and then applying and incorporating it into the existing organization.  This would most likely be the easiest and most effective way to create and capture in spirit and intent of what is ultimately going to be crafted by the congress process. This can then be applied using an existing organization as a vehicle for the continuation of the greater Minnesota River movement on a broad scale.

Hybrid of Draft Structure Possibilities #1
 Another potential path similar to customizing an existing 501 c 3 organization is to have the new structure described above be a program or initiative of an existing 501 c 3, which could give it complete autonomy regarding actions and branding etc. if a detailed resolution were to be approved by the existing Board of Directors.  Language could be created which would give the initiative/program total freedom of actions along with a separate system of accounting/set of books.  Funds secured for that initiative or program could easily be restricted as well as all actions the initiative would undertake.  This is borderline fiscal agent territory and we would need a lawyer to carefully craft all the language needed.

 Draft Structure Possibilities #2
Create a new 501 c 3 federal tax exempt organization.  This will first involve the application for articles of incorporation to the State of Minnesota to become a Minnesota Non-Profit Corporation under state statute 317-A, file with the Secretary of State to be recognized as a valid Minnesota Charity, the creation of organizational by-laws and file application to IRS for federal tax exempt status and recognition.  This process can take up to 2 years to obtain all levels of recognition.  A lawyer will be needed to communicate and articulate all of the structural aspects and nuances the Organizational Team creates and develops for the various applications. 

Hybrid of Draft Structure Possibilities #2
Create legal status for a Political Action Committee (PAC) which would develop a legislative priorities agenda and would work with either draft structure possibility #1 or #2 or totally on its own.  This entity would be involved in full time direct lobbying and assisting candidates regarding Minnesota River Basin items of all kinds and types.


Here are some potential components for structure makeup to consider using.  This path reflects the majority of feedback from the 2 Congresses and Regional Listening Sessions process to this point.

     A standing “Organizing Team” or “Network Team”:  This team would be charged with and accountable for developing detailed plans for solicitation to become a contributing member of the new body or entity.  The “Network Team” would also be charged with doing on-going solicitation themselves using applicable parts of the plan and those support materials generated from the developed plans.  All facets of membership outreach would be covered by this team.  Membership management and additional membership outreach would be assisted by engaging all the membership using the developed plans and by existing and any potential new staff.
     A standing “Initiatives, Actions and Projects Team”:  This team would be charged with prioritizing which, to what degree and how many of these should be undertaken.  Implementation would involve staff and volunteers alike.  Such things as review and recommendations for actions within the completed application to the Minnesota River Blueway Initiative could begin the process and hit the ground running.  This team would also most likely have a significant number of sub-teams in an effort to keep the multitude of diverse interests engaged and active.  This would involve such things as subsequent reporting back to the greater team on actions undertaken as well as requests for assistance and input from the greater body/group.  
     A standing “Public Relations and Political Involvement Team”:  This team would develop a protocol for making public statements on behalf of the body.  They would also be charged with development of recommendations to be brought before the full membership on various political situations which may arise.  This team would also assist the creation of public communications along with existing and any potential new staff which are political in nature; this would include such things as “sign on letters” and “letters of endorsement”.  This team would also select an appropriate spokesperson/s to represent the greater body/entity/organization.
     A standing “Education and Outreach Team:  This team would be charged with selection, distribution and delivery of information which would deemed to be critical to the creation of understanding by the greater public with regards to the natural, cultural and economic conditions and climates which exist in the Minnesota River Basin.  This information would need to be formatted and delivered crossing all segments and ages of the greater society in the basin.

Top themes which emerged from the First Minnesota River Congress and the 6 River Congress Regional Listening sessions



Top themes which emerged from the First Minnesota River Congress and the 6 River Congress Regional Listening sessions (not in any order)
These are top priority actions and initiatives which 1st congress and 6 listening sessions participants have identified as something a basin-wide citizen-led organization could most effectively provide for, which are not being done at all or in the most effective manner at the present time.  
We asked the 2nd Congress participants to vote on their top 3 choices for what they envisioned as to what a new or reconstructed body should be engaged in.  These are the results of that voting along with summary observations at the end.  

#1 Basin Wide Political Action/Clout/Lobbying
Develop a basin-wide public affairs agenda, build pubic support within the basin for that agenda and promote that agenda at the local, State, and national government levels.

#2 Basin Wide Conservation Initiatives/Actions
Identify and assist basin-wide conservation initiatives

#3 Basin Wide Communications at all levels
Serve as a vehicle to insure a high level of communication across the entire basin geographically, demographically, and between and among interest groups in the Minnesota River Basin.

#4 Basin Wide Education and Awareness Initiatives
Provide or support public education and promote public awareness on the importance of preserving and protecting the natural resources of the Minnesota River Basin.

#5 Basin Wide Platform for Sharing Knowledge
Create and maintain a platform for sharing of knowledge across the entire Minnesota River Basin.

#6 Basin Wide Recreational Opportunities and Marketing
Market and Promote recreational activities in the Minnesota River Basin

#7 Basin Wide Continuing Forum for public input
Host forums similar to the Minnesota River Congress meetings to obtain on-going public input and as a means of informing the public of what is happening in the Minnesota River Basin.

#8 Basin Wide Development of recommendations for various policies

#9 Basin Wide Most inclusive outreach for participation                                                                               

#10 Basin Wide On-Going Organizational Management and Development



The following is only my analysis and observations based on responses and additional written and verbal comments from all sessions to date, I encourage you to review and give your thoughts.

Individual responses reflect what a majority of participants feel is a need for a basin wide citizen led body of some sort to be able to effectively engage in political action.  One of the comments made resonated with the participants in this regard.  That was to make sure that what was being lobbied for from a Watershed District or SWCD was not in conflict and coordinated with those entities and others who may have political agenda’s which affect the basin as well.  All lobbying should be done in an effort to realize the cultural power which is perceived to be significant and not currently being exercised and executed.  This was also a clear first hand observation from the facilitators and organizing team at the event as well.

Responses also made it clear that basin-wide conservation initiatives and actions were a high priority as well and were not being done on a basin-wide scale to any great extent.  Comments about helping to create, assisting or supporting initiatives like the Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program or other basin scale applicable initiatives were something a citizen led; basin-wide organization could and should be engaged in.

Basin-wide communications at all levels were observed as a high priority of congress attendee’s.  Additional comments reflected that this was noted as being a kind of glue which could serve the other priorities well making people aware and spreading news of successes and failures across all communities of interest.  It was also noted that communications often spread education and have the ability to spark actions basin-wide.  Some communications are going on but it was noted that they should be done to a greater degree and through local media as well as through all modern electronic methods available.

Basin-wide education and awareness is also near the top of the list and identified as something appropriate and needed on a larger more comprehensive scale in the watershed.  Additional comments included that all age groups need a greater awareness of the economic, natural and cultural climate we have today and that would be something a basin-wide organization should be engaged in on-going.

All of the themes which emerged from the prior events received votes.  They can, and will be considered in the on-going development of a diverse base of representatives and can be acted upon as opportunities arise and are presented by the pro-activity of a new well designed or reconstructed effective citizen led basin-wide entity.

Table responses reflect some consensus among congress participants and further define and clarify to some degree what a majority of individuals were saying as well.  The following is the results of that voting as well after we asked the tables to pick the top 2 themes from the list.

The following were chosen highest as the last 3 picks

#1 Basin Wide Development of recommendations for various policies

#2 Basin Wide On-Going Organizational Management and Development

#3 Basin Wide Most inclusive outreach for participation

      #4 Basin Wide Political Action/Clout/Lobbying
Develop a basin-wide public affairs agenda, build pubic support within the basin for that agenda and promote that agenda at the local, State, and national government levels.

#5 Basin Wide Continuing Forum for public input
Host forums similar to the Minnesota River Congress meetings to obtain on-going public input and as a means of informing the public of what is happening in the Minnesota River Basin.

#6 Basin Wide Recreational Opportunities and Marketing
Market and Promote recreational activities in the Minnesota River Basin

#7 Basin Wide Conservation Initiatives/Actions
Identify and assist basin-wide conservation initiatives

#8 Basin Wide Communications at all levels
Serve as a vehicle to insure a high level of communication across the entire basin geographically, demographically, and between and among interest groups in the Minnesota River Basin.

#9 Basin Wide Platform for Sharing Knowledge
Create and maintain a platform for sharing of knowledge across the entire Minnesota River Basin.

#10 Basin Wide Education and Awareness Initiatives
Provide or support public education and promote public awareness on the importance of preserving and protecting the natural resources of the Minnesota River Basin.

There was a significant number of people who didn’t want a political agenda associated with the new organization.  I believe there was some degree of misunderstanding on the last three themes and it is tough for many to grasp the need for organizational development and management needs in order to succeed over all.  I also found it puzzling that development of recommendations for policies received so many last place votes when lobbying and political involvement was picked so high as a priority.  The same held true for communications as people had a lot of last place votes for basin wide continuing forum, but at the same time wanted communications at all levels.

In closing my summary I think we have the information we need to craft something quite significant for a spring congress.

We have a number of new people who have come forward to want to be on the organizing team going forward as well as the current group.  It is my opinion to ultimately split up the group into task related teams of 6 or so.  I think at this point 3 teams would work well.  We will meet as a large group first to become better acquainted and to do some vision, mission and objective work together as the entire group and then at subsequent meetings break down into task related teams to define, refine and focus on interest and expertise areas.