Friday, November 12, 2010

Minnesota River Watershed Alliance Communication Survey - please take the survey!

Please see the previous blog post for some background on the survey.

Survey Instructions:

There are 21 multiple choice questions on the survey. The form can be completed electronically by copying the questions into your word processing software, using the highlight tool on your computer and emailing the document to Jenny Gieseke [jennygieseke (at) gmail (dot) com], or by printing the survey out, circling your answers and scanning and emailing the document back to Jenny. If you cannot submit the document electronically you can mail it to Jenny. In order to complete this project on time, Jenny is requesting that surveys be completed and returned to Jenny by November 15, 2010. All responses will be confidential.

Please return completed surveys to jennygieseke (at) gmail (dot) com or mail to: Jenny Gieseke

40322 541st Ave
New Ulm, MN 56073

1.) What is your affiliation with the Minnesota River Watershed Alliance?

NPO    Government Org     Citizen     Farmer      Other ________

2.) Are you a current member of the Coordinating Team?

Yes   No

3.) Are you a former member of the Coordinating Team?

Yes    No

4.) How long have you been active in The Alliance?

1 year or less         2-3 years          more than 3 years

5.) How many quarterly Alliance meetings have you attended in the past year?

0      1      2      3      4

6.) How did you receive notice of the meetings you attended? Circle all that apply.

Phone call        Personal email           list serv generated email             River Talk

Minnesota River Weekly Update            Web Site          other __________

7.) How many smaller group meetings have you attended in the past year to work on Alliance related projects or issues?

0     1     2     3     4     5    6    7     8     8 +

8.) How did you receive notice of those meetings?

Phone call      Personal email         list serv generated email          River Talk

Minnesota River Weekly Update              Web Site         other ______________

9.) Do you receive the River Talk Newsletter? Do you read it?

Yes No                                                           Yes No

10.) What format would you prefer to see the newsletter in?

Electronic           hard copy              posted on website

11.) What features of River Talk do you enjoy the most? (Circle or highlight all that apply)

Reflections          Organizational Spotlight         What’s Happening

River Ramblings            Water Quality Features

12.) Do you receive the Minnesota River Basin Weekly Updates? Do you read them?

Yes No                                                                                         Yes No

13.) Which features of the weekly updates do you find most useful?

Event notices          job opportunities          environmental article links            other_________

14.) How often do you visit the Alliance website?

Weekly          twice a month        monthly      quarterly         never

15.) Which features of the website do you find most useful?

Meeting notes         meeting announcements       calendar         alliance info

Links             other

16.) How often do you receive list serve generated notices and emails?

Weekly      twice a month         monthly         quarterly       never

17.) How often do you read the notices and emails?

Every time      most of the time      sometimes      rarely     never

18.) How often do you post messages or respond to list serv messages?

Rarely      weekly     twice a month       monthly      quarterly      never

19.) How often do you contact other members of the Alliance in regard to Alliance activities?

Daily     weekly      twice a month     monthly      quarterly     rarely

20.) Which methods do you use most often to contact other alliance members?

Face to face     phone call     personal email         list serv

21.) For each communication channel listed below, please circle or highlight the number that best represents the amount of information you receive now, and the amount of information that you feel need to receive.

Key for Scoring Items: VERY LITTLE = VL (1); LITTLE = L (2); SOME = S (3);
GREAT = G (4); VERY GREAT = VG (5)

Amount of information I receive now             Amount of information I would like to receive

Communication Channel VL L S G VG         VL L S G VG

Face to Face                   1 2 3 4 5                1 2 3 4 5

Phone                              1 2 3 4 5                1 2 3 4 5

Personal Email                 1 2 3 4 5                1 2 3 4 5

Listserv                            1 2 3 4 5                1 2 3 4 5

River Talk                        1 2 3 4 5                1 2 3 4 5

Weekly Update                1 2 3 4 5                1 2 3 4 5

Web site                           1 2 3 4 5                1 2 3 4 5


Watershed Alliance Communication Survey - Background

Here is some background information on the Communication Survey that the Minnesota River Watershed Alliance is conducting. Please see the next blog post for the survey form.

My name is Jenny Gieseke and I am currently a graduate student at Minnesota State University, Mankato. I am pursuing an MS in Communication Studies, and as part of the coursework for Organizational Communication 512, I am required to complete a communication audit on an organization. I chose the Minnesota River Watershed Alliance for the audit because I thought the voluntary nature of the organization was unique, and I thought the audit would also provide beneficial information to the Alliance. On October 19, 2010, I attended a quarterly meeting of the Alliance, and was given approval by members to complete the audit.

What does a Communication Audit provide?

A communication audit provides an objective picture of what is actually happening in regard to an organization’s communication processes compared to what an organization thinks is happening. It is a diagnostic tool that can be used to pinpoint what is working and what is not working in regard to the communication practices of an organization.

The 21 question survey and instructions are provided in the next blog post. I am requesting that all responses be returned to me by Monday, November 15, 2010. I realize this is a short turn around time and that everyone is busy, but the survey should only take between 5 to 10 minutes to complete. All responses will be treated confidentially. I know how easy it is to just ignore a survey like this, but I'm hoping that the dedication of the Alliance members to improving their organization will prove an exception to the rule.

I will provide a copy of the Audit Report to the Alliance by December 15, 2010.

How will a Communication Audit benefit the Minnesota River Watershed Alliance?

The purpose of this audit is to identify the most commonly utilized channels of communication between Alliance members. The questions chosen for the survey were developed based on input from coordinating team members during a conference call on October 27, 2010. The survey is being sent to all members of the Alliance. Please consider donating 5 to 10 minutes of your time to complete the survey. The reliability of the data collected for the survey is dependent upon a sufficient number of surveys being completed and returned. With enough input from Alliance members, the audit will provide information regarding which channels of communication are successfully utilized, which need additional efforts, and which areas can be eliminated.


I have over 10 years of experience working in the area of Water Resource Management, specifically for the Crow River Organization of Water (CROW) Joint Powers Board. Prior working for the CROW I worked in the area of wetland management in both the private and public sectors. I have a B.S. in Ecology/Environmental Science. My objective in obtaining a MS in Communications is to continue to work in the field of Natural Resources but to focus my efforts in areas such as organizational development and capacity building.

Thank you very much for taking the time to complete the survey, I appreciate your assistance.

Jenny Gieseke



Monday, November 08, 2010

October 19, 2010 Meeting Notes

Welcome and Introductions

Brad Cobb of the coordinating team welcomed everyone and joked about our new venue for the quarterly meeting.

Audrey Arner started off the meeting by pointing out the original Watershed Alliance charter and how it continues to help guide our progress and activities. Everyone introduced themselves and provided an example about the nature of the Watershed Alliance or the work it has undertaken. A number of people mentioned the magnitude of the projects that have been pulled off for a non-organization.

Erik Wrede told the group how the Watershed Alliance is one of the first groups mentioned when people talk about organizations engaged in this type of citizen-based effort. He also pointed out how the Minnesota River was one of the first four water trails (originally called canoe and boat trails) designated in the state in the early 1960s.


Brad Cobb told the group about the event being planned to honor Senator Dennis Fredrickson legislative and conservation work in the Minnesota River Basin and across the state. According to Brad, Senator Fredrickson has been a key inspirational leader when it comes to water quality and agriculture issues in Minnesota. The event will be on December 16th at the City of Redwood Community Center from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. Brad will be providing more information in the future and will draft a letter expressing to the senator oru appreciation for his work on behalf of the Minnesota River. He can be reached at 320-493-4695.

Randy Thoreson of the National Park Service provided a brief summary of the ongoing work to develop a trail plan for the Minnesota River area in Redwood and Renville counties. They have done a lot on the milestone achievement section by pulling together action steps and timeline. One action step will concentrate on working to remove the Minnesota Falls Dam downstream of Granite Falls. Barr Engineering is conducting a study on the dam for Xcel Energy who owns it. Patrick Moore asked Randy if there was a document that came out of the brainstorming session and Randy said there was an overview he could provide.

Susie Carlin reported the Minnesota River Board Meeting is on November 15th (Monday) starting at 9 a.m. at the Sibley County Service Center in Gaylord. For more information call 507-389-5491. One of the presentations at the meeting will be on the Blue Thumb Program, an outreach program to meet water quality goals developed by the Rice Creek Watershed District. For more information on the program:

Erik Wrede mentioned the promotion of Mike Salmon of the DNR from Area Supervisor to Strategic Leader for the Southern Region DNR Division of Parks & Trails, based out of the regional office in New Ulm. Mike is still interested in what is going on in the Minnesota River Basin.

The document “Conservation in the Middle Minnesota Valley: A Blueprint and Action Plan” for the Green Corridor Project has been completed and can be found on the Tatanka Bluffs web site at:

Patrick told the group that CURE has a new list of activities including two River Writers Workshops (November 4th and 8th), the Annual Fall Cleanup (November 7th) and the Annual Meeting (February 12th) featuring John Hickman and Jon Carlson who will talk about making the Minnesota River film documentary. For more information on these events and others go to:

Scott informed the group that Brooke Patterson of the coordinating team and Brown County Planning and Zoning Department is leaving at the end of the month to move out to Oregon. Brooke has been a dedicated member of the Minnesota River Paddler Program and her spirit and hard work will be missed.

Minnesota River - Lake Pepin Friendship Tour

Patrick Moore with assistance from Warren Formo and Susie Carlin gave a report on the two part Minnesota River – Lake Pepin Friendship Tour. Forty-five people took part in the upstream-downstream exchange. How did it happen? Patrick gave credit to Lyndsey Weber (CURE intern), Warren Formo, Susie Carlin and Michael McKay for pulling together to make this tour a success. The dynamics that made this work had to do with who does the talking, who does the messaging. According to Patrick, all of us stood at the edge of a smaller circle and found ourselves in the middle of a larger circle.

A connector was needed and that person turned out to be Lyndsey who grew up on a farm, had communication skills and did TMDL research. She made 160 phone calls to set up this tour. Patrick said the reason for a good turnout had to do with the one-on-one contacts and how Lyndsey practiced her delivery. She had this ability and creditability to get the job done. They also worked with Action Media to have professionally crafted questions. You need to get people to answer questions like what is going right and what is good that you have done. Everyone got to weigh in with the key being transparency, openness and working together.

One of the reasons for this tour being successful had to do with concentrating on citizens and limiting any government or agency involvement along with the Media. Patrick told the group that the media likes conflict and puts things into black and white issues. As a result they didn’t include any media. You need to cultivate and develop messengers who aren’t scientists or government staff. It succeeded because people had a great time. By not using government funds they could buy alcohol, rent hotel rooms, could party, etc.

To help stimulate the conversation they had spouses sit at different tables. All of these tricks were used to get people to talk one on one and also get people to know each other as human beings. Patrick gave credit to the generous farmers of Bruce and Ann Tiffany and Brian and Michelle Hicks for opening up their operation during harvest. The fruits of this exchange is already being seen as people are already connecting. Another key has to do with no one trying to control message and the need to step back to look at it in a non emotional way.

Warren thanked Patrick for pulling all of this together and added that we need to bring together people from differ experiences to restart a different type of conversation. He brought up the speaker this morning from the Water Resources Conference to say we need to get past the hype, past the politics, past the bull to have a meaningful exchange. Susie said it was fun and a great experience working with Patrick, CURE, Warren and others. The neat thing is that people got to spend a solid day together giving them a lot of time for deep discussion. It says a lot of all these people to commit to this effort. Many of the participants have found new leaders to take the message back to others. This was definitely a success.

Now it’s time to let the results mull among people and use it as stepping stone. Susie reported that funding is an issue to continue making progress. We should make this an annual event with different people to keep spreading the word. Warren added that we need to think of doing this on different scales (build bridges between neighbors) a variation on the same theme. Patrick said we bring the power of the Watershed Alliance to move what the farmers want to do. There is a commitment to pull together one more event with the group after the harvest wraps up. We need to look at how to pull the participants into the Watershed Alliance.

For a summary on the September portion of the Minnesota River – Lake Pepin Friendship Tour” go to

Minnesota River Film Documentary

Scott gave an updated report on what is happening with the documentary and web site. John Hickman was unable to make it tonight due to filming down in the Lake Crystal area. The project did receive $10,000 from the Minnesota Valley Trust for the film documentary. We are hoping the Trust will be able come up with more funding for the project. John Hickman and Jon Carlson have been filming all over the basin including up in the Montevideo area on the Chippewa 10 percent Project (, at Minneopa State Park for Ron Bolduan’s River Ranger Program and down in the Lake Crystal to shoot the effort by the MN Valley Trust to expand the Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge by the Trust (

The project also received $60,000 over two years from the McKnight Foundation to update the Minnesota River Basin Data Center to bring more attention to the river and work to inspire the public to continue restoration efforts. More grants are being submitted to secure additional funding for the web site and film documentary. Jim Wolff suggested people promote the web site to anyone who might be interested in funding the project.

To check out the progress of the Minnesota River Film Documentary go to the web site:

Minnesota Governor’s Fishing Opener

Lee Sundmark was unable to make it to the meeting but provided a brief summary of what is going on to Scott. Lee does plan to attend the January meeting. Right now he is working on finding a fiscal agent for collecting donations to put on a fishing opener. Two ideas are the New Ulm Chamber of Commerce and New Ulm Area Sportsmen’s Club. Prior to the January meeting Lee will touch base with Terry Sveine of the Chamber and will put together a pledge form for people to either to donate or volunteer for the event. The figure Lee threw out to put on an opener is $30,000 to $60,000.

Erik Wrede told the group about how he has tried to get the governor out paddling in the 1990s with no luck and he is thinking of trying again. With a new governor coming into the office this is the time to try since they don’t have as packed of a calendar. This might be the time to think about putting together a Governor’s Paddling Opener.

Minnesota River Paddler Program

James Fett gave a brief report on what is happening with the Minnesota River Paddler Program. The committee recently met to come up with ideas for continuing to promote the three patches/decals. At this time the biggest issue is the lack of funds/volunteers. There was enthusiasm by the group to hold a second launch of the program next summer in the Upper Minnesota River Basin with one of CURE’s river events. Patrick said we are welcome to partner with them and suggested we bring up some of the talented bands from the June 12th paddling event.

Promotion Ideas:

• Put it on the Watershed Alliance web site
• Ask the various watershed projects and nonprofit organizations to include it on their web sites.
• Create a Facebook Page (James)
• Produce a video to put on local public TV channels and You-tube
• Stock brochures at the various outdoor retail stores like Scheels, REI and Gander Mountain (Joel)
• Co-sponsor a paddling event with CURE next summer in the Upper Minnesota Basin
• Promote the program at other paddling events – Chippewa River Watershed Project, Redwood Cottonwood Rivers Control Area, Mankato Paddling and Outing Club, etc.
• Create a paddling page on the Watershed Alliance web site – list all the people who received at patch or decal
• Write up articles on paddling for the local media outlets
• Devote the spring issue of River Talk newsletter to paddling and the Paddler Program
• Develop a partnership with DNR for promotion – talk to Erik Wrede of the Water Trail Program
• Put brochures in the area DNR offices
• Talk to John Hickman about including it in the MN River Film Documentary
• Look at selling extra patches/decals to people who have earned the patch as a way to raise funds for promoting the program

Please send Scott Kudelka at any ideas you may have for promoting the Minnesota River Paddler Program.

Communications Audit/Survey Project

Jenny Gieseke, a graduate student at Minnesota State University Mankato attended the meeting to present the idea of conducting a communication audit for the Minnesota River Watershed Alliance. This would be part of a class she is in. Jenny provided a brief background on how she decided to work with us and explained how this audit can be used a diagnostic tool to help us pinpoint what is working and is not working in regard to our communication practices. The group voted to move forward with the audit and charged the coordinating team to help decide what we would like to see with it.

For the full proposal go to:

What do we want to be & How we move/act/think?

Audrey broke everyone up into three groups to work on four questions revolving around three questions.

• Question 1 – What do we want to be?

The MRWA should be a group: With a watershed-wide perspective that is passion oriented and action oriented; Works together; Has multiple leaders; The Weekly Update should include more reports and stories about what is going on.

A diverse group – hope it continues, Identify common interests and opportunities for success, All members engaged in something, Many ideas and connections – spread the message, Engage in water policy conversation, Outreach for agencies.

A quasi-organization, Follow the document (Charter) or not?, Multiple items or one project?, Owe resources to former projects? A clearinghouse of MN River Projects – present an idea and look for collaboration. What is an Alliance activity? Is a thumbs up good enough? We rely on volunteers, so trust those champions.

• Question 2 - How will we be funded?

Revolving funding where different organizations take turns providing funding for meetings.

Get re-engaged – look for opportunities – focus on role, Short-term: personal and agency sources which buys time for Long-term: agency funding like PCA and DNR, Results far exceed cost – promote successes and outreach, Paddle Patch connects citizens

How to save money?, Discussion board?, List Serve?, Must pay Audrey and Scott – can give up other expenses, MRB/WRC role?, MRB delegates?

• Question 3 – What is the role of the MN River Board or the Water Resources Center (i.e. fiscal agent, funding provider, etc.)?

Create a structure where everyone is equal (currently exists in Alliance); The MRB/MSU should provide resources; The Alliance could help the Minnesota River Board by reaching out to citizens and county commissioners in an effort to help the Board.

Minnesota River Board maintain as advisory group and WRC as fiscal agent.

• What are the ground rules for authority to raise money using the Watershed Alliance name?

Final thought: Brad Cobb said we need to get reenergized, look at this as an opportunity not as a challenge. We need to find a group or agency to sponsor one of our meetings.

2011 Activities Brainstorm – Continuations & New Possibilities

Audrey had the three groups work on ideas for potential projects in 2011. The decision will be made at the January meeting. For this meeting the group came up with a list of ideas to discuss to further:

• Continue this year’s activities – Paddler Program, Film Documentary, Friendship Tour and Fishing Opener
• Expand Friendship Tour to include cities and maybe a vacation tour for tourism
• Diversify our communication tools.
• Feature use of Norse canoe and Dakota style tipi.
• Prepare now for the 150th Anniversary (2012) of the U.S. / Dakota Conflict.
• Read together: “North Country: The Making of Minnesota” by Mary Lethert Wingerd -
• Promote the Paddler Program through another “launch” up river.
• Support the MN River Film Documentary and website development.
• Focus on the Minnesota Falls Dam Removal.
• Focus on finding funds to support the Watershed Alliance.
• Use the results of the communication audit.
• Follow up and spin offs from the Lake Pepin Friendship Tour.
• Write some operations grants for funding the Watershed Alliance
• Ask to be written into other organization/partners grants as part of an education component.
• Participate in America’s Great Outdoor Initiative (federal funds and technical support)
• Promote and support urban activities for storm water runoff issues in communities throughout the basin.
• Reference St. Cloud-based Alliance – 3 issues per year (dog poop, rain barrels, catchments, etc.)

Final thought: There is a constant evolution of the original agreement (in which we had said we would select one project per year). We can’t turn our back on the 2010 projects – we need to keep momentum for each of them.

Next Steps

• The Coordinating Team will be deciding on the location and logistics for the next Watershed Alliance meeting – January 18th (3rd Tuesday) including whether to have food or not.

• It was recommended that we ask Lee Sundmark to see about securing a free place for the Watershed Alliance to meet in January.

• Jack Lauer of the MN DNR has offered the meeting room at the New Ulm Regional Office for no charge. The room is tentatively on hold for the January 18th date.

Next Meeting:

• The next quarterly meeting is scheduled for January 18th (3rd Tuesday) starting at 6 p.m. at a new location – the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources’ office in New Ulm. We will be deciding what issue or issues to focus on for 2011.

• Patrick Moore,
• Al Odenthal,
• Jim Wolf,
• Kathleen Wolf,
• Brad Cobb,
• Larry Gunderson,
• Susie Carlin,
• James Fett,
• Warren Formo,
• Forrest Peterson,
• Franz Albert Richter,
• Erik Wrede,
• Randy Thoreson,
• Steven Dubois,
• Paul Nordell,
• Qian Jianhua,
• Jim Klang,
• Jenny Gieseke,
• Audrey Arner,
• Scott Kudelka