This support highlights the Galen Driscol approach to public engagement consulting.
Significant community outcry emerged in 2013 when the City of Austin began enforcing long-disused rules governing grave ornamentation at municipal cemeteries. Some family members expressed anger that the City intended to limit the placement of informal memorials on their loved ones’ burial spaces. Other family members expressed a desire for more orderly, uncluttered burial grounds and voiced concern about the placement of items that they viewed as lacking respect and decorum.
In response to this discord, Tim Sueltenfuss was engaged to design and implement an open, inclusive public engagement process that encouraged stakeholders from all perspectives to share their opinions. Tim and his team conducted significant stakeholder outreach and engaged the media via television, radio, print, and social media outlets. They gathered public input by hosting two initial public meetings using an innovative open house format particularly appropriate for this highly emotional topic. The team also conducted telephone interviews, posted online surveys, and hosted two additional public meetings. This multi-faceted public input approach enabled 282 meeting attendees and respondents to provide 2,914 unique comments. The information gathered as a result of this public engagement project was integrated into the ongoing cemetery master planning process and applied to the development of new rules and regulations.
The Kelly AFB project in San Antonio, Texas, provides a clear-cut example of circumstances requiring intensive community partnering.
Kelly Air Force Base was involved in a highly complex and emotionally charged environmental clean-up effort. Solvent and fuel plumes had been detected not only on base but also under more than 20,000 homes in the surrounding community. Political, social, ethnic, and health issues intensified the difficulties and disagreements inherent in this effort. Protestors, TV cameras, shouting matches, character assassination, and litigation were virtually daily occurrences throughout this project.
Leigh-Ann Fabianke and Tim Sueltenfuss managed an extensive stakeholder engagement effort at Kelly AFB. They ensured that environmental justice concerns were addressed and there was fair treatment and meaningful involvement of all people regardless of race, color, national origin, or income. Tim and Leigh-Ann also managed years of monthly partnering efforts including meetings of the Restoration Advisory Board, the Technical Review Subcommittees, and numerous public meetings. The result was effective involvement of the community and the construction and operation of final environmental cleanup systems.
Our support at Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio is a good example of resolving conflict both between and within disputing organizations.
Tim Sueltenfuss was initially asked to provide basic team-building partnering support for an environmental restoration team comprised of U.S. EPA, a state environmental agency, and the Air Force. Tim quickly determined that significant inter-organizational and interpersonal conflict existed. The participating agencies were threatening to invoke sanctions against one another and headed for litigation. The approach was adjusted from a typical partnering process to a conflict resolution effort employing shuttle negotiation (indirect conversations between parties to reach a mutually agreeable resolution to the conflict) and numerous individual and agency-specific meetings over the course of a year. The result was agreement, progress toward environmental remediation milestones, and avoidance of litigation.
Environmental Restoration Partnering has improved inter-agency communications, team organization and program documentation at Eielson AFB leading to increased work flow, decreased document review times and improved team effectiveness.
Tim Sueltenfuss has supported the Eielson AFB environmental cleanup team for over two years. He works very closely with Air Force, US EPA, and Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation (ADEC) project managers and their technical support staffs to transition from formal, terse and time-consuming communications to an engaged, interactive dialogue in which all involved parties participate. His pragmatic, action-oriented demeanor enabled vastly improved interactions among the participating individuals and agencies.
Tim helped guide the interactions that supported development and finalization of a major inter-agency agreement between the Air Force and ADEC and also provided detailed, technical facilitation to support the completion of a very complex Five Year Review. Partnering at Eielson AFB has led to substantial improvements in applying institutional controls to the contracting and construction processes and the joint development of a base-wide generic sampling and analysis plan. It has also led to expedited sampling and analysis plan reviews, which allow construction projects to proceed within the constraints of the short Alaska construction season. These improvements supported the completion of approximately $78 million of construction projects recently.
Galen Driscol’s project planning and program support proved valuable for the Tier I (installation level) team at Air Force Plant 6 in Marietta, Georgia helping them to establish strategies for documenting decisions, tracking documents, and assigning responsibility.
Although the team had been meeting informally for many years, action items were not consistently documented and a cohesive effort to identify holistic program needs was sidelined by individual organization and contractor goals. Laura Christ worked closely with the team to clarify agency expectations and constraints, de-conflict opposing goals and language, and assist in the development and documentation of long-term goals. She also employed Decision and Action Management processes to help the team make decisions, reach consensus and thoroughly document meeting outcomes. Meetings became much more organized, efficient, and productive, saving both time and dollars for all agencies involved. As a neutral third party, she was able to engage all agencies, allowing all parties to have an equal voice in the decision making process.
A strategic public involvement and engagement process was applied to execution of the US Highway 281 Environmental Impact Statement study.
In recent years, US Highway 281 has become a heavily trafficked and highly controversial thoroughfare in the greater San Antonio area. Intense public scrutiny and increasing congestion led the Alamo Regional Mobility Authority to undertake an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) to assess the situation. Leigh-Ann Fabianke and Tim Sueltenfuss managed the public involvement aspects of the EIS for this multi-phased, multi-year effort. The EIS assists decision makers by detailing proposed transportation improvement alternatives and evaluating how these alternatives affect public health, safety and the environment. The US 281 EIS studies required extremely focused public participation because of previous highly polarized transportation studies and the presence of organized opposition from a variety of community, home-owner, civic and environmental organizations.
To address this high-level of community concern, Leigh-Ann and Tim employed an array of techniques to inform and involve the community. These activities included public meeting facilitation, logistical planning, community member interviews, traditional and electronic newsletter development, community and elected official briefings, traditional and social media engagement, project web site development and maintenance, request for information responses, talking point development, and tracking and analysis of public involvement metrics.
Risk Communication Training and Community Engagement Efforts were utilized as part of the Department of Defense’s Community Involvement Plan activities.
Several Air Force installations including Shaw AFB, Tyndall AFB, and Kirtland AFB had experienced difficulty in accurately communicating environmental risks to key stakeholders. The ongoing nature of cleanup efforts also led to strained relationships with local communities and regulatory agencies. Leigh-Ann Fabianke and Laura Christ stepped in to share and apply their risk communication expertise.
Leigh-Ann and Laura focused on facilitating positive interactions between the Air Force, the regulatory agencies and the public and communicating highly technical matters in a language that the public could easily understand. They also created strategic risk communication plans, developed community involvement plans, crafted surveys and questionnaires to gain input, and interviewed community members. Leigh-Ann and Laura also provided expertise in media relations, outreach product development, public meeting support, and risk communication training. They encapsulated their engagement in a comprehensive risk communication retrospective report. Deliverables also included dozens of fact sheets designed to communicate complex, technical information in easily understandable language for the surrounding community.
This training focused on conveying technical hazards without inflaming public outrage and emotion.
Tim Sueltenfuss served as a trainer for USAFSAM, creating and delivering health and environmental risk communication workshops and training modules to Bioenvironmental Engineers, Public Health Officers and Residents in Aerospace Medicine. Specific training objectives focused on how to properly communicate health, biomedical and environmental hazards; how to establish confidence in communication of key messages; how to properly manage media interactions; how to improve verbal and nonverbal communication skills; and how to engage in stakeholder dialogue.
Environmental Restoration Partnering, Team Dynamics Management, and Team Building have been instrumental to continued progress of inter-agency clean-up efforts at the Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island.
Laura Christ and the Galen Driscol team currently provide facilitation and conflict resolution support to the environmental restoration partnering team at MCRD Parris Island. This unique team of multiple DoD entities, Federal and State agencies, and contractors had been experiencing a great deal of turmoil and turnover. Most of the parties were experiencing internal strife in addition to inter-agency discord. Laura and her colleagues began by preparing a comprehensive conflict assessment and then developed and implemented a strategic wellness plan. They drew upon an existing Federal Facilities Agreement to clarify roles and responsibilities and decision-making authority.
Laura and her team implemented decision and action management (DaAM) tools and ensured timely meetings with key decision-makers. As a result, the team has seen a marked improvement in both effectiveness and efficiency. Improved communications and establishment of clear expectations played a very important role in avoiding formal dispute and litigation.
Construction Partnering was instrumental to kicking off the construction phase of the new $120 million Austin Central Library.
A 198,000 sq ft library is being constructed to serve as a community gathering space in the heart of downtown Austin, Texas. This complex and high visibility project has been in discussion for decades—ensuring successful and timely completion of the project was of utmost concern to the designers, the builders, the project owner and of course, the community.
Due to this high scrutiny and immense complexity, the construction manager engaged Laura, Leigh-Ann, and Tim to provide construction partnering expertise. Construction partnering is a formal management process in which all engaged entities voluntarily agree to adopt a cooperative, team-based approach to project development and problem resolution in an effort to reduce or eliminate conflicts, litigation, and costly claims. It generates an environment of trust and open communication in which concerns and issues are openly discussed in order to resolve problems before they become insurmountable.
Galen Driscol coordinated and facilitated executive and working group partnering meetings for the designers, architects, engineers and project owners. Laura, Leigh-Ann, and Tim developed and put in place comprehensive communication and issue identification plans to ensure understanding and compliance from all engaged parties. They followed up individually with all team members to ensure accountability. They also prepared a communication and engagement plan to help shape key discussions and decisions for the remaining phases of this ongoing project.
Owner Project Requirement (OPR) sessions help define and communicate an owner’s requirements and priorities to project coordinators and provide clear guidelines for a construction project team.
Laura Christ and Leigh-Ann Fabianke have coordinated and facilitated a number of OPR sessions for the City of San Antonio’s Transportation and Capital Improvements Division. These sessions identify structural, procedural and compliance requirements prior to project kick off in order to streamline the project planning and execution process. OPR sessions support collaboration and establish early communication channels between all stakeholders.
Laura and Leigh-Ann provided facilitation expertise to engage all critical construction project stakeholders, including the owner, building users, designers, architects, health and safety professionals, transportation agencies, utility companies, and city council members. Laura and Leigh-Ann design each session to encourage maximum participation and generate useful input concerning known and anticipated project requirements. The primary deliverable to emerge from the OPR session is a strategic requirements document, which becomes a living document for the duration of the project.